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Discussion in 'FAQs' started by jonz12, May 5, 2009.
How high should my bench work be?
It depends on whether you are sitting or standing and how tall you are.
For the sitting position, seat yourself and measure the distance from the floor to about 3 inches above your lap. That will give you the distance to the BOTTOM of the table.
Standing, measure the distance to the bottom of your arms when they are bent at a 90 degree angle. Subtract 2 or 3 inches depending on your prefered stance. If you plan on sitting on a high stool, do the same thing in the seated position. Either way will give you the distance to the TOP of the table.
I build furniture as a hobby so these are simple rules of thumb I use.
What cdavenport said is ideal for working on a layout. It may not be your ideal for viewing or operating a layout.
For operating a layout while standing, chest high seems to be the consensus these days. This generally puts rail tops in the 48"-54" range. Probably a similar relationship for seated operations would be good. But note that seated operations requires wider aisles than standing. Also, the "operations" while standing assumes switching with some form of walk-around control and car cards or waybills. Going higher improves the eye-level view but makes it difficult to see behind cars and structures. Reading markings on cars and visually spotting uncoupling ramps or spots is pretty critical to enjoyable switching oeprations.
When we view the real thing, our eyes are about 5ft - 6ft above the rails. In HO, this is on the order of 3/4" above the rails. But layouts this high have the aforementioned difficulties in having the view behind a train on the front track masked. Another good feature of shoulder to eye level high is the horizon on a backdrop can be truly at eye level, which looks "right". Lighting from a front angle is easier to arrange without your body and head casting shadows.
A drawback is that constructing and maintaining a shoulder level to eye level high layout is a real bear. You can't reach into the layout unless it's at least several inches below your armpits, and just below elbow height is easiest. An often used solution to building and maintaining the higher than chest level layout is a step stool or bench. But going up and down steps all the time can get old, and really depends on your tolerance for that type of activity.
Going lower than chin height means a less realistic helicopter view of the layout. The smaller the scale and the greater the crowding, the less realistic the layout will look from above.
A mid-chest high layout does present the option of eye level when seated, with reasonable access when standing.
My recommendation is to stack cardboard boxes and/or mount wall shelves at various heights. Set some trains and track on the boxes and shelves. Use some shoes boxes or similar for temporary structures. Practice access by rerailing some cars on the tracks, and learn what your preferences are before you commit to real benchwork.
Lastly, if you are going to have guests frequently viewing or operating, consider their arm and eye heights relative to yours. And consider what activities you want them to do. If you just want them to ooh and ahh over your layout, somewhere near eye level will restrict their views to your chosen scenes. OTOH, if they are regular operators, or will assist in building the layout, you may want to consider a comfortable reach height for them.
In my case, the layout has to share the room with my home office, computer work station, and hobby work bench. I found seated at my workbench that is 30" high, I would want the bottom of the layout over the bench to be 55" high. This gives a practical rail height at 60", which is a little higher than I would like (I'm 5' 9"). I will need step stools to work on the layout, but can stand or sit on a high stool to operate if I keep layout depth to 24" or less, and plan elevations, scenery, sight angles, and track layout carefully.
my thoughts, your choices
Well, doggone! I wasn't thinking railroad; I was fixed on machining, modeling, layout and the like. Railroading is a different beast altogether!
My father-in-law has an extensive layout which conforms to the concepts you have highlighted.