Sunday, February 14, 2010

Layout Height, or Remember When You Were a Kid?

An eye-level view of a train entering Ritchie on
the upper level of the M & M Sub.

Did you have trains when you were a kid? If you did, they might have been set up on the floor, as mine were. If you were like me, you probably got down flat on your stomach on the floor more than once to get a railfan’s eye view of your trains.

Even though we are are grown up now, we still like to get that view from time to time--the traditional helicopter view of a layout is fine, but sometimes you just want to get down to their level and pretend you are really part of the scene.

Since the M & M Sub. is a double-deck layout, I can get that view every time I run trains--on the upper level. The upper level varies in height, with about half of it at 62 ½ inches (or about chin height for me), to 65 ½ inches, or just a bit above my eye-level.

What I see when I view the action just outside
of Nance.

For shorter visitors, this does pose a problem; I have a couple stools in the layout room for just that reason.

Of the two heights, I think 62 ½ inches, or about chin-high on me, is best. The town of Ritchie is three inches higher in order to elevate the upper staging yard above the track re-entering the layout room.

(Arriving at a layout height for an upper level is an interesting challenge. It involves decisions about the height of the lower level, the space between levels and the most workable height for the upper level—each one affects the others. In my case, I didn't want the lower level to be too low, and I also needed to provide enough space underneath it for family storage. Subsequently, I built it 43 inches off the floor. I also wanted a good amount of separation between levels; on the M & M Sub. it varies from 19 ½ inches to 21 ½ inches.)

The photos below provide examples of the upper level views—and how high they are relative to myself (at 5 ’10).

A view of Ritchie; that's Nance across the room.

A view of the scene just south of Nance.

Before anyone asks (again), am I worried about trains falling off the layout from that height and being smashed to pieces on the ground? Maybe I should, but no. It has never happened, or come close to happening. It is possible that a stray elbow could knock something off, but that's never happened, either. (Any work or switching at that location is done with the aid of a stool.)
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