How high should a model railway 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 to 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 take 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 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  and my guide to building baseboards.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.


Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.
  1. I fine that using a cheap height adjusting office chair works great. My n scale set is on the lower side so my grandkids can enjoy it. Makes it easy to bend over and work on. The lowered chair puts the table at eye level for realism. I I can roll from one side to another easily.

  2. A very informative article :). I’m looking to build my own (HO Scale) model railroad layout, but, as I’m on the short side (5′ 2″), I figured the best baseboard height for my layout is somewhere between 32-34″. I’ll also be adding Homasote soundproof boards and Woodland Scenics inclines and risers to my layout, which should elevate the track another three inches.

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