Saturday, July 10, 2010


This is a subject that is wide and varied. Bowen Creek is a tall layout, I am the first admit that, it stands at 1530mm from floor to track level. This was brought about because Ian and I are just over 6' tall and we want the track brought up to eye level. Now for some, this will be too high but it was done for us to test a theory for our home layouts, and I think that people at exhibitions may find it a different view point and think about the height of their own layouts. For too long, in my opinion, layouts have been built far too low. Why?
  1. Because that's the way it has always been done, perhaps.
  2. so the kids can see.
Point one may be the only reason because people have in their head that there is some unwritten rule that says, this is how you do it. Now at exhibition there will be those that whine that it is too high, but hopefully we can make them think outside the square. A lot of us, including manufacturers, are doing underfloor detail, but what's the point if the layout is 3 feet off the floor. Besides, we do it because you see that before you see a roof.

Here is another way to look at it, if I go to a railway yard and stand next to the rail, my eye level is six foot above the rail. Even an S truck is still taller then me. So with Bowens' rail height at 1530mm and my eye level at 1730mm, I am still 57 scale feet above the rail. Which means I can still clearly see across the roof of the goods shed.

As for the kids, I find the ones that are interested are only interested in the train. Their attention span isn't all that long and the detail in buildings and scenery aren't of much interest to them. Even my boys don't stay for more then a lap or two. I don't want to sound like I'm anti kid here, but honestly I find the first question that gets asked is "How fast does it go?" or "Can we crash em!". They will have much more fun on a U-Drive then spending time at Bowen Creek. We did have one little five year old at Epping 2009 that blew our socks off with his knowledge and I will gladly lift him up and spend time with him, but to date he is the only one. I guess this is why I build my layout for me and not the kids. Matt (my eldest) is 12, and he now will stand and be interested for maybe 15 minutes but he has a little step ladder and he is fine.

 This bodgey photo of some likely looking lads should give an idea.

 In conclusion, my opinion is to build your layout to the height you choose and be happy with it, and don't conform to anyone else's opinion. It's your layout and you will spend more time at it then anyone, so do it for you.

Happy Modeling.



  1. Yep, Andrew I'm with you on this one. I enjoy the higher layouts for exactly the same reasons. Funny you should post about it as I'm in the middle of trying to decide the height for SSC.

  2. Just a quick note on this thought provoking post - I am 6ft 4in so some layouts are just too low for me. However there is quite a lot of discussion in the various Iain Rice books (both the Wild Swan ones and Kalambach ones) on layout height.

    Perhaps this would be worth discussing on the discussion group?

  3. Andrew

    I think that this is a two strand argument.
    When I built BYLONG for exhibition in 1979 it was a small single level layout and was 1200mm high, this was very unusual at the time most layouts being set at about tabletop height.
    As you know in its current variation it is a two level (sort of) layout which goes like this:
    Lower Staging 1090mm
    Kerrabee 1090mm
    Bylong 1160mm
    Coxs Gap 1300mm
    Wollar 1440mm
    Upper Staging 1570mm
    and branch terminus Cassilis at 1400mm
    So it really depends on the style of layout you are building ang also the way you will be operating/running it.
    The two level approach meant that I had to drop one end of the layout to achieve the 'gap' between levels without ending up too high or having steep grades.
    Of course for those with very large layout rooms this will be less of a challenge.
    As I have operating nights and some of us aren't as tall as me (or you and Ian) I will be making a small platform at the upper staging end so that those shorter friends can see what is happening.

    Ray P

  4. I agree also. I am buiding Picton at a higher than the normal height. I think you are spot on with the idea and I think it may draw the viewer into the scene a little more. I have only one concern with the height and that was how much of the lighting you would see? As I have no back scenes or lighting built, I would be interested to know if it is at all a distraction?

  5. Hi Ray
    I think there are many differing opinions and reasons as to the height of someones layout and I agree that one of those topics depends on the style of layout you build. But the blog is about Bowen Creek and this topic was why we built it to the height we did. We have had some criticism about height and the blog provides an opportunity to explain why Bowen is at that height. I also wanted to make other modellers feel that they don't need to be apologetic for the height they choose to build their layout and I hoped that they would put more thought into it before they please everyone before themselves.

  6. Hi Linton
    The lighting isn't a distraction so long as the light is captured behind a pelmet and not shining direct into your eyes. I guess the easy way to think about it is to light the layout and avoid lighting spill onto the viewer. Hope this helps a little.

  7. G'day Andrew
    I think that you speak the truth on all counts. I spent a few years helping out with exhibiting Gunning and have heard those very same questions on more than one occasion.
    On my layout (Ha!) The top level will be around 165...170cm or so, which will be a good 'rollingstock appreciation' height for me (178 tall) with the lower level around the 145 mark for a good 'helicopter' view.
    The times I have seen Bowen Ck the height, for me, created the illusion I was standing in the perway - I liked it!


  8. Andrew

    I wasn't criticising the height of Bowen Creek or pushing the height of my layout. I had to stop and think about when I saw Bowen Creek and I hadn't noticed it's height but then I am tall like yourself. I was actually trying to back up what you were saying. I built the first Bylong to suit myself, closer to eye level for immersion, it wasn't built initially for exhibition, the decision to exhibit happened as it was constructed.

    Ray P

  9. HI Ray
    I don't believe you were being critical either, hope my response wasn't harsh, it wasn't meant to be. I believe we are on the same page, all is cool. I appreciate your post and value your wisdom.

  10. Thanks Gary and everyone who posted,
    Pleased I went into the "dark zone" of height, it sparked some interesting chat.
    Cheers everyone,

  11. Great fan of the branch line myself and a fresh follower. In planning my home layout I never gave any consideration as to layout height for others only myself hence the 1360mm height. As you are the person who will spent 80% of the time on it and using it, it pays to suit yourself. Keep up the great work. Darren