Author Topic: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height  (Read 2840 times)

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Big Train

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Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« on: August 20, 2013, 11:46:28 PM »
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I'm a member of an NTRAK group and we've had several discussions about raising the layout from 40 inches to 52 inches. Because we seldom, if ever, link up with other NTRAK clubs, I figure we can safely do that as a standard only for us.

The reason to raise the height are many and include things such as: it's getting harder to negotiate the duck under, a better view to actually see some of the detail, a more natural viewing angle simulating what we see in real life, etc.

When we see some of the modular layouts that have adopted higher layout height, everyone in the club thinks it's a great idea. So when I expressed the opinion we can adapted our modules to accommodate raising the layout, several members are reticent to comply.

Some of the concerns raised from other members is that: we will significantly exclude small children from seeing the trains. And by extension, the parents won't be coming around our layout and that lack of draw may exclude participation in some of the shows we have been doing. Personally, I think that's a long shot and I'm tired of tell kids to keep there hands to themselves, even when the parents are standing there. We currently use barricades, but occasionally they push there way forward regardless.

Some members want to build a "geezer gate" that allows the mainlines to be raised up for layout access. I'm not in favour of that option. When someone needs to leave, all operations have to temporarily stop.

The use of a raised viewing platform is out of the question not only for liability issues, but that it will be additional stuff we need to set up for a show.

We are also building FreeMoN modules and the thought is to run these modules from the existing NTRAK modules we currently have.

Needless to say, I'm encountering some resistance to raise layout height.

Has anyone else had this discussion? And how was it resolved?

Catt

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2013, 12:03:46 AM »
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One of the plus points for rasing the layout is mommy and daddy have to hold the little ones up so they can see the trains.This is a double plus because neither child or adult can touch the layout.
Johnathan (Catt) Edwards
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Grande Valley Railway
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SkipGear

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2013, 12:35:59 AM »
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Getting new people involved in the hobby is the main reason our Ntrak club goes to shows. If the kids can't see it, then it defeats the purpose of shows. If you do choose to raise the layout, plan on taking a few step blocks to let the shorter patrons get a good view.

As far as the "geezer gate"..... there is no reason operation must stop to open the gate. We have a drawbridge style gate for our club and at no time do we shut down the layout to open it. The person wanting to exit must wait till the coast is clear before opening and make sure to close the gate when done. We haven't implemented it, but it is possible to make a spring loaded barrier that pops up when the gate is up to prevent trains from trying to jump the gap.
Tony Hines

C855B

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2013, 12:55:36 AM »
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Geezer gates are a royal-pain-in-the-tuckus. Never mind the ops impact during open/close, they require constant maintenance to stay in adjustment. Unless you have somebody willing to fabricate the thing out of welded 1" deck plate :scared: , it will torque and bend* and just be a complete misery. We had a recent show where we combined layouts with another club, and both of our gates gave us fits, one with wiring issues shutting down operations for half a day. (If somebody wants to do electrical interlocks to shut the power to adjacent modules when open... don't. It's Hell to diagnose when it glitches.)

* - I demonstrated this to our club prez the last show. The drawbridge-style gate, on a U-frame - which three of us had recently re-engineered - was binding in the last 1/8" of travel. I went to the far end of the 7x4-module rectangle, and tugged on the benchwork slightly. The gate latched, and I was 20' away. He was dumbfounded, under the illusion that with all the lumber in the frame it was solid as a rock. Nope.

How about a duck-under bridge? Yes, ducking under a full module is no fun at all... but when you eliminate the frame, the headroom increases to 39" off the floor and you only have to clear a 5-6" width of benchwork. We have such a bridge module, a narrow bit of 1/2" ply with clamp blocks on each end. We don't use it often, but it's a breeze when we do.

If it was my club considering the height increase, it would create minor issues for several of our modules where the legs store within the module for transport. It's very convenient to schlep self-contained packages to a show, and extremely inconvenient when you're confronted with "Where are the legs? You did bring the legs, didn't you?" Oops.
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C855B

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2013, 01:11:13 AM »
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... plan on taking a few step blocks to let the shorter patrons get a good view. ...

Nope. Nope nope nope. Even at 40" we've had encounters with step blocks, albeit improvised, where a parent helps a kid by, say, pulling up a chair to stand on for a better view. At one show, said kid lost his balance, and had Dad been any less quick to catch him, little Johnnie would have fallen into the layout.

40" or 52", somebody is going to want to get a boost. For the sticky-fingered toddler set, our experience is that Dad/Mom/Grandpa/Grandma already hoists the child up for a better view. The demographic excluded in the 1-foot increase are going to be your 6- to 10-year olds. If it wasn't for the FreeMoN factor, I'd suggest a compromise at 46". That way you wouldn't put it out of view of most older children.
...mike

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peteski

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2013, 02:20:40 AM »
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Funny, my N-Trak club actually ended up lowering the legs of our modules to accommodate a layout we set up at the Children's Hospital in Boston.  That way the wheelchair-bound kids can also enjoy the layout.  I've been a member of N-Trak for many years (member #978) and for the reasons mentioned by SkipGear, I would be against raising the height.  Let's face it: we all know that N-Trak is not really for serious operators. It is more of a public display layout.  Members of our club use Lexan shields in front of the modules to protect the modules from the little fingers.  We also have geezer gates which can be operated while the trains are running. We just make sure that there are not trains coming before we lift the bridge.
. . . 42 . . .

Ike the BN Freak

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2013, 02:47:12 AM »
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Another option is a second set of legs.  Keep the standard legs for if and when you hook up with other NTrak layouts, and the taller ones for the higher height.

As for geezer gates, the group I'm in wants to add one, I at this point don't need one, but I'm the youngin at 28, the next youngest I believe is 44.  But we run mountain line, so adding that extra line to the bridge is adding to thoughts of how we'd do it.

I've seen the ones where they cut power, sometimes it works, sometimes it don't.

As for little and big fingers, we use pieces of PVC pipe to hold rope out about 2 feet away from the layout.  Keeps 99.9% of the unwanted fingers from touching, but still get the occasional one.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 02:53:57 AM by Ike the BN Freak »

w neal

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2013, 06:12:13 AM »
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Raise the height. This is one of the reasons we left NTRAK years ago and began our own group of standards. The benefits outweigh any and all cons. The little ones will see the layout, no matter what the height. They find ways. That argument holds very little water.

I think the suggestion you have more than one set of legs is a great one. Try it. Then watch as the members who object will come around.
Buffering...

robert3985

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2013, 06:16:24 AM »
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A long time ago, the Wasatch N-Railers Ntrak Club decided that Ntrak wasn't what we were interested in any more (for various reasons), and decided that there were plenty of kid-oriented displays at the train shows, but very few model-railroader displays. 

Y'know, the idea that you want to attract kids is a great idea, but to have every blinkin' portable layout at a show be oriented towards display running and kids is a bit excessive...at least at our shows.

Fully half of the module owners of WNR were on the operating crews of various HO scale layouts in the vicinity and we had developed a real passion for operation rather than just roundy-round-forever running.

We took a look at some new standards, including a double-track mainline, code 55, no joiner tracks, running from the outside, hand-laid turnouts, prototype scenes, preferred setup, bigger standard dimensions, benchwork standards, higher skyboard, no view blocks, block detection and signalling, on and on...and...RAISING THE NEW LAYOUT.

Some of the old modules would be kept (but changed) and some would be scrapped, and all the new ones would have a minimum length of 6' and have integral folding legs.

Railhead to floor height was set at a nominal 46", and just that little rise made a huge difference, but still allowed young kids to see the trains.

It was a noble experiment, but eventually the club disbanded.

I decided to establish my own modular standards for my modular layout and publish them to local N-scale model railroaders who might be interested in going for an even more grown-up model-railroading portable layout experience, but yet still retain a modicum of flexibility as to setting up in different venues. 

One of the things I wanted to change was the height.  I wanted it at an ideal home-layout height for a single level model railroad and I had no interest whatsoever in making it convenient for little rugrats to be able to look at the twains and count cars or grab things or run around the layout asking why the twains are running so slow????????

So, my grown up son and I set up a couple of modules and experimented with the new height, C-clamping extenders on the legs and we spend an afternoon putting trains on the tracks, operating them, looking at them, re-railing them...all the things you'd do at a show, or at home. 

52" was the clear winner.

That was three years ago, and now there are eight members of the yet-to-be-named new N-scale club, some operators, some module owners and we get lots of compliments about the height when we are at shows from the grown ups, and lots of kids asking dad to hold them up so they can see, which works out just fine.

At the last show in the roundhouse complex at Evanston WY, we decided to bring along something to make it easier for kids to see things, so we went to The Home Depot and picked up 2-step step stools made by Gorilla that offer something to hang on to, but get up high enough to see the trains.  These cost about 25 bucks each and they worked great. 

Here's a pic of my buddy Gregg's side of the layout with the Gorilla Step Up just outside the rope barrier:


As to the height.  It certainly is better for seeing the trains, putting rolling stock and engines on the rails, operating, seeing if switches are aligned, and repairs underneath are really easier to get at. 

As for getting under the layout to the crew lounge, we still have to crawl under, but it's not a big deal and the younger guys just stoop down.  We don't have a duck-under for the layout and the crew lounge is small as most of the layout is set up back to back and we operate from the front using Digitrax Radio DCC.

All in all, it was well worth the effort to get our old modules up, and since we are not Ntrak compliant nor any other group compliant, we're not worried about a spare set of legs that are a foot shorter than what we have.

Here's a photo of my son Ben at Echo.  He's 5' 10" tall and the height is ideal for him.  It's also ideal for me, and I'm 6' tall.  We have a visitor who likes to run trains on our layout at the shows and he's probably 5' 3" or so...and it's okay for him also:


Just to make things clear, in my opinion it's okay to make your modular setup specifically for kids.  Along that thought-line another group of local modelers here have decided to go with the Ntrak standards, but they've lowered their setup so it's easier for the kids to get up close.  However, it's also okay to treat your modular setup as a layout designed by and for adult model railroaders, and if you wish to not provide any viewing access for kids (just letting them ride on dad's shoulders) IMHO, that's okay too.

The purpose of our modular setup and the associated standards is to closely replicate a home or club layout that is set up the majority of the time in a controlled environment and is run by adult model railroaders interested in such things as prototype scenes and operation.

Several groups are using railhead to floor heights of around 52" as their standard including FreeMo (50"), Mini-Modutrack (53") and Bend Track (50") and I am going to bet their members are not lamenting the fact that it's too high, or the rugrats can't easily see it.

Just sayin' :)

« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 06:21:06 AM by robert3985 »

VonRyan

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2013, 06:58:50 AM »
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Just build loop ends.
It adds flexibility to where and how you can set up a layout, and it is a lot lees work tan re-engineering your layout height.
As to integral folding legs... too much work.
The club I belong to uses aluminum conduit threaded on one end and with nuts in the other to accept carriage bolts or special 'feet' that are bolts with large metal 'pads'
The conduit goes into pipe flanges on the bottom of the module. Our standard length legs are marked with our club colors, and any legs that are special heights are marked with the colors of the member who originally built the module(s). And, although some modules still retain a personal 'owner' all but at least one module is stored in the garage of our club secretary and we have a trailer for transporting modules to shows. To cut down on space used, most of our modules are bolted together in pairs using their skyboards or other end-boards rather than each module having its own box.
For those going to the Bedford N-Scale Weekend, you can come by and see not only New Jersey Southern's loop-ends, but our legs as well (if we lift our skirts  :trollface: ).

-Cody F.
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Catt

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2013, 07:35:33 AM »
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The first few years we were Ntrakin we bought that old line that show crowds don't want to see opps.The we started doing some simple opps during lulls in the crowd.Ya know what? All those uninterested folks would gather and watch us do those simple opps for up to an hour at a time.The origonal reason for the third track( or branch line) was fot opps till some moron decided show goers were not interested in seeing them.
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100% Michigan made

Sokramiketes

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2013, 08:28:32 AM »
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Y'know, the idea that you want to attract kids is a great idea, but to have every blinkin' portable layout at a show be oriented towards display running and kids is a bit excessive...at least at our shows.

Just to make things clear, in my opinion it's okay to make your modular setup specifically for kids.  Along that thought-line another group of local modelers here have decided to go with the Ntrak standards, but they've lowered their setup so it's easier for the kids to get up close.  However, it's also okay to treat your modular setup as a layout designed by and for adult model railroaders, and if you wish to not provide any viewing access for kids (just letting them ride on dad's shoulders) IMHO, that's okay too.

Several groups are using railhead to floor heights of around 52" as their standard including FreeMo (50"), Mini-Modutrack (53") and Bend Track (50") and I am going to bet their members are not lamenting the fact that it's too high, or the rugrats can't easily see it.

Just sayin' :)

We seriously get yelled at by at least one person per show for the layout being too high for the kids.  And it's not always the general public as someone with a young son yelled at us at the N Scale Enthusiast convention last month too. 

We like to tell those people that we have a special deal with the Ntrak layout that they keep there's low for the kids and we keep ours high for the adults.   ;)

But I'm in 100% agreement with you.  We didn't build our layout for the kids.  And that's OK. 

It's also OK to build a layout for the kids. 

It's hard to do both.
Mike

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Better modeling through peer pressure...

mcjaco

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2013, 08:56:44 AM »
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One of the plus points for rasing the layout is mommy and daddy have to hold the little ones up so they can see the trains.This is a double plus because neither child or adult can touch the layout.

Ha.  Not true!  Half the time the adults are worse than the kids!

^ Obviously, I'll echo what Skibbe says.  We get yelled at every show by at least one person about the height.  I had a particularly not nice run in with a gentleman at Trainfest a few years back, and even on TB a couple years ago too, when I posted an update.  The height thing always boggles my mind, and why it get everyone's undies in a bunch.  We built it for us, and are kindly sharing our work for everyone to enjoy.  It's like me going over to the Lego layouts and complaining that they're not prototypical enough. 

Specter3

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2013, 09:05:24 AM »
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Portable layout myths:

     1 People won't watch realistic operations.

     2 High layouts keep kids from viewing

     3 Parents are sometimes A-holes (wait...no... that one is not a myth)

One of my favorite issues is when my 9 yr old daughter is running trains on the layout, has on the club hat, a name badge, and a throttle in her hand, and some smaller child joins her behind the rope. She will tell the child that they can not be in there and the parent will tell their own kid that it is ok if she can be in there then they can. I then have to step in and correct them and suddenly I am the A-hole. It happens, we are used to it, and I just smile and talk to the child about what they like about trains. They always ask why she gets to drive, and I tell them it is her train and she can drive it if she wants to. That is usually a lightbulb moment, "It's her train?". Yes it is. Usually this is where they turn to the parent and say "why don't I have my own train?". Now I am an A-hole for a different reason, but this one feels much better(at least to me). Sometimes the parents just drag the kid away unhappy, but for the most part they are amazed that she does so well with it. I then get to happily explain how she has been involved with my own railroading since birth(well actually we chased trains together starting at about 6 months when she started reacting to the large noisy moving things in front of the car) and how she has a layout of her own and if you teach them to respect the trains they will handle them as carefully as anyone else.

I will also say that at the shows we attend around here there are plenty of layouts(our Ntrak, another ntrak, 2 HO clubs, S Scale, O scale 2 rail and three rail, and G Gauge) all about the same height. So if some group decided to raise theirs and go to operating realistically through the show then I cant imagine there would be too much hue and cry over it except from the occasional whiner class parent. Lots of stuff to see. I have seen the steps with the handles for even the standard height layouts and the kids are pretty good with them. I too worry about the potential for a fall if a club provides stuff to stand on either from kids falling off or adults tripping over(seen it). And in today's society I would probably not provide anything if I raised a layout. All it takes is one jack butt and a decent lawyer and your life turns to heck. I have a large liability rider on my homeowners, but if they "prove" negligence, those numbers get very high, very quickly. And having to deal with the insurance company for some things lately that were not my, or my wife's fault, in any of the cases, I am certainly not going to just think "Oh, no problem, I'm covered"  ever again.

robert3985

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Re: Opinions about changing our NTRAK layout height
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2013, 09:23:20 AM »
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Just build loop ends.
It adds flexibility to where and how you can set up a layout, and it is a lot lees work tan re-engineering your layout height.
As to integral folding legs... too much work.
The club I belong to uses aluminum conduit threaded on one end and with nuts in the other to accept carriage bolts or special 'feet' that are bolts with large metal 'pads'
The conduit goes into pipe flanges on the bottom of the module. Our standard length legs are marked with our club colors, and any legs that are special heights are marked with the colors of the member who originally built the module(s). And, although some modules still retain a personal 'owner' all but at least one module is stored in the garage of our club secretary and we have a trailer for transporting modules to shows. To cut down on space used, most of our modules are bolted together in pairs using their skyboards or other end-boards rather than each module having its own box.
For those going to the Bedford N-Scale Weekend, you can come by and see not only New Jersey Southern's loop-ends, but our legs as well (if we lift our skirts  :trollface: ).

-Cody F.

As to loop ends.  One of the N-scale clubs here, which is comprised mostly of ex-members of our previous club, have decided to go with end-loops, and it does make for a very flexible setup and getting into the crew quarters is just a walk-in since the layout never forms a closed loop.  However, I have run on their layout and I really dislike it.  Maybe it's because their end-loops are only 18" radius, or some of their trackwork isn't too great there... I don't know exactly why, but I'd much rather run and operate on a true double-track mainlined layout, with single track interchange capability for added operating interest.

As to integral folding legs and "too much work".  It all depends on what you mean by "too much work".  If you mean at the shows, I just unscrew two eyebolts, the legs fold down, and I use my cordless drill to insert and torque several new eyebolts into them and VOILA!...the module then gets set upright and on to the next one.  Takes about a minute per module to lower the legs and get 'em secured.  Yeah, it's more work when building the benchwork, but my club LOVES work, but setup goes really quickly when at the shows...lot less work than separate legs and much much more sturdy.

Foldy legs on a 6' module seen from the top before track and scenery:


Additionally, all of the modules are built using the exact same hardware, so everybody's tools are interchangeable.  For the feet, we use "glides" purchased locally that have a 2.5" total vertical adjustment on each leg and it doesn't take long to get everything to the right height and level.

Even more additionally, we don't have to carry all those separate legs separately because our legs are semi-permanently attached and just hinge down, so it's more compact.

However, adding folders to existing Ntrak standard "benchwork" (If you can call it that) would probably be very difficult.  As you can see from the previous photo, even the benchwork in my modular standard is what you might expect and use for a home layout...namely L-girder with cross-braces and risers supporting splined subroadbed.  We don't do the plywood-plains stuff at all, using 3/4" sanded-one-side plywood for yards and large industrial areas only.

There are lot of other benefits to raising the layout other than just being able to get under it easily, which I have listed in my previous post.  Having loop ends does nothing to improve the angle of view, or not bending over all the time during making up trains or operating in an industrial area.  If you need to see car numbers for operations, then the 52/53" height really makes a huge improvement in the operating ergonomics for us old Optivisor-wearing gents.   8)
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 09:36:23 AM by robert3985 »