Monday, February 10, 2020


One immediate impact of my recent terrain-forming effort at Cascade Summit was the elimination of the light paths filtering down through the still-open bench-work at that upper level to illuminate the scene below which climbs up out of Oakridge to McCredie Springs.  I had always planned to provide additional lighting for this "land down under," but had never gotten to it. 

The "land down under" without lighting now that the Cascade Summit Terrain has been formed in the scene overhead.

When I began construction in 2012, I thought I might use single-tube florescent fixtures, but did not pursue that seriously as other work always had a higher priority--at least as long as that light continued to filter down to the scene.  With the terrain above now blocking the light, I needed to do something--now!  Fortunately, LED lighting has come a long way since 2012, with affordable solutions readily available.  I considered modern tube-style LED fixtures, but their cross-section size, mounting concerns, and relatively higher cost scored against them.  LED strips seemed the way to go.  

I looked at several supply sources for LED lighting strips.  I ended up selecting the strips from MicroMark.  A big factor in this choice was the recommendation of a fellow model railroad friend of mine in Virginia, Paul M.  Paul had used the MicroMark system to light the lower deck of his two-deck railroad.  I have since found a fellow model RR owner locally who has also used the MicroMark system, but it was Paul's recommendation that drove me.  I liked that the MicroMark system was well-engineered and had UL-tested components. 

I still delayed, as I needed to select a color temperature to match the 5000 deg-K lighting used in the rest of my railroad space.  MicroMark has three LED light temperature ranges, two of which bracket, but do not match my desired color.  The need to solve the lighting problem--now!--drove me past that hurdle to place an order.  I selected the 6000-6500 deg-K strips rather than the warmer 4000-4500 deg-K strips also available from MicroMark.  I previously experienced "warmer" (lower color temperature) florescent tubes in some new fixtures added after initial construction--tubes with a similar 4000 deg-K rating.  They were noticeably warmer (and quickly replaced with the correct tubes!), so I shied away from the warmer lighting for the current LED project and selected the bright-cool 6000-6500 deg-K strips.

The area beneath Cascade Summit now lit with 6000 deg-K LED light strips.  Note the color difference in this picture between the overhead warmer-lit scene and the bright-cool lighting below.

As illustrated in the photo above, the color temperature does make a difference, at least in photographs.  In person, the difference is barely noticeable.  Far more important is that there is light on the scene below the Cascade Summit overhang.

I mounted the LED strips to pieces of 1x2 lumber with a 3/4-inch cove molding on the edge forming a roughly 45 degree angle.  If I were to do this over again, I would simplify this to ripping a 1x4 using a 45 degree saw blade angle--no need for the complexity of the cove molding.  Indeed, the self-adhesive on the back of the LED strips does not attach to the cove molding, so I hold the strips in place with wire ties.

LED strips mounted on 1x2 lumber with cove molding edges. 

The LED strips provide needed lighting and are safely out of the way overhead.  I have a few minor adjustments to make at the ends and I may fill the molded cove with adhesive caulk to provide a flatter surface for the LED strips.  I may also need to provide a small amount of valence for the lighting, though that did not seem to be a distraction in the first operational test during the February 1 operating session.  For now, I am happy to have light on the Montieth Rock scene and the climb up out of Oakridge.

Mike L. guides Amtrak Number 11 past Montieth Rock in this now well-lit scene underneath Cascade Summit.


  1. That looks great. I find 5000 K lights to be great for live viewing, but it throws off the camera. I have to do custom white balance to get good results.

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