Fiber Optic Technology for buildings?

Hello All,

I was wondering if anyone is using fiber optics to light the interiors of their buildings? :D

It seems to me to be an easier way to illuminate different areas within a particular structure without having to place individual lamps in each location within the structure. Also it would seem that you could also run a couple of fibers to the headlights of vehicles on the layout as well. I realize that the prospect might be a little expensive initially but in the long run I think it could work great.

Heat was another of my concerns in plastic buildings or wooden structures with small bulbs or LED's but with fiber this seems to be eliminated. Not to mention the flexibility of getting the light exactly where one might want it. Any suggestions or insight into this issue would be greatly appreciated. Pictures and details would be great also.

Technology has changed a lot over the years and there are some new things out there that interested me. I have attached a photo of the fixture that goes on the end of the fiber optic bundle to disperse the light (They are .30 each). They have many fixtures available for different kinds of light dispersal but this is the one I am considering.

Here is a link to their site if you would like to check it out

I have not decided yet if I am going to go this way but it does look interesting.

Hi Bob, It does look interesting. The photo you have attached, What does the device do? Does it diffuse the light from the fiberoptic material? I noted they have materials that disperse light from the ends and some from the sides. What size ( diameter ) would the fiberoptic be for that device?
Cheers Willis
CB&CNSfan said:
Hi Bob, It does look interesting. The photo you have attached, What does the device do? Does it diffuse the light from the fiberoptic material? YES I BELIEVE SO

I noted they have materials that disperse light from the ends and some from the sides. What size ( diameter ) would the fiberoptic be for that device?

Cheers Willis


Since I have not heard back from the company yet I don't have alot of answers yet. However, when I do I will post them here. I am curious to know how much light is emitted from this diffusion device that attaches to the end of the fiber.

I figure for a little more than $100 I can buy the Coolglow light source Unit (runs on 12volts), connector for holding the fibers to the Coolglow source, 100 ft of fiber and 100 of the diffusers. I will keep ya'll posted.

Like I said in an earlier post the initial investment is a little high but not having to run so many pairs of electrical wires and bulbs (changing burnt out bulbs) to all my buildings, different rooms in the 3 story buildings and various other spots where I might want lights in tight spaces... I think if this works I will be going this way for my illumination. I need more info first before I decide.

I need more info first before I decide.
Actually the price in itself is not too bad, considering you won't have to be replacing burnt light bulbs, shorted or loose wire connections. LOL I've a fiber optic Christmas tree in the living room, lots of changing colorfull lights that give me no problems at all. I'd appreciate you posting your information when you've made your decision.
Cheers Willis
A month or so ago Model Railroad Craftsman had a few articles on this subject. I will have to go back and see what issues they were. I am also thinking of trying it! :D
I've heard of folks doing this. They run the fiber optics up to whereever the light is needed, and just use one bulb to light the whole shebang. The bulb is in a convenient place for replacement purposes, and can be an inexpensive one to hold down costs.

Don't remember too much of the particulars, though.

Fiber Optic Update...


I ordered the companies Fiber Sample Packet which included many sizes and styles of fiber optics available. After trying different diameters I think I have found something that will work for me. :D

At this point I am still confused :confused: about which one I will use... The single strand without a cover or a multi strand within a black cover. If I use the multistrand with black cover type I could run 1 bundle and then break out the fibers within the 3 story buildings that I want to light. Otherwise I would need to run multiple single strands to each individual location within the building. I guess it will boil down to cost comparisons.

The amount of light produced is sufficient for my use. The thickness of the individual fiber is about the diameter/size of a large paper clip. I will keep you posted.

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Thanks for the update Bob, keep us posted please. You can also heat the end which causes it to have a mushroom shape, I've not done this yet.
Cheers Willis
I had some additional thoughts on how to direct and hold in place the various fibers aimed at individual windows in my buildings and to other spots. I am going to use the wire that florists use in flower arrangements. Its rigid but flexible and relativly cheap...I can drill tiny holes in my platform inside the buildings, then place individual floral wires in the holes to anchor them and bend them to where I want the light to go and then attach the fibers to them by twisting the wire around the fiber.

In my experiments, I have discovered that the fiber mentioned in the above posting, illuminates best at about 1/2" to 3/4 inch from the area to be illuminated. (The distance determines the intensity of the light so this is a subjective thing)

So by placing a shade in the window (masking tape) it lights up perfectly without any spill over. I also discovered that if I place a fiber for example inside the awning of a doorway and face it down to the ground it works very well simulating a porch light.

More to come as I develop this project,
I bought a Christmas tree at Wal-Mart for $10.00. It's 32" high & has a zillion fibres in the plastic foliage. Taking the tree apart to get at the fibres is turning out to be a big project. I did find out that there are different types of fibres. The one's in this tree are the most simple. You can cut them off anywhere on the fibre & they still emit a light. Some that I had played with before had to be heated on the end before you had a new lite source. These work real well. I was going to use them for neon signs in my towns. With the changing colors in the tree colored wheel I figured I could make it work for my projects. I like the idea of lighting buildings with Fi.Ops instead of using bulbs. Just think what you could do w/a small mirror in the back of your structure to reflect lite w/just 1 or 2 fibres. Or how about small pieces of tin foil for a reflector.
You could use a straw to poke it into the building under the table.
I'm sure someone is going to find out real fast a sure fire way to save money & come up w/a few new idea's.
I plan on using heat shrink tubing to run my fibers around under the layout. The tubes can act as a conduit to a location under each structure, where they can be glued in place, then I can put about 12 individual fibers in each tube working from the structure back to my light source. :D

Once all is in place and working ... then I plan on heating the shrink tubing, just below the structures, to hold all the fibers in place.

Keep in mind these are my plans and once I get started I will report back on my progress and provide some "How To" pictures. :)

Hi Bob, I'm not too experienced with fiber optics, but I'm wondering how applying heat to the heat shrink tubing will affect the fiber optics strands. A lot of material sold today as fiber optics is just plastic. Guess I'm just suggesting you try a test piece as a trial. This is an excellent project you've started and I'm sure there are a lot of viewers following with interest all your posts.
Cheers Willis
Fibre Optic Source


Actual glass fibre optics can be very expensive and I have heard from telephone techs that it can be extremely dangerous. If the smaller fibers break through your skin they have a tendency to work towards the heart!

A while ago I bought a couple of cheap "fiber Optic lamps", the ones that look like the plume on some "ceremnial helmets" - think Roman Centurians - meant as a kid's room novelty at a dollar store (actually cost $2.00 each). There are a few hundred "fibres" in each a little over a foot long. While you can't use a single centrally located bulb to light all your buildings/vehicles they are long enough to light many rooms in a single structure form a single kocation and number of vehicles in a single area.

My initial trials will be in vehicles with LRC circuits with small coloured bulbs to simulate turn signal indicators and stronger lights for headlights and brakelights.

If you can "make do" with these shorter fibres they are cheap enough to write off a few experiments. As well as dollar stores similar lights can be found at Wallyworld (Walmart).


I bought a 32" Christmas tree at Walmart that has some of the newer Fibre Optics
running thru the branches. It cost $10.00. It has about 10 strands to each branch from 10" long to 36" long. What's neat about these are the ease of just cutting them off & not having to worry about heating the end of the fibre to get light. The base of the tree has a revolving multi-color wheel that chages the color. It's real easy to get apart to isolate the colors to a different section.
I'm thinking very seriousily about installing some in a diesel for head lites & ditch lites.
That's another project all by it'self.
I'm just starting to experiment w/fibre optics like a lot of model railroaders.
There's a lot of toys out there w/cheap fibre optics.
A friend bought a large xmas tree right after the holiday at the clearance isle for $15.00 & the tree is 7ft. high & jammed pack full of FB's. There must be about a thousand strands or more.
Fiber Optic UPDATE...

Hello to all who are following this thread,

After some experimentation here are my findings;

Initially I thought about using floral wire to secure my fibers, because they are flexible, however this did not work out. Too much movement and those little fibers are a pain in the @$$ to wrap the wire around. :mad:

Next I tried some electrical wire which was more rigid but this too had its drawbacks. :rolleyes:

What I finally ended up doing was to use dense styrofoam (about 1/2" thick) ...yeap styrofoam cut to size, which I could slide up against the windows to mark fiber placement with a toothpick. Then I remove the foam and use the toothpick to push completely through the styrofoam at the marks I made. I then put the foam back into the building (this needs to be secured either by hot glue or in my case I screwed it down) about 1/4" from the walls. The reason for the gap is to allow diffusion material to be slide in place for the windows. The biggest problem I have encountered was not to pull in enough fibers to the building. For example...on my initial building I pulled 7 fibers...I should have pulled at least double that amount.

Next, I fed the individual fibers through each hole made by the toothpick. Whats nice about the styrofoam is that it holds the fibers securely, even at angles. This is the best technique I have found and the dense styrofoam comes from discarded packing material (Free) from electronics, small appliances, etc. :D

More to follow and I will take some pictures soon...

Here are some pictures of my fiber optics project progress...

Morning Ya'll,

Here is a sort of step by step....
- First step was to make a styrofoam inner structure which is about a 1/2 " smaller than the building.
- Second I placed the inner structure inside the building in order to mark where the fibers would go with a pencil (each window or door I wanted to illuminate.
- Next I removed the inner shell and used a toothpick to drill through the styrofoam. Then I used a sharpie marker to indicate the holes. (This makes it easier when fishing the fiber through the foam.
- Then I fished the fibers through the foam (about 1/4" sticking out the front) from the backside and hot glued them in place in the back. Once this dried I pushed gently on each fiber to make sure they were secured to the foam.
- Next I trimmed the front of the fiber optics flush with the foam and glued the foam inner structure to the platform where I had marked the building placement.
- Once this dried I was able to slide over the building leaving about 1/4" between foam and building. This allows me to slide in paper in between which diffuses the light and acts as window shades.

Thats all for now...problem is I have to wait until dark to see how it all turned out. :D
This is an old thread, but thought I should bring it back up on the board for some more meetings of the minds.
I finally got those Christmas tree's apart & found out that there are a lot of other things in those tree's that the hooby shops & craft shops charge a pretty buck for.
There is about 5000 or more 3 to 6 ft fibre strands, clear high intesity plastic rods(same as headlite plastic) about 2 to 3 ft. long & enough tree's left over to populate a forrest on your layout.
Just an idea, but, why couldn't you take those fibres & compress them into a small plastic tube & use them for ditch lites, headlites & all of the other things that were mentioned in this thread & use the bulb in the engine for your lite source.
Anyone done anything new in fibre optics lately?

Here are some things I have done with fiber optics. First is an Athearn unit that I used Fiber Optic behind the Headlight lenses and then Red marker lights for an RDC.