Subscribe via RSS

Adding LEDs to a Japanese Shop

Pictures speak louder than words, so below is a quick tutorial on how to get an off-the-shelf TomyTec Japanese Shop Building lit with LED lighting. In total, this building received 6 LEDs; lantern, side-door, top floor (x2), bottom floor (x2).

Interior Lighting + Side Door

Model Railway Model Railway Model Railway

The trickiest part of this installation was the lantern that hangs out the front. I actually sliced it in half and bored out the middle to fit an LED inside. I also trimmed down the LED with a file to get it to fit a little more easily. This was done with my pocket-knife and I stopped when I felt it grinding metal. :)

Note that I borrowed ideas from this blog and I strongly recommend you check out the work the author has done on their layout!

Front Lantern

Model Railway Model Railway Model Railway
Model Railway Model Railway

And finally, everything is wired up. You can see the huge hole I accidently drilled in the side of the shop... luckily the lantern covers it over pretty well.

Finished Product

Model Railway Model Railway Model Railway


Cheap and easy Streetlights

I'd previously bulk purchased a large amount of LEDs from LED-Switch with the intent to light up my entire model railway. I'd already bought a few of the MAX7219 ICs, which control up to 64 LEDs each, and knew how to control these via the Arduino. My article on the IC and using it was here.

Anyway, streetlights were high on the agenda, as they exist in every town in Japan and, based on a very simple idea, weren't going to be too hard to make. Following are the steps involved with creating the street lights that have been visible in my prior articles.


  • 0.25mm Copper winding wire (or as thin as possible.)
  • 1.6mm LEDs White/Yellow (as available here)
  • Metal tubing for the main pole. (I used '3/64 x .006' brass tubing)
  • Soldering iron
  • Paint

Model Railway Model Railway Model Railway


Firstly, cut the pole to your desired length. I have to admit here that I never once measured any of the poles and just prototyped one against a reference (in this case it was a standard Greenmax building) and then made them all the same size.

Model Railway Model Railway Model Railway

Make sure you take in to account where you will bend the pole and how much extra length will be required. Use a file to smoothen out the ends so that you don't damage the winding wire when fed through.

Model Railway Model Railway Model Railway

Once you have the poles made, simply cut the leads of the LED right down and solder one end to the pole itself. Finally, if you haven't already, feed the wire through the pole and tin one end (melt it with a little bit of solder to strip away the insulation.) Once done, trim away any excess tinned lead and then solder it to the other lead of the LED.

Model Railway Model Railway Model Railway

Note that the final version there was the best I'd made. I'd trimmed the LEDs right down after folding one leg over the top and used a very small amount of solder.

Finished Product

Better night shots of the taller version in action...

Testing of streetlights

More testing

The only thing these really require now is some form of cover/compartment/housing for the bulb to live in. Currently, with a big enough blob of paint, I can get the ends to look round-ish enough to look acceptable and I'm happy with this. But any comments/suggestions for an off-the-shelf product that might have the right shape to cover the ends are welcome!

I'd also bought red, yellow and green LEDs and found that they had fit into the Greenmax Signals. I haven't gotten around to finishing them, but I will post another article once done.

Meanwhile, in my previous post, I also added both a red and blue LED to a Bachmann N-Scale Signal. I actually cut it off its usual pole/base and mounted them as shunting signals. See the pictures. I'll post a more detailed explanation along with the other signals once finished.


Latest on the Model Railway

So, something that was just meant to turn into a test layout has now become one of my greatest creations... It's not much as yet, but the scenery and electronics involved is a lot more complex than I thought I would ever create and I'm really glad as to how it's coming along.

Here's a gallery of the initial track plan I intended on using and then 3 evolutions of it. The final layout is not actually listed there. You can see that it started as a single level basic loop, with options for expansion. As I realised the time required for building just this module, I decided to do away with the extension options (although things can always change) and then added a second level. This was just to be a ridge down the middle of the board, but it now has transformed into 1/4 of the overall surface area. A town has now grown on top and a nice siding for single-car vehicles.

Underneath the board is a birds-nest of wiring for all the tricks I've tried with the Arduino (see all the previous posts...) and I'll show you this in a later post.

For now, just check out the photos and I'll get back with more information as I create it. I'm currently working on street lights for the top town and also automation of the points. I've been through around 5 iterations for the control circuit for the points and damaged quite a few TomyTec FineTrack Points in the process. Not fun.

Here's a link to the whole album.


Top-down Town taking shape Top station

Top station

Bottom station The town The town

Update: The streetlights are painted and in... I still need to work on the light end, they need some sort of cover/compartment.

Night time at the station

Top Platform Night time At night

Meanwhile, I also need to learn nighttime photography :)
More to come as I light up all of the houses; although one is already lit!