A Railroad with Relevance

Ceiling Lighting

Written By: Alan - Mar• 04•12

There is plenty of light in the train room now! This weekend I completed installation of the ceiling lighting. The task began last weekend when I mounted all of the sockets and boxes. Yesterday and today were spent running the wiring and all of the hookups.

My arrangement of ceiling grid, while great for creating a pathway effect down the aisle, was not so well suited for installing lighting. None of the grid openings are standard dimensions so conventional drop ceiling florescent fixtures were out. I didn’t want anything to hang below the grid because the ceiling is at 89″ height now. Can’t lose any more height. My original idea of using can lights didn’t work so well because of floor joist location relative to the grid. The cans would have been forced into odd positions in the ceiling so as to clear joists. That’s no good. Plus, I wanted a low cost installation. The pictures illustrate what I came up with. I think it works rather well.

Leviton porcelain lamp sockets #022-8052-1 purchased from Hardware World are just perfect for mounting to the bottom of the floor joists. Next to each socket, or sometimes between two sockets, are placed 8 cu. in. single gang electrical boxes. The small boxes are shallow enough not to cause shadows. Their depth is the same as the lamp sockets.  The socket leads were extended as needed since the sockets came with rather short 9″ leads. In some instances 9″ was enough but the majority required lengthening. I used 16 ga stranded wire soldered to the socket leads then covered with heavy wall heat shrink tubing. The ends of the 16 ga wire inside the boxes are tinned so they work in wire nuts.

To minimize the number of wire nut connections between the wall switch and any one particular lamp, I divided the wiring into 4 branches radiating out from a common box. All of the branch wiring is 14 ga Romex routed through the joists and stapled correctly. Pieces parts from the original basement lighting that I pulled down was heavily reused. The old ceiling boxes became my new distribution boxes. They are located at key points near multiple lamps so that multiple Romex wire connections are in the distribution boxes only, not in the socket boxes. Each branch has at least 2 distribution points and feeds 10 -12 lamps. I consumed quite a few of the little blue boxes but that’s OK, they are very inexpensive.

The lamps are 14 watt (60 watt incandescent equivalent) CFLs with a color temperature of 5000K (commonly called daylight or full spectrum). Over the workbench I used 23 watt bulbs for a little extra light. As you can see in the pictures there is plenty of light and it does have a sunshine feel in the room. The timing of buying my bulbs was perfect – Home Depot had them on sale. $3.97 for a 4 pack. That’s less than a buck a bulb! I would rather be lucky than good and I certainly got lucky picking today to buy bulbs. With 43 of them in the ceiling a good deal was much appreciated.

I often hear people complaining about CFLs I suppose because of the mercury. Funny how no one ever questions why people weren’t dying left and right back when we used thermometers with 500 times as much mercury in them. Myself, I love CFLs. They give off so little heat and consume so little power. I would never had been able to do a lighting installation like this with incandescent lamps. Can you imagine how hot the room would get with 43 of those old 60 watt bulbs running not to mention how fast the electric meter would spin!

I kind of went nuts taking pictures so the image gallery for this post has just about every viewing angle you could want. Enjoy!

Next up is bringing in the two 20A circuits and building the control system for the layout lighting.


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