How high should a model railway baseboard be?

While working on the construction of one of my layouts, I happened to think about the correct height for maximum convenience.

I want my layout to be usable while sitting at it but also comfortable to work on during construction and operation. This also includes working underneath it while accessing under-board electrics.

For much of the time when working underneath, I’d prefer to use a car creeper.

This makes lying on my back while fiddling with the wiring much more comfortable and means the height can be around table height. This takes the baseboard height in the region of around 60cm to 100cm.

But after construction, a more important consideration is being able to comfortably work on and reach all areas of the track. Get this wrong, and you’ll setting yourself up for long periods of back pain.

So what’s the answer, well it depends on how tall you are.

For the average height person (according the World Health Organisation) is 176.5 cm (5.7ft) for a man.

For someone around this height to be able to bend over the layout and taking into account practicality and comfort, the optimum height for a model railway baseboard is 85cm to 132cm (2.7ft to 4.3ft or 33.4 to and 52 inches). I’m a couple of inches under 6ft and find the ideal height for my baseboards is around 100cm (3.2ft) which is well within this range.

Of course, shorter or taller people than average will want different height and you may have other requirements so use this as a baseline and work up or down.

Footnote, there are some who suggest a baseboard should be eye level to give the best viewing angle. I’d find this a pain in the back to work at and it provides no option to lean across it to recover errant trains, clean track or move things around so I wouldn’t recommend this.

If you find this interesting, you might also like the companion article to this: the best wood for a model railway baseboard.

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