Lou raises his entire layout

There’s no two ways about it -get the height wrong for your layout and it’ll gnaw away at you forever. Or give you a bad back. Or both.

But where there is a will, there’s a way. Here’s how Lou raised the height of his entire layout.

“Just an idea for those who are interested. I have a room that is 16 feet x 21 feet with about 500 feet of hand laid track. The layout is already wired for 96 blocks of block detection. As i started working on scenery, I was thinking “man, I wish the layout was higher. It would give a much better perspective on the scenery”.

The layout was bolted to 2 walls, and the rest of the layout is on L-girder legs.

I decided to raise the whole layout in one lift, going up 10 inches.

I took a circular saw and cut the backdrop to the new height.

I bought 40 garage door hinges. The posts in the hinges will handle a 7/16″ threaded rod. I bought threaded rod and cut them to 18″ lengths. Mounted the garage door hinges at the bottoms of each leg with enough room underneath to fit a nut and washer.

I setup some temporary legs along the walls and prepared them before I unbolted the layout from the walls. Then you just started cranking away at each leg around the layout. Once done, I used carriage bolts to extend the L-Girder legs.
I was going to use jacks, but I would’ve needed at least 12 jacks with a 10″ throw. This was also much safer.


Lou was also kind enough to share a video of his layout. Looking forward to seeing this one finished!

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep them coming – and let us know your thought – please post your comments below.



37 Responses to Lou raises his entire layout

  1. very intresting, how you have done the scren,do you have a email address as wear to get the back drops ,

  2. It’s a good job there are still some geniuses out there…well done Lou.

  3. Impressive detection, what system are you using?

  4. Good idea Lou, must have taken a hell of a time to wind up 40 nuts with a spanner though, especially a bit at a time for each one. I only realised a few weeks ago that my layout was too low for me now ( originally built for my Son ) at less than 3′ high !! Cheers Mike S

  5. Hi Alastair, thanks for all your good work, just a quickie, your second link doesn’t lead to this item, but to the previous one about inclines. Thought I would let you know as some people will be puzzled, Cheers Mike S

  6. unbelievable way of raising your layout on your own well done. the computer screen was amazing to watch right out of my ability.hope to see some follow up. great work its an amazing what i have seen on this site. thank you for sharing.

  7. Extraordinary. I am a perfectionist but this reaches new heights. Will it ever be finished to your complete satisfaction?.

  8. There is no end to the creativity I see on this great site! This is the ONLY place to find ideas and photos like yours. Great idea!!

  9. The backdrops are 1/4″ masonite. I hand rolled the base blue color with standard Home Depot house paint. I airbrushed the clouds using a combination of Titanium white, transparent grays and some blue. I used card stock to airbrush “apparent lines” to create sunbeams. The rest was done just whispy. I did hear however a cool trick I have not tried yet. Take cotton batting and pull it apart unevenly. Spray through the cotton. The paint will hit the backdrop at different levels creating a more realistic 3d concept

  10. As far as the touch screens, there are 7 10″ touch screens around the layout. I am in the automation business. I used a proprietary control processor to control relay cards. The inputs are detected using input cards. There is no Windows or Mac PC running in the background. The system is 100% programmable to include routing, detection, signaling. iPads or iPhones may also be used as a controller. Each individual touchscreen may be locked out when a dispatcher wants full control. The dispatcher MAY allow unlocking one panel in an area where an operator may need control without allowing any others simultaneously. Each processor is capable or 36576 outputs and 18288 inputs. Initial boot up time is 6 seconds. Individual outputs or groups of outputs may be thrown based on a button press or input detections. As far as speed, we can read 18288 inputs once every second and we can throw all 36576 outputs in 643 milliseconds. Of course, that’s the electronic side,,, the tortoise motor will then take whatever time it normally does. The turnouts are detected separately so if any rolling stock is on the turnout, the system will not allow the tortoise to throw. We are also considering bringing the turnout point rails back into the system as an input. This will give us TRUE feedback of whether the rails are in fact satisfied when thrown

  11. Brilliant, Lou. even though it may have taken some time to wind up the 40 nuts, it still less time than taking the whole thing apart and a lot cleaner to boot.
    The world needs more problem solvers like you.


  12. Thanks Lou.
    I will use your idea to lower my layout to a ‘sitting’ height. Very useful to me.
    What height have you used?

    Thanks again.

  13. Did I miss what the new height is? I would ne interested. Thanks…

  14. Lou,

    Ingenious method of raising the layout on your own.

    The electronic side of things is fantastic and I would truly like to see a detailed article on your system in Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine or MR. But I would sincerely love to read all about your layout and particularly the automation / Block occupancy / control system.

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. neat bench work, I like the idea of raising and lowering it.


  17. The original height was 43″. I went up to 53″. It’s a little high, although I’m OK with it. I personally think 50-51 is really nice.


  19. Lou what a great job !!! I started my set out at 48″ so I could just sit on a bar stool and play when I wasn’t tearing up to put in something different. When I finally go kicking and screaming in to the digital era on my trains I will have to contact you or someone as experienced to help me go digital.

  20. Just think how cool it will be when hes done.

  21. I would say he has better block control than most REAL railways !!

  22. Lou, great job on your layout and block system. enjoyed seeing a hi tech layout in operation.

  23. that’s a very ingenious idea.

  24. hi lou yes i want to asking something too everyone talks about inches but in south africa we use milimeters what is the incline in milimeters on one flexitrack please everyone got there own idea how to build a layout in mountains with curves bridges and tunnels and how do i contact u have u got a email adress please kindly theunis

  25. I LOVE your layout! I’m new to the game & would love to build something similar, except on a smaller scale. How much track would I need, are those click lock tracks any good for large layouts. feel free to email me to offer any advice, help.

  26. Layout and sidings are excellent and touch screen is superb.

  27. like what i have been using to wire things up is the pack cords form a Bailey system that was removed from a Papermill and it is color coded which is a plus and for main power i used number 10 automotive wire and THE terminal blocks from a mill that some where free others not it cost me dearly from the same mill a 40 ouncer here and there all adds up when you don’t drink any more its the terminal blocks that use the flat mounting bracket there the best i like them a bit more then the older style but much more reliable once again thank lou and big al keep them coming

  28. great work and like the rest of some folks I would like email address of any one that would like to talk about there ideas but I have asked for emails for years and have never got one from this site , thanks dan o

  29. Very clever!

  30. A engineering masterpiece .

  31. Please give us the program you used for block detection.

  32. So did I miss it or what was the original height and the final newly raised height? Nice work, REALLY nice work. Congrats. David in SC

  33. my question is how rich are you people to be able to afford all those computers and the dcc systems for your engines. Everytime I turn around my computer quits working and I have to shut it down as I can’t afford to hve it worked on. Now I like the idea of controlling all my engines/turnouts/layout lights but just don’t have the thousands of dollars to invest in it. When I think back over the last 30-40 years and being in Lionel,N scale & now Z scale I wonder about trying being retired on SS a small VA hdcp check and wonder how would I ever afford those $300 to $600 Z scale dcc ready engines or not ready ones. I don’t like to say it but model railroading has gotten itself into a tizzie the same as N ASCAR, they have overpriced themselves out of the normal race fazns’ wallet. Model Railroad has done the same. I more than likely have the last model trains, Z scale (as is my layout) one MTH O gauge N&W 611 J 4-8-4 steam engine and 3 passenger cars. Afew N scale trains, Kato N scaled track. The MTH N&W set includes track,,remote and o gauge switches. Lee in SW Virginia

  34. Nice job of lift engineering Lou, Great layout, please keep Al posted with progress.

    Cary B

  35. The most interesting post I’ve seen yet. Good job.

  36. Hi Lou, You demo of using the controlled blocks was excellent. I as I am many others would like to know how it can be duplicated, is the software an open source or purchased. Can it be programed for a smaller system – you have raised a ton of questions that I and I am sure others have. That was a great idea on how increase you bed height.
    Please share more with us. Mike in BC

  37. I’m with Lou in Virginia about the high costs of model rr. Most equipment is just out of my comfort zone….however to keep myself sane I have a collection of MR magazines from the 60 and 70s and like to go back to that time to see what trains costs then —and of course wish I had bought them at the time. lol

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