What is a Good Height for a Model Train Layout?

Model trains have been popular among railroad enthusiasts for decades. Perhaps you’ve just gotten into this hobby, or maybe you’ve had train sets sitting in the attic for years. Whatever the case, you’ve finally decided to build a permanent model train layout, and now you’re wondering how far off the ground it should be.

Generally, the best height for a model train layout depends on your height and personal preferences. However, most people recommend setting train sets up anywhere from 45”-54” off the ground. Before making a final decision, take your height and viewing preferences into consideration.

 Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know before creating a permanent set-up for your model train layout. Keep reading to learn more!

How High Should My Model Train Layout Be?

Although there are some guidelines, the ideal height for your model train layout really comes down to personal preference. You want the height to be comfortable for your own height and habits, as well as that of anyone else who will be viewing or working on the set.

When deciding how high to place your trains, think about your comfort level and preferred viewing angles. You don’t want to work with your arms stretched above your head, nor do you want to be bending down and hurting your back. Similarly, if you like to look at your trains from above, setting your platform at eye level probably isn’t ideal.

It’s generally agreed that anywhere from 45”-54” from the ground is the ideal height for a model train layout. However, make sure you consider all factors before making any permanent decisions.

model train backdrop

Considerations to Make When Deciding on Height

While there is no “correct” height for your model train layout, a few factors will help you decide how high or low to set everything up. Everyone works on and views their model trains differently, and everyone’s life circumstances dictate different necessities. Some things to consider when deciding how high your model trains should be laid out include:

  • How deep your layout is
  • The angle you’ll view it at
  • If you’ll be working on the layout from underneath
  • If you’ll be sitting or standing to work on and view it
  • Whether or not you have young children or pets in the house

Below, we will discuss how each of these factors will play a role in your decision.

How Deep Your Layout is

Some people like to have model train layouts that consist of nothing more than a track and some grass or dirt underneath. Other people like to include trees, model storefronts, or even small towns within their model train layout.

If your layout only includes a train and a track, you probably won’t have to reach across the platform very far to clean or retrieve any derailed trains. These types of layouts also don’t leave much room for creativity, meaning you won’t be tempted to move things around and switch up the design. Because you won’t have to do much reaching, narrow platforms can be a bit higher up.

If you have a wide platform for your model train layout, however, you’ll want to place it at a height where you can easily reach across the entire width. Most people build wide platforms for their model trains when they want to be more creative with the design. Their entire layout might include:

  • Lighting
  • Storefronts
  • Landscaping
  • Stop lights and other infrastructure

When you have more space on your platform, you’re more inclined to be creative. You might decide you want to move things around at some point, and you’ll definitely need to be able to reach across the platform to clean things up or pick up trains that have fallen off the tracks. For this reason, it’s wise to set wider platform model train layouts up lower to the ground.

model train speed

The Angle You’ll View It At

Another thing to think about before building a platform for your model trains is how you want to view and show them to other people. Would you rather have it close to eye level? Or would you prefer to have a bird’s eye view of the layout? You might even want to look up at your trains moving all around the room.

Consider how you will view your model train layout, then think about the average height between you and your friends. Choose the height that will allow you to view your trains as comfortably as possible.

If You’ll Be Working Underneath the Layout

Some people hold all the wiring for their model train systems underneath their platform. This keeps all the wires and other electronic components neatly out of view. However, things can and will go awry at some point, and you might need to access the wiring to get things up and running again.

If you expect that you will need to get underneath your platform to fix or modify the wiring, don’t place it too low to the ground. You want to be able to get underneath comfortably and work as needed to keep things running smoothly.

If You’ll Be Sitting or Standing

Some people like to sit and watch their model trains go around the track. Others prefer to stand up to do so. When you’re deciding how high or low you’ll set your model train layout up, think about which you’d rather do. If you will be standing up to view and work on your train set, it makes more sense to place it higher. If you will be sitting down, on the other hand, a lower set-up may be the best choice.

If You Have Young Children or Pets

If you have any young children or pets that tend to be a bit jumpy, you already know how much havoc they can wreak on furniture that’s set low to the ground. Unless your model trains will be in a closed room, children and pets around a low model train layout is a recipe for disaster.

While sharing your model train set with your children can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved, they do tend to grab. Playful cats who like to jump and swat at things can be just as big of a problem. You don’t want any expensive or sentimental equipment to be accidentally broken or damaged, so setting up your trains at a higher level is best if you have excitable children or pets.

Final Thoughts

The best height for your model train layout is largely a matter of personal preference. However, most people recommend setting your platform about four feet off the ground. Before you decide, think about your height, preferred viewing angles, and any situational factors that affect your train’s stability.


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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