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Choosing the Right Light
Walthers streetlight

This "cobra head" street light is just one of many offered by Walthers. Most use the same mounting socket which makes them more flexible and interchangeable.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

There are many accessories to choose from when it comes time to light up the night on your model train layout. How do you know what to use?

Just like lighting buildings, the style of light is only one consideration. Your wiring will be much easier if all of your lighting accessories operate on the same voltage. Most model train lights are designed to work on or around 12 volts. Lights are available in a range from 1.5 to 16 volts however.

Whatever you choose, be consistent and make sure you do not exceed that voltage wih your power supply. Operating lights on slightly less than their maximum voltage can greatly extend their life and often results in an even more realistic glow.

Walthers Lights

For this particular project, I'm using a streetlight made by Wm. K. Walthers. These lights have one additional feature from many less-expensive lights on the market - a seperate socket base. This simple feature has many advantages:

  • Easy installation. Each light installs in just minutes.
  • Easy replacement. Should you need to replace a fixture, there is no need to cut any wires.
  • Interchangeable. If you like to change the era of your layout, it is easy to replace lamp styles.
  • Portable Layouts. If you move your layout frequently, removing these accessories will help keep them safe in transit.

Walthers offers many different styles of lights, including some which mount on the sides of buildings. These do not have the sockets but are otherwise similar.

The lights chosen for this project are a more modern "cobra-head" style lamp. The models are detailed enough to look right in a foreground scene even under "daytime" lighting.

These lights use a 12 volt power supply. (AC or DC power can be used.)

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