I am back in model railroading after 40 years. I want to build a rectangular table for HO either 5x12 or 6x12. Is 6 foot too wide having to reach in 3 feet?
Thanks in advance for your advice.
Guess to some extent it will depend on if you have long arms. My table is 4 1/2 x 8 and it's about as far as I'd want to reach and still be able to do some work. I know for sure I would not be able to handle 6 feet.
Mine is 5x12. Even at that, reaching to the center line is difficult. It's not too bad during construction, if you work out from the middle, but once you've got scenery in the foreground you will constantly be knocking things over to reach the center. The accepted "standard" maximum reach is 30 inches, or 2 1/2 feet, so the center of my layout is right there, and I agree with the standard. My layout is low, by the way, to tuck under a sloped roof line. If you plan on a higher layout, then the reach problem becomes worse.
Can you design your layout with popups or trap doors? That would give you some access to the center, which you could still cover with scenery. You can even put track across such things, although it's more work and would require some extra planning and wiring.
It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse.
In my old home I had an 8' x 16' layout with one long side up against a wall / backdrop and with two "pop ups" for access. As I got older and less flexible I really got sick of the popups, so decided to narrow the layout to allow access all around it, but still run a decent minimum radius.
What I did is make the layout slightly "peanut" shaped - six feet wide at the ends, narrowing to five feet in the middle. I built a twice-around layout using 32" and 28" radius curves (HO); I probably could have gone with larger radius curves but I wanted room for easements. In a few places, I had to use a small two-step stepladder to reach in to the middle, but most of the interior was scenery so for general operations I could reach everything, like for hand uncoupling cars or throwing turnouts by hand.
One long side of the layout had a yard with a roundhouse and turntable inside one "loop". If you didn't want the yard you could probably do the same general thing and make it even narrower in the middle, like 4-1/2' or even just 4' wide.
I'd say it will be a bit of a reach. But if you have room for an island 6x12 wih room to walk all around it, you probably have room for 8x12 or 8x14 around the walls with narrow shelves - no wider than 2'. Consider something like that instead of one great big table in the middle of the room.
Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's
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As noted by others, try a dog-bone design with 5 or 6 ft diameter loops at each end, and narrow in the middle. The middle can even be S shaped or more complicated.
Get the current MR, and take a look at the Puffer Bridge Lines track plan - if you have room for a 6 x 12, you can fit it or a slightly compressed version.
I wouldn't put any turnouts in the middle of 6' and would minimize track there.
My current layout under construction has a peninsula 70" wide, but I don't use the middle 18" for track except at the ends. The end against the wall is tough for working on in the middle of the 70".
Another question to ask your self is: What is the maximum radius track I need? This will depend on the type of engines you'll be running. If you're planning on big Steam engines, heavy powered diesels or long passenger cars then you may be looking at 30" curves and if that the case then going with a 6' wide layout is probably the way to go.
I would look very seriously at this before you make your final decision. As already pointed out access panels are a viable solution for easy access.
If one could roll back the hands of time... They would be waiting for the next train into the future. A. H. Francey 1921-2007
Mine is 6 feet wide by 24 feet long ( totally walkaround) and I just built a center backdrop divider.My layout heighth is 45 inches and I am 6 foot tall, and have no problem reaching to any point on the layout.
I need to take some new pictures. I still have a long way to go to finish it , actually still laying track. My two mainlines run around the outside perimeter of the layout..My radius is 34 inch outside mainline, 32 inch inside mainline.
My T-1 BLI duplex and my BLI J1 both run great on it, it is still a tight radius for the J1 though on either the 34 or 32 inch radius track, but it does negotiate it.
My M1a and M1b both do great on it.
Sounds interesting. Do you have any pictures?