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What height is ideal for an HO train table?

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What height is ideal for an HO train table?
Posted by rjake4454 on Saturday, November 21, 2009 1:27 AM

My last table was down in my brother's basement, we built it together, stirdy as anything, but it seemed too high, I'm guessing around 5 ft high or so. It was a basic donut design, dimensions 9x12 ft. My brother said he wanted it that high so we could duck under fairly easily (this did turn out to be a plus), and he also wanted to be almost eye level with the trains when sitting on a stool encircled by the table. There was about 3 ft wide open space in the center of the donut for operations.

The table was beautifully built by both of us, especially for beginners with very little experience in carpentry, however for HO scale, this just seemed to high for me. I am about 6 ft tall so although I could still see over the table quite well, something about it just didn't seem natural.

The donut design works very well for people like me who have limited space, but you really do have to build those things high in order to duck under, and even there you still bump your head really hard sometimes.

When I was a kid, going over my parent's friends' house, the father there had an HO table built for him and his kids. If I remember correctly, it was about 3ft high, standard 4x8 table, of course at the age of 8 or 9, this seems just fine. But I'm a fairly tall, full grown adult now, so I guess this height would certainly be too low, considering its just for me, I don't have any kids.

Anyway, any suggestions?

Btw, how do you feel about the donut design? I prefer an L shaped configuration myself, but I don't know how to work 30' or larger radius into that. Still, the design looks more like a train table to me. Any ideas?

As AtlanticCentral/Sheldon pointed out in another thread, I'm stuck somewhere between Hi-rail and HO, and I almost prefer a blend of the two. I want to pack a lot of action into a medium sized room, running realistic engines, and developing nice scenery. But I prefer to have fun running trains on something that looks like a railroad to the average person, I care much less about rail height, I'm no rivet counter, I like bells and whistles, crossing flashers, mixing that kind of stuff into a medium sized table, I don't care for prototypical operations like most people in HO do.

 

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Posted by Sir Madog on Saturday, November 21, 2009 2:06 AM

 There is no correct or ideal layout height.

In determining your "ideal" layout height, you need to consider the following points:

  • your own height
  • your reach
  • layout size
  • layout shape
  • scale
  • are standing up or sitting while operating your layout?
  • type of operation 

Obviously, you need to be able to have any point of your layout within your reach at any time. You don´t have to oversee your layout all the  time, though. The wider your reach is, the higher you can build your layout. A narrow shelf layout can be built nearly at eye level.

A lot is also a question of personal preference.

The lower you built your layout, the easier it is to see it at a glance, but it is not a very natural perspective and shows you, how small your little empire is.

My recent layouts have all been narrow shelf layouts, not much wider than 12" to 18". I built them at a height of 5´ 2", allowing me to sit on a bar stool and have an eye level view on my trains.

 

Cheers!

Ulrich

People in Hamburg don´t tan, they rust!

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Posted by rjake4454 on Saturday, November 21, 2009 2:41 AM

The problem with our last HO layout was definately with reaching. You sometimes had to reach over 4 ft when the table itself stood over 5ft high.

I'm thinking of this time redoing some of my layout and expanding it into a large L shape. The maximum radius will be probably 36" although I guess I might have to think smaller if I really want to build an L.

The problem with the donut, although it creates easier access, it limits how much action you can pack on your layout. Usually you're restricted to simple loops, and visitors have told us that ours looked pretty boring because of this.

I've been looking for books on track plans for HO, but unfortunately most books only use a max of 22" radius for the medium sized layouts. That just won't cut it with the kinds of engines I'll be running.

Most layout books seem to be dedicated to either:

a)Modern diesel era

b)Logging layouts for Shays.

While this is fine for most modelers, I can't find a single book which focuses on simple layout plans for the transition era.

I think the hardest part of layout planning is actually making it so your the trains are actually 'doing something' or serving some legit purpose, or at the very least creating that illusion with scenery and structures.

I have used cadrail in the past with limited success. I noticed it is much harder to build a layout theme around your own pre existing track plans than it is to lay track to fit an already designed layout.

I used to always find myself thinking....alright, I have my two loops and double crossover layed down....where do I put the industries? The passenger station? The signals? Where will the roads cross over the tracks? Where does the yard go? Etc...

 

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Posted by Paulus Jas on Saturday, November 21, 2009 3:09 AM

 hi,

seems to me you are making the wrong tour on memory lane; you are mixing dreams of your youth with an well thought over layout for an adult.

You seem to want the 8x4 of your childhood with a 30" radius; the helicopter view and trains at eyelevel.

Just some plain math for a starter.

A 30" radius needs a almost 6 feet wide table; L-shaped or not. Your reach-in possibilities are between 24" and 30". You must have access to the centre (the donut) or from all sides (island-type). 

When you start to think about the differenences of those two pikes keep the following in mind:

*  On an island type layout you have the man-space around the train-space. And in just the same space flip those two and you get your donut again.With better access and longer sides and larger radii.

*  Or consider the donut as two L-shaped layouts put together.

* The only thing against a donut, every along the wall pike is a donut, is you need a duckunder or a drop-in or a horizontal-door to get into the central operating pit.

See no feeling, but straight thinking. And trying to find out what you really fancy.

If you like to sit on a mountain top overseeing your empire from above; build your pike low ( 2' 6" ) and wide.

If you prefer to walk along with your train and switch some industries, you want your pike near eye-level and build it high ( 5' ) and shallow.

But looking from above is making your layout seem small and your radii tight.

It is your choice. Someone described modelrailroading as a process of taking decission after decission after decission.

BTW if you no not want a continuous run or lap you don't need a duckunder at all.

TMHO the best thing you could do is to make a drawing of your room (space). In 102 Realistic Track Plans Andy Sperandeo is showing how to do it.  Make a 100 copies and draw several (a lot) alternative pikes. Going by the squares, also explained by Andy Sperandeo in the very same book, keeps you from overly optimistic planning.

Don't get me wrong, loads of people do love the kind of pike they remember from their childhood, and are still building them and are having all the fun in the world. But you can't have both at the same time.

Keep smiling, have fun

Paul

 

 

 

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Posted by Paulus Jas on Saturday, November 21, 2009 3:32 AM

 

 hi

 this a response on your second posting.

we are coming closer but you are still on the wrong track.

rjake4454
The problem with the donut, although it creates easier access, it limits how much action you can pack on your layout. Usually you're restricted to simple loops, and visitors have told us that ours looked pretty boring because of this.

This has probably more to do with the chosen radius, the large engines that are dwarfing your pike, then with the donut shape. Being even more blunt: as long as you want real big trains in a moderate space you will never be happy with the result.

rjake4454
I've been looking for books on track plans for HO, but unfortunately most books only use a max of 22" radius for the medium sized layouts. That just won't cut it with the kinds of engines I'll be running.

 

Why they apply moderate radii and smallish engines in a moderate sized room?

rjake4454
I can't find a single book which focuses on simple layout plans for the transition era.

 

Please do your homework better. In the MR data base, in the 102 trackplans, in Great Model Railroads I find loads of those plans. Now you want a simple plan, may be not in line with your first quote. In Model Railroad Planning room sized layouts is a on-going theme. A lot would fit your bill, but not with the 30" radius.

rjake4454
I used to always find myself thinking....alright, I have my two loops and double crossover layed down....where do I put the industries? The passenger station? The signals? Where will the roads cross over the tracks? Where does the yard go? Etc...But I prefer to have fun running trains on something that looks like a railroad to the average person, I care much less about rail height, I'm no rivet counter, I like bells and whistles, crossing flashers, mixing that kind of stuff into a medium sized table, I don't care for prototypical operations like most people in HO do.

 

My feeling is, you found your real problem. This is where to start.

Why would you need two loops? Do you need a yard? And what kind of a yard? Did you ever read Track Plans for Realistic Operation by the late John Armstrong?

Do you want junctions and several routes? (In your space?) Do you need or want staging? What kind of operation do you want when just running some trains get boring?

What you need is a new layout vision. 

http://macrodyn.com/ldsig/wiki/index.php?title=Category:Primer#General_layout_planning_principles

http://www.chipengelmann.com/trains/Beginner/BeginnersGuide01.html

And this one by Byron Henderson (Cuyama); you'll enter on the wrong page but this side is so outstanding and digs really deep

http://layoutvision.com/id28.html

Paul

 

BTW an other plain math exemple

If you are familiar with designing with squares you can describe a 4x8 pike as a 2x4 squared layout. The 2x4 sq. pike has one major disadvantage; it lacks length. If you want to separate the two sides of this type of layout you need to have space for a station on both sides. But a station needs about 6 squares.

An other gentleman on this forum had 12 x 9 feet pike and wanted a 30" minimum radius. So square size becomes 35" and his pike would be a 4x3 in terms of squares. Or the other way around: if he wanted that 5 or 6 squares length, he had to reduce square and radius size. A radius between 20" and 24" would be the result.

May be this typical for all medium sized layouts. The battle between the desired and the practical radius. But since radius is directly coupled with the length of your cars (apply a 1:3 ratio); it also is the battle between the desired big and smaller doable equipment.

 QUOTE

The problem with the donut, although it creates easier access, it limits how much action you can pack on your layout. Usually you're restricted to simple loops, and visitors have told us that ours looked pretty boring because of this.

END OF QUOTE

On the 4 pikes below the very same train space is used. Why can you pack less track into the three alternatives? Explain please!!!!


 

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Saturday, November 21, 2009 4:54 AM

 For a walk around layout, the suggestion is usually between your wrist and your armpit.  For a sit down layout operated from a control panel, the height of a dining room table - about 30".

My last layout was 58" high around the walls with duck under of 56" clearance into the middle.  This worked well for the duck under and provides a pretty neat view of the trains on the nearest track.  But you can't see the trains in the back and I needed a step stool to do any work.  My current layout is 50" high with no duck under.  That works well.  I can see all the tracks behind the train and the layout is a joy to work on - no step stool needed.

Scale plays a part in this also.  The smaller scales look better higher up.

Enjoy

Paul

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, November 21, 2009 7:25 AM

rjake4454

My last table was down in my brother's basement, we built it together, stirdy as anything, but it seemed too high, I'm guessing around 5 ft high or so. It was a basic donut design, dimensions 9x12 ft. My brother said he wanted it that high so we could duck under fairly easily (this did turn out to be a plus), and he also wanted to be almost eye level with the trains when sitting on a stool encircled by the table. There was about 3 ft wide open space in the center of the donut for operations.

The table was beautifully built by both of us, especially for beginners with very little experience in carpentry, however for HO scale, this just seemed to high for me. I am about 6 ft tall so although I could still see over the table quite well, something about it just didn't seem natural.

The donut design works very well for people like me who have limited space, but you really do have to build those things high in order to duck under, and even there you still bump your head really hard sometimes.

When I was a kid, going over my parent's friends' house, the father there had an HO table built for him and his kids. If I remember correctly, it was about 3ft high, standard 4x8 table, of course at the age of 8 or 9, this seems just fine. But I'm a fairly tall, full grown adult now, so I guess this height would certainly be too low, considering its just for me, I don't have any kids.

Anyway, any suggestions?

Btw, how do you feel about the donut design? I prefer an L shaped configuration myself, but I don't know how to work 30' or larger radius into that. Still, the design looks more like a train table to me. Any ideas?

As AtlanticCentral/Sheldon pointed out in another thread, I'm stuck somewhere between Hi-rail and HO, and I almost prefer a blend of the two. I want to pack a lot of action into a medium sized room, running realistic engines, and developing nice scenery. But I prefer to have fun running trains on something that looks like a railroad to the average person, I care much less about rail height, I'm no rivet counter, I like bells and whistles, crossing flashers, mixing that kind of stuff into a medium sized table, I don't care for prototypical operations like most people in HO do.

 

rjake4454,

One piece of vital information is missing here - - the desired size of your layout.  You mention "a medium size room".  How large is that medium size room and what are the maximum dimensions of your desired layout?

I, too, am 6 foot tall and I have constructed a fairly large layout built on a 2'x4' frame with a 1/2" plywood top.  It is an open P-shaped, double main line, fully landscaped.

I built the layout 36' high and that was a major mistake.  I don't need any duckunders to access the layout, but the 36" height of the layout makes it very difficult to do any work under the layout such as wiring or Tortoise installation.  However, since the layout is only 36" wide for the most part, I am able to reach into the layout to retrieve derailed engines or cars. 

The design incorporates a continuous loop around the entire perimeter of the layout, yet there are freight yards, industrial sidings, an engine servicing facility and a passenger station.  The layout incorporates 32" radius curves so that even larger steam engines can successfully negotiate the curves without derailments.  To accomplish this, I needed to build 6' wide surface areas at the bottom leg of the P and at the open end of the P (the point where the curved portion of the letter P would normally connect to the leg of the letter P, if that makes sense).

In my opinion, a 3' tall layout is too low, but a 5' layout is too high (easy to work under but difficult to reach into).  I have to believe that a good compromise is a 4' tall layout with a limit of 30" width to provide easy access for reaching purposes.  In order to accomodate larger steam engines,  I would recommend 30" radius curves at a minimum, so you need sufficient area to construct at least a 64" wide area for the curved portion of your layout.

If you plan to build a donut-shaped layout, and you want an easily accessible duckunder, I would suggest a removable "bridge" that you can raise up, or lift out, to gain access.

If you want to build an L-shaped layout, it could incorporate a 64" wide portion at each end of the L to permit 30" radius curves.  If the L-shaped layout were 48" high, I would limit the width of the straight portions of the L to 30" for easy access.

Again, it all depends on the size of the footprint available for the actual layout.  One other consideration is the amount of room needed to walk around the layout, particularly an L-shaped layout.  Would it be against one or two walls?  Would it be in the center of the room so you can walk around the entire layout? 

Hope this helps.

Rich

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Posted by dehusman on Saturday, November 21, 2009 8:09 AM

Buy a bunch of small cardboard boxes, lumber scraps and get something flat like a piece of foam, ceiling tile, chunk of plywood.

Stack the boxes and adjust the height with lumber scraps or books and set the flat piece on top.  Set some buildisn and couple cars on it.  See how your view and reach is.

Or.....

Go to a home improvement store, but two of those shelving channels and a couple deep shelving brackets. Attach the channels to a wall and then adjust the brackets to various heights, add a flat piece of something as a shelf.  See how the various heights work for you.

I have had good luck with layouts in the 44-52" range.

Dave H. Modeling the P&R and W&N 1900-1905, Iron men and wooden cars

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Posted by BATMAN on Saturday, November 21, 2009 11:49 AM

 I was in the same quandary when I started on my "pike". I looked up the local modular clubs specs. and went from there. I thought that maybe I might want to join the club one day (if they would have meLaugh) and so any modules I made for the club could be also plugged into my home layout or incorporated into any expansion. However I have a twelve foot long bench at one end that is higher than the rest of the layout. This part of the layout is suppose to represent the the prairies, while the other end is the west coast. So just like reality it is higher than sea level.

 You can always put longer or shorter legs on it in the future, depending on how it is put together.

 

                                                                        Brent

Brent


It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by ham99 on Saturday, November 21, 2009 12:08 PM

My layout is around-the-room with 24" depth [fascia to wall].  It is 44" high with 41" under-table clearance.  A center peninsula is 36" across with access to both sides.  I am 5' 10" tall.  I have a duckunder to get inside the layout, and I use a medical examination stool to roll through the opening.  I installed metal grab bars on both sides of the duckunder to get back to a standing position.  I am 74 years old, and this has worked fine for me.  I can also roll the stool under the layout to do wiring and Tortoise installation.

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Posted by steinjr on Saturday, November 21, 2009 4:15 PM

Paulus Jas

rjake4454

The problem with the donut, although it creates easier access, it limits how much action you can pack on your layout. Usually you're restricted to simple loops, and visitors have told us that ours looked pretty boring because of this.

On the 4 pikes below the very same train space is used. Why can you pack less track into the three alternatives? Explain please!!!!

 

 Mmm - technically, the OP does not say "less track" (or "less operations"). He says "less action". 

 Apparently the OP equates "more action" with "having more alternate paths through the layout for a moving train", not with e.g. "having train passing through more scenes" or with "having more run length for sidings and spurs, industry flats etc".

And yes - it is easier to do e.g. figure-8 type layout (either with a crossing or an over/under-pass) on an island style layout.

Here is an example of a steam era track plan that I think has pretty interesting operations (a layout called "Silverton and Lake City", belonging to Dave Steensland of the Indian Nations Divisions of the NMRA, in Kansas City):http://ldopsigmeet.tulsanmra.org/slc.htm

  To the OP in this thread, that track plan probably looks like it has "not much action".

 But it has tons of interesting operations. Key to layout is that little Junction with a runaround track and a couple of storage tracks labeled "Eureka" in the lower right hand corner of the layout.

 This is the spot where three railroads interchange cars. The main railroad is Silverton and Lake City. Some trains run from Durango (leftmost underdeck staging) to Silverton (center peninsula, right part). At Silverton there is a wye, so the train can continue around the layout around the upper right hand corner, around the turnback curve in the lower right hand corner, and back around the upper right hand corner before ending up in the city on the leftmost wall (Lake City). From there it proceeds to Gunnison (staging under Galena).

 You have local trains that run from Silverton along the S&LC and switches mines, bringing in empty cars from Durango (staging) and taking loaded cars out to Durango (staging).

 You have a separate logging railroad that fetches logs from the woods (cleverly modelled as a single track closest to the upper wall above the center peninsula. Some log cars gets taken to the local mill, some gets taken around the upper right hand corner to the interchange at Eureka (mentioned before). Empty log cars are picked up from Eureka and brought back to Galena.

 Another local on the S&LC takes the log cars to the mill in Lake City (on the far left side of the layout).

 The Green Mountain line runs from Green Mountain to either Avalanche (on the S&LC) - for passenger runs with an RDC, or to Eureka - for short freight trains that run down from Green Mountain onto the S&LC and then back up to Eureka to interchange freight cars.

 I would say this layout has a lot of "action", even though it does not have a single loop for continuous run.

 Also - it is neither all narrow shelf nor all table. It is a mix - the part in the lower right hand corner is wide (and probably has a popup access in the middle of the return loop somewhere), the rest is fairly narrow.

 It all depends on how you define "action" :-)


 Smile,
 Stein

 

 

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Posted by rjake4454 on Saturday, November 21, 2009 4:29 PM

Thanks Paulus and thanks to everyone else for their responses. You all have given great suggestions, I appreciate your time.

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Posted by Blazzin on Sunday, November 22, 2009 11:45 AM

  My two cents worth.  If you go high.. aside from everything mentioned..  think of how much space it takes up.  I know with mine.. it was so high.. it made the living room look crowded.  And it was high.. so high.. it blocked light as well.  So take in consideration.. the height .. and what it might do.  And if you go lower.. to open up more space in the room..  well if you go too low.. you might have a dog .. that might want to put its wet nose on the hot tracks.  I know I wouldn't put my tongue on the tracks.. to see what happens.. but I kept in mind.. my Husky.. I love her.. and her nose... and I didn;'t want that either.  Good Luck.. and always have fun as well as learn something.

Keith

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Posted by dknelson on Sunday, November 22, 2009 6:10 PM

Blazzin

And it was high.. so high.. it blocked light as well. 

Keith

Keith indirectly raises yet another issue: the higher the layout the closer it is to your light sources.  So the light you do get is brighter, but if there are gaps in the lighting (as there almost always are) they stick out like sore (and darkened) thumbs.  Lower down allows the light to spread and even out.

My own layout is just a bit higher (couple of inches) than bellybutton height, which obviously varies by person.  I am 6'8" and some folks tell me they suspect they'd find it hard to work on (the layout that is, not the bellybutton) but that it is easy to enjoy seeing the scenes.  Since only I have to work on it I think it is a good height.  Originally it was 6" higher and that was indeed too high to work on. 

Dave Nelson

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Posted by Metro Red Line on Sunday, November 22, 2009 7:11 PM

 I agree with all those factors listed earlier; but roughly it should be proportionate to your own height, no lower than your waist and no higher than your shoulders. The smaller the gauge, the higher up it should be if you want to enjoy your detail and have a railfan's perspective of your trains. A waist-high G-scale layout isn't bad as a waist-high Z-scale layout, where your head will literally be in the (scale) clouds. :)

 For HO, anywhere from abdomen to shoulder height would be ideal.

 I model in N-scale, I'm 5'6" and the lowest level of track is about the height of my heart. So yes, my heart is in my trains :)

 

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Posted by maxman on Sunday, November 22, 2009 7:46 PM

IRONROOSTER
For a walk around layout, the suggestion is usually between your wrist and your armpit.

Is this with your hand at your side, or with your hand raised?

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Posted by rjake4454 on Sunday, November 22, 2009 8:52 PM

Metro Red Line

 I agree with all those factors listed earlier; but roughly it should be proportionate to your own height, no lower than your waist and no higher than your shoulders. The smaller the gauge, the higher up it should be if you want to enjoy your detail and have a railfan's perspective of your trains. A waist-high G-scale layout isn't bad as a waist-high Z-scale layout, where your head will literally be in the (scale) clouds. :)

 For HO, anywhere from abdomen to shoulder height would be ideal.

 I model in N-scale, I'm 5'6" and the lowest level of track is about the height of my heart. So yes, my heart is in my trains :)

 

I think you are right. I'm trying to imagine it now, and a 3 ft high layout for HO wouldn't do my models justice. I think I'm going with the height at my elbow.

The only thing that discouraged me from the old 5 ft high layout was the fact that I had to use a chair and climb up on the table to do work on it. Of course, this might not be so bad if the length doesn't extend so long this time.

Maybe I will go for a larger around the wall layout this time. My room I am using is about 15 X 12 ft.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Monday, November 23, 2009 7:31 PM

maxman

IRONROOSTER
For a walk around layout, the suggestion is usually between your wrist and your armpit.

Is this with your hand at your side, or with your hand raised?

 

At your side.

Personally, I think that's too low.  But then this isn't a one size fits all hobby.  As others have suggested do a mockup with some boxes.

Enjoy

Paul

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, November 23, 2009 8:13 PM

My layout is relatively low, about 40 inches.  But, that's the surface height.  I have a layer of subway trains 3 inches below that, and they rest on a 2-inch bed of foam.  So, the underside of my layout is at about 35 inches, and the framework is lower still.

"Aye," as Hamlet would say, "there's the rub."  Yes, when under the layout, I rub my head on the bottom of the layout.  This is good for neither head nor the layout.  And colliding with the benchwork is more bump than rub.

You will not have to spend too much time beneath your layout, eventually, but while you're building it and adding scenic lighting to your buildings and streets, you'll be there often enough.  Do yourself a favor and bring the height up to a point where you can sit under the layout and work without bumping your noggin.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by Cass shays on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8:48 PM

             The "ideal height" for any model railroad is an individual preference. I'm 6' 4" tall and prefer a minimum of 48". My optimum track height on the layout is 62". The scenery is going to be at least 7' off the floor. The minimum height of the benchwork is 42". I have a home-made creeper that allows me to rest at a 45% angle, and my head just clears the bottom of the benchwork.This puts all wiring at a comfortable working distance.

            During the regular season (May - October) at CSRR, I operate an HO model of the town of Cass, complete with the C&O mainline and the WVP&P saw mill. The layout is just over 3' tall. Its great for the public, especially kids. The down side of this (in my opinion) is that it is very accessable to those who have a hard time looking with their eyes and not with there hands. Their is no denying that the perspective of looking down from several hundred scale feet high is awfull, and performing any maintainence under the layout is just a nightmare for a tall person.

           My layout was built with my needs in mind. I want to see the layout at a perspective more like reality, and I wanted to be able to have comfortable access under the layout. The biggest gripes that I receive on the height, is from people that are less than 5' tall, and parents with young children. I do understand this, but the height is not an issue for compromise. I am the one that operates it, and its characteristics suite me.

            

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Posted by rjake4454 on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:04 PM

Cass shays
The layout is just over 3' tall. Its great for the public, especially kids. The down side of this (in my opinion) is that it is very accessable to those who have a hard time looking with their eyes and not with there hands. Their is no denying that the perspective of looking down from several hundred scale feet high is awfull, and performing any maintainence under the layout is just a nightmare for a tall person.

lol, yeah, I have a nephew or niece on the way in a few months so I think I'm going to raise what I already have to at least 4 ft. If the kid wants to see it when he or she gets older, I won't mind lifting them up for a better view, but thats about as much access as I am willing to provide! Cool

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Posted by NittanyLion on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:50 PM

 I went with a very low height to most.  A mere 39 inches.  My reasons were twofold:

1) I found that the planned 46 inches was too tall.  Originally, there was a projection that a section could span over the TV.  This allowed the TV heigh plus a few inches clearance before the benchwork frame.  But the height produced a negative space all around the room I did not like at all.  

2) Being 6' the 39" height does produce the so-called helicopter view.  But I didn't take this as a negative because of where the layout is set.  Its in a deep, narrow channel that was once the site of a river in geologically ancient times.  This is not uncommon in Pittsburgh.  You spend a lot of time looking down at trains, as all the roads and buildings are up on the hills and the small amount of flat land got used for the railroads.  It felt more right to me than eye level, and not "staring down from 200' feet up on the Bloomfield Bridge."

Plus its a good height if I'm lazy and want to sit in a chair.   And the stumps of the 4' 1x3s used for legs make nice risers for roadbed and brackets for the turnout controls.

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Posted by Don Mitchell on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 11:25 PM

Almost 20 years ago, my Kalmbach book on layout design started with these words:

"Model railroads are always built by people, so the should always be built for people."

That led to a discussion of access and introduced the concept of ergonomics for layout design. Briefly, the ideal height for a layout is from the bottom of an elbow bent at a right angle up to underarm (armpit) height.  Further, the lower limit of ergonomically acceptable layout height is the resting hand height (roughly, the lower point of the hips).  Heights above shoulder level are best accessed by stools or steps, and even lower heights may need stools if a long enough reach is involved.

Nothing much has changed since that time except access widths.  Aisles have to be larger because the average US male has put on 30 or so pounds around the waist in the intervening years.

 Don Mitchell

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Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Thursday, November 26, 2009 10:48 AM

 I recall seeing in MR or one of their publications a formula to figure out what the correct layout heihgt should be in relation to your height. Obviously the ideal height for someone 5'-2" is not going to be the same as someone who is 6'-4" tall. It has also been said trains are best viewed when looking straight at them as opposed to looking down on them from above. That strictly objective in my O/P if you like the aerial view then thats your choice no big deal. I fell the more pertinent question is what should be the minimum bench work height. First things first, duck unders are a bad idea no matter what height their at. If you have no other choice then well you have to use them thats all there is to it.

I feel 48" is the ideal minimal height for bench work, my reason is as I have stated many times is you can sit on a bench, rolling stool, or low back office chair my personal choice and work under your layout in comfort. working on wiring,switch machines, bench work what ever. Spend time on your knees or twisting up working with your arms over head for any length of time and it caches up to you in a bad way real quick.

There is a very large club layout not too far from me where they took this concept to the extreme. Their layout building is actually two floor and one can stand up on the first floor and reach up to the bench work above and wrok on the entire layout with out the visiting public ever knowing they are there. Really cool stuff.

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
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Posted by L&M RR on Thursday, November 26, 2009 1:50 PM

Layout height depends upon the height of you and your operators. I've always found about 42 inches for my 6 foot height, which works well from a bar stool as well.  Wheelchair bound or children operators would likely need it a bit lower. 

Reach width is important.... I "max" mine at 20 inches....which work well.  This necessitates wider widths at the ends in a "dogbone" configuration, but I always include a hinged "liftout" in the middle, so I can reach everything from there.  Structures, etc covering the hatch are secured to the hatch, so they do not have to be removed when lifting it from underneath, and the hatch is secured by a light chain, to hold the lift out just barely over 90 degrees.

Aisle width is another that is tailored to fit for you and your operators.  A "skinny" guy can go with narrower aisles.....but if you're a "chubby", you'd best expand the aisle to allow you to turn around, and/or pass another operator without doing damage to the layout, and the fascia mounted hardware.

 

Trainman

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, November 27, 2009 7:13 AM

L&M RR

Aisle width is another that is tailored to fit for you and your operators.  A "skinny" guy can go with narrower aisles.....but if you're a "chubby", you'd best expand the aisle to allow you to turn around, and/or pass another operator without doing damage to the layout, and the fascia mounted hardware.

Trainman

Because of a peninsula that I built as part of my layout, I only have 26 inches of clearance at one point.  My wife let me use a chair that she "inherited" from her parents estate.  It is a swivel chair on wheels and the wheel base is 24 inches at the widest point.  When I get lazy, I just sit in the chair and move it around the layout by using my feet to "walk" the chair around the basement floor.  It barely fits through the 26 inch clearance space, but it works.

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Posted by QChugger on Friday, November 27, 2009 11:00 AM

The height of a layout depends on the height of the layout owner.  Generally speaking, the higher the benchwork, the easier it is to get under the layout through duckunders.  Barring those (and I avoid them as much as possible), it is recommended to have the layout closer to eye level so a more realistic view of the trains can be had.  This makes for better modeling as well since you look at the layout like you do the real world. 

The downside to this is your reach over the benchwork is more limited and equipment runs a greater risk of breaking if it should accidentally fall to the floor.  Properly built and maintained and running smoothly, you should be able to enjoy your layout for a long time.

 There is no right or wrong answer to the question but should be more dependent on your own comfort and ideas.

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Posted by snorengeorge on Saturday, November 28, 2009 11:57 AM

Wow, plenty of information on this one. I'm N-Scale and noticed HOers give 2 cents worth so I"ll only give a pennys worth. Since boyhood I've have layouts and most were in the 40' to 48" hight. I just started a new N-cale layout which is 31"deep and 43" high x 5' benches. This fits my 6' body comfortably. Reason for the hight is so grandchildern do'nt need benchs to stand on ( therefor saving the edge of the layout from disaster).

Srrngeorge

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Posted by GKC1839SLC on Thursday, December 03, 2009 6:15 PM

Cass shays
The layout is just over 3' tall. Its great for the public, especially kids. The down side of this (in my opinion) is that it is very accessable to those who have a hard time looking with their eyes and not with there hands.

 

My last layout was built to enjoy with my 5-year old grandson who fell in love with Thomas the Train.  So I built it with a bench height of about 30" so he could see and operate the trains.  It only took a little while for him to learn how to treat the equipment with respect... In fact he scolds me often about running the trains too fast.

The height of the benchwork was high enough that I could crawl under it without banging my head (as long as I kept it down) and lay on my back on the floor and reach any wiring or tortoise engines that needed to be worked on.

Operations for me was enjoyable while sitting on an old resurected office chair and the grandson loved to stand on a chair to watch the trains especially on the far side of the layout.

My next layout will be a little taller, and if need be I'll build some pull-out steps for the grandson to view and operate the trains.

Bottom line... build yours to suit to make it easy to build and to suit your projected operators to make it easy to see and enjoy.  As they say, "Your milage (or in this case, height) may vary."

Geoff

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