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Hi all, I have been working on my layout plans for years and still have a few things to work out. I am going to build an around the walls layout in my 16X21 train room. I don't want duck-unders or access hatches. I am getting older and don't want to deal with access when I start to suffer from mobility issues when I get old. I am thinking about planning on a depth of three feet for my layout. I want to maximize the depth for plenty of scenery/building area and plenty of room for track, yet still want to easily reach the back of the layout for cleaning, maintenance, etc.

For those of you that have around the walls style layouts, what depth did you use, do you wish you had made it a different depth and what would you do different if your depth and height are not satisfactory for you?

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32" to 36"  is reasonable and practical however not being a reasonable and practical person there are spots where my around the wall runs 60" +/- deep. 

Platform height figures in also.

Not reasonable nor practical but necessary due to fitting the main lines  into the irregular shape of the room and the radii needed.  Topside creeper and ceiling parallel bars come in handy.

It really depends on the number of tracks that you intend to lay on each section and the track spacing.  My layout has both 2' and 3' wide modules.  Atlas O is designed for 4.5" spacing so 4 tracks would consume 18" leaving only 6" for scenery and centering.

You don't have to have a constant width along a side.  Bump outs of any width are possible while still keeping things within reach.  check out Norm Charbonneau's postings.

Also, you need to take in account the space needed for large diameter curves at the corners.  I had to add triangular models to accommodate my O81 and larger curves.  You have a 16' width which is 2' wider than mine, and I am using O90 and O99 curves for my mainline.

With your width you can use the middle while still maintaining generous aisles.  I have a 4' wide yard with 2' and 3' aisles.

Jan

30 inches is ideal FOR ME to reach and work on standing on the ground when the layout is about 40 inches off the ground.   I am about 5 -6/7.     I have deeper areas that I can easily reach standing on a stool.    Another thought is that I find 4.5 inches looks too wide for track spacing.    I base mine on appearance and ability to reach between tracks and I use 4 inches for parallel tracks.

An advantage of around the walls is that  you can do a lot of buildings as just facades, maybe 1-3 inches deep against the wall rather than doing a complete building.     These  usually require kitbashing but take up little depth.     That can be a disadvantage too.

You can make sections deeper, much deeper as mentioned above but you will need to crawl up on the layout to work on them.    If you do this, I suggest keeping the track no farther away than 30-36 inches from the front where you can reach.    Track generally rquires much more maintenance than scenery in general.

Also, remember that "reach" can be affected by the weight of what's being reached.  You may be able to reach 36" to re-rail a boxcar, but your shoulders may scream bloody murder if you try to reach that far for a 12 pound locomotive that needs to be re-railed.  Finally, the further you have to reach, the more likely your body will damage something at the front of the layout.

If you kept your width to 24," you have another advantage in construction cost because you can get 2 pieces of 23 and 3/4" inch width from a 4x8 piece of plywood.

@PRR1950 posted:

If you kept your width to 24," you have another advantage in construction cost because you can get 2 pieces of 23 and 3/4" inch width from a 4x8 piece of plywood.

That’s what I did on the layout part that runs along the wall. Very easy to work on. But as others have said, it’s a matter of how many lines of track you will to put down. I put four and there’s no room for buildings etc.

36 to 42 inches works for me, but there are other variables including height of table, use of foot stool or folding chair to stand on, and strength of table.

My benchwork is fairly strong, but I don't dare climb on top of it for fear that it might collapse if I put all my weight on it. I have local train buddies that do climb on their train tables because they used two by fours to build it.

In one place on my layout, it is 4 feet wide, so I left 9 to 10 inches between the back of the table and the wall so I can crawl under and rise up barely squeezing my upper body through that 9 to 10 inches of space to reach derailments, etc., so that is another option.

36 to 42 inches works for me, but there are other variables including height of table, use of foot stool or folding chair to stand on, and strength of table.

My layout is 48 to 50 inches above the floor and I'm 5 feet 9 inches tall.

My benchwork is fairly strong, but I don't dare climb on top of it for fear that it might collapse if I put all my weight on it. I have local train buddies that do climb on their train tables because they used two by fours to build it.

In one place on my layout, it is 4 feet wide, so I left 9 to 10 inches between the back of the table and the wall so I can crawl under and rise up barely squeezing my upper body through that 9 to 10 inches of space to reach derailments, etc., so that is another option.

Mine is but 20 inches wide down the length of  my third garage and 4 feet at the ends. This is my hobby room for trains,  rc sailboats and rc planes and it is air conditioned and heated. It has shelving below the tracks and lots of storage above. My escape room ! The railroad, of course, is never completely finished.

brass mikado rc controlledF7 freight

I like to see the trains close up.

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Last edited by Ron H

This is a very interesting question now that it actually got asked.  I always assumed I would do 24" just because that is half the width of a 4x8 sheet of plywood, but as I think about it, I assume too much with that.

If accessibility is a concern later on in life, height and depth come into play.  In my professional world I deal with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines all the time and it has some guidelines that may be helpful.  Granted, none of us expect to end up in a wheelchair, but what if?

This an image out of the ADAAG which is a public document for use in commercial facilities.  I have had wheelchair training and I can say with absolute confidence that these numbers are based on actual science.  This might be helpful in your planning, or not, but something to at least consider.  Put it in the FWIW column?   I would also say that a creative modeler can likely make an around the wall layout work at lesser depths and still have a wonderful layout to enjoy and share.  

Another consideration which is how I will be building my next layout regardless of depth is how permanent do you think it will be?  I plan on building modules that can be semi-permanently attached, but when it comes time to disassemble the layout it can be broken down into manageable sizes for transportation. The reason I mention this is I was gifted a sizeable collection of hand laid 2 rail track that is gorgeous that was salvaged from a layout in northern Arizona.  Unfortunately, it was cut into roughly 2 foot sections and will take a lot of work to reuse on an actual layout.  I have shot many photos with it as display track.  If it had been built on modules, it could also be operational.

20210930_160705

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It could be operational. Put it together, ballast the gaps and then overspray with a light water base stain on all track to even it out. Time consuming yes, but worth it. I really recommend around the wall for ease of maintenance for older guys and gals. No fun crawling under and going up through a lift out hatch for access.

Just IMHO.

Another option, which I recently mentioned on another thread, is to make everything reachable by making portions of the layout moveable or removable.

In my case, I added a river between 2 plywood tables, resulting in a width of about 10 feet in that portion of the layout. 10 feet is way too wide to reach a derailment or otherwise make the layout fully accessible.

20220810_154146

After having a long and narrow layout for many years, I liked the greatly increased depth, enabling me to have a lot more real estate for Plasticville and other structures.

The blue river filled the space that used to be an aisle from where I could previously reach all areas of the layout.

To make things reachable, I made the river using light weight 1 inch thick foam, and made it removable or moveable.

20220807_144615

I moved the river about 15 to 20 inches creating the square shaped space enabling me to reach derailments under and near the window and to the right of the mountain.

Once the derailment is remedied, I simply slide the 1 inch thick foam back into position and re-decorate the river with boats, barges and lichen.

20220810_154237

Arnold

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Lots of good advise on this thread.  There is no universal right or wrong answer.  As for me, I like my shelf to be as narrow as possible. My current shelf layout as a depth of a mere 16”.   I will likely let that grow to 17” on my next build with 31” for the TT/RH area.   (Note that the dimensions nicely match a ripped 4’x8’).  Those dimensions allow for a double track main with a siding and then plenty of room for an Atlas TT.  Admittedly, my layout aspirations are more limited than many on the forum.  My focus is more on the trains rather than on a massive scenery/structure adventure that I know o will never finish.  

STRICTLY DEPENDS ON LAYOUT HEIGHT.  General rule of thumb...no more than 24 inches.  You have to be able to reach it easily without tearing up scenery, buildings, etc...and especially if you need to do some fine detail work at the back edge.

O scale layout builders are NOTORIOUS for building overly wide--deep layouts.  Don't fall into that trap because t is expensive and time consuming to fix.



PS:  You could go up to 30" if there wasn't any track or wiring beyond 24", or you are 7'2" with LONG arms!  :-)

Last edited by John C.

In this case, less really is more.  Any areas that I have to reach from the aisle are less than 24" deep.  Unfortunately, given the dimensions of the room and what I need to do, I have areas that are bigger than that.  They have access hatches.  I have planned for them.  I know I will need them;  no point in pretending everything will be OK forever.

George

Take the biggest engine that you think you will ever use or own. Hold it on it's side and straight arm out from your body to the side.  Hold it for 3 minutes.  If you have not dropped it, then come in 6" and build no deeper than that distance.  This does assume that you will not build at shoulder height but lower so that you can also reach over "stuff".

I am currently constructing an around the room shelf layout in my office. I agree that is depends on how high the layout is mounted AFF (above finish floor). I have the layout just above the top of my wall cabinets at my workstations so the layout base is at 60" AFF. The layout  will be 16" deep with 4'x4' corners with front cut at angle down to meet the 16" sides.  If the layout was lower I would have made it wider at about 24" deep. You should determine what is comfortable for you to reach into the layout without having to bend over and strain

Good luck with your layout!

If you use a concave curved front edge for your around the wall corner benchwork section your reach will improve.

Junction 007Note upper left

IMG_7577

Using curved side rails provides even reach all the way around plus a curved edge "triangle" in the deep corner.  0120" & 0144" curves shown.

TT May 2002 big loop 072

Around the wall benchwork for a small room with corner access.

IMG_9005

Upper center notch in fourth level to reach back to fifth level switches.

first valley out & second valley in jig 004

Jig for making curved side rails.

Concrete arch bridge 011

Wide radius inside corner for a gracious curved arch bridge.

Curved inside corners are very beneficial IMO.

IMG_7691

Concave notch provides access to curved turnouts.

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