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John, I noticed that when I went to share the picture with a friend the other day to show the progress. I couldn't comprehend how I missed that in person... 馃槅 As it turns out, my phone camera didn't like the LED lights apparently because the lights are actually perfectly fine. My buddy took a photo from the same angle two minutes after my photo and it shows them working. I verified it this evening in person also.
Don't worry, when you get all the stuff on top of them, they'll stop working! 馃槀
 

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If you can live with lights (semi) permanently attached on the platform I would look into LED strip lights. A bazillion options with color, IR handheld, and motion among other features. They'd be flat on the platform, maybe 2mm in height they should withstand platform sections store on top of one another. The LEDs are wired in parallel so the strips can be cut to length (each LED has it's own current limiting resistor).. And they have nice copper tracks that allow strips to be soldered to one another - daisy chain fashion. One caveat, the standard "Arrow" staples are not wide enough to span the strips to staple them to the platform (maybe invest in a wider staple system). And their stick-on backing won't work well on bare wood. Most are 12 V systems and many come with the requisite transformer - wall wart or brick. There are 5 V strips but they're rarer. The sets I've used work well.

In the first pic, you'll notice two different LEDs. The 2835 LED is really high power. The 5050 is likely more what you would want for your lighting. If you devise a semi-permanent mounting solution will adapt to layout changes. You'll save a boatload of setup time and you'll gain more lighting features.

You can find them Here. Or on eBay.

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
I've definitely worked with the LED tape quite a bit before and love its versatility. I suppose in some ways it's me being a cheapskate that keeps me from swapping over. I had the LED Christmas strings on hand before I had ever heard of the LED tape. They haven't failed me yet (knock on wood) so I've not felt it necessary to move to a different product. The LED lights that I have were generally purchased on deep discount after the holidays, so I haven't had to invest too much money into them up to this point. I gradually purchased a string or two every year until I obtained the light density that I wanted across the platforms.

If our layout was built a bit more modularly, I'd definitely consider something more permanent in nature such as the LED tape with color functions cool things like that. At the moment, the only real dedicated layout base structure are some 1/4" masonite panels that we place over the plywood tabletops. These panels are painted white and we've traditionally placed landmark markings in permanent marker on those for reference in future years. The tables they cover are painted black and are utilized in many more ways than just the train display during the rest of the year, so it limits somewhat what we're able to keep intact from year to year. I suppose I could come up with a way to attach the LED tape to those pretty easily, but I'd worry about them getting damaged during the storage season as space is quite limited and bulky stored items get shifted around the stage quite a bit during the off-season.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Some more progress made last night and it's looking a bit more like a village now. We jumped a little ahead of where I planned since I had help on hand to get the buildings unboxed and on the layout. Normally I ensure the trains run first, but I haven't had a chance to finish the wiring yet so I'll have to work around the buildings when I get back to that next week. I figured it was best to use the help I had while it was available. From there, the buildings need their bulbs installed and I need to install the smaller detail items and accessories to fill in around them which certainly sounds simple on paper... Although there are more buildings than ever on the layout this year, its surprising how empty things still look without all the figurines, trees, vehicles, etc.

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"Although there are more buildings than ever on the layout this year, its surprising how empty things still look without all the figurines, trees, vehicles, etc."

Understand your point of view, but it looks pretty good to me. It's only mid-November :).
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
It's only mid-November :).
Thanks!

I wish that meant that I have plenty of time ahead, but unfortunately it's due to be operational this upcoming weekend as our first Christmas movies begin showing the first weekend in December. 馃榿 Mid-November is usually where I start stressing out about finishing it. This year has been particularly challenging as I've had to work around a rather packed theater schedule.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Things are getting bright... The buildings are lit as of this evening. Power feeds to all of the street lamps were connected and dropped through the table and I'll work on connecting them to power tomorrow. There's still quite a lot of detailing work to do and wiring to clean up, but all of the tracks are functional and things are shaping up for its unveiling at the first movie of the weekend on Friday evening.

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Further progress since it's too late to turn back now... once the details start to fill in, I can't cover the layout up any longer as I normally do while it is in progress and we need to bring it to a point of completion to at least make it presentable during our shows. That said, we nearly finished everything up last night. It will be shown for the first time for the movie being shown this Friday evening with a week to spare before our first Christmas movies hit the screen. I'll be spending most of my day off on Friday doing final cleanup work such as tidying up/covering some wires, installing the table skirting, unpacking and testing the trains and perhaps wiring in a couple more lighted accessories. Overall though, I'd say it's turning out to be the best one yet!

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A beautiful and impressive display. Looking forward to some videos.

I'm still racking my brain about how to save you time with the lights during setup. I thought about routing a trough to recess the LED strips. That may protect them during teardown and moving. But you mentioned the top layer is only 1/4" board. I have 5 V LED strips that are 1.1 mm (0.04") in height at the LEDs. Routing a .05 would leave the boards only 0.2" thick at the troughs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
A beautiful and impressive display. Looking forward to some videos.

I'm still racking my brain about how to save you time with the lights during setup. I thought about routing a trough to recess the LED strips. That may protect them during teardown and moving. But you mentioned the top layer is only 1/4" board. I have 5 V LED strips that are 1.1 mm (0.04") in height at the LEDs. Routing a .05 would leave the boards only 0.2" thick at the troughs.
Thanks. We'll be unpacking the trains on Friday, so I'll hopefully be able to find some time for a video or two this weekend once everything is in its place.

Grooving out the boards wouldn't be a bad idea and would definitely be useful in keeping the surface smoother up above. We'd have to replace our masonite panels with thicker plywood, but I could see that working out pretty easily with a straight edge and a router. Now you have me thinking...!
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
The layout made its first public runs for our patrons last night. It definitely wasn't a big crowd (our crowd sizes have taken quite a hit during the pandemic) but everybody that was there seemed to thoroughly enjoy the display. Even more folks that weren't there have been inquiring about its presence, so I'm sure we'll see more for our upcoming Christmas shows. There are still a couple of minor accessory things that I plan to wire in when time allows, but aside from that it was pretty much fully finished with a couple hours to spare before the show. It was nice getting to sit back and enjoy it for awhile before the doors opened for once. Typically I'm rushing right up until the last minute to wrap things up. 馃榿

Here's a bit of an overview video of the layout that I put together although the little details don't show up very well.

 

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As always, looks great Jake. (y)
You don't have any Christmas cars?
Dad take the video?
Your right we are missing a lot of details we can't see in the video.
The blinking building? Is that a theater? Ought to plant a Redford name on it? :)
 
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... The blinking building? Is that a theater? Ought to plant a Redford name on it? :)
I've use an easy way to create layout signs and billboards. Create the sign or pic. I use MS PowerPoint. Then take a screen shot at 100% size. Put it in MS-Paint and crop to 4" x 6". Go online to Walgreens' (CVS, RiteAid, etc.) photo department and upload the pic. It's ready the same or next day for glossy prints. It cost $0.40 w/tax at my local Walgreens.

Just did this one. Designed to fold and place on a rooftop.



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Discussion Starter · #38 · (Edited)
Thanks for the compliments!

Ed, I believe the building you鈥檙e seeing is a bowling alley with flashing lights. There is a model of the theater on the upper level to the right side. It鈥檚 a custom kit that Andre Garcia鈥檚 River Leaf Models created for me about 5-6 years ago. Not a perfect model but close enough. I took the video with my iPhone quickly last night so I鈥檒l hopefully find some time to do a more detailed video in the future.

I have some Christmas train cars l, but only a couple at this point. I keep them with me so they can be run both at the theater and other train club events I help with during the season. The Polar Express is the main Christmas themed train that lives on the layout most of the season so there鈥檚 generally always at least a little something out there.

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