model railroads and fire codes

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by chipmonk, Jun 7, 2004.

  1. chipmonk

    chipmonk Member

    me and my father seem to dissagree on whether a duck under layout is in violation with fire codes, is it? is there a minimum height or anything?
    ive seen many many duck unders in the pages of magazines and layout planning books so i assumed they werent in violation of anything, but now i need to know for sure.
    Any help would be nice
  2. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    In Maryland and Florida, it would be in violation only if it was open to the general public. I'm pretty sure it would be that way in most states.
  3. Cogent

    Cogent New Member

    From what I know of codes, Shay is correct. If it were a walkway for public access it would be subject to much more stringent code enforcement. Such as ADA requirements for wheelchairs, etc.
  4. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Building codes and fire codes are local in nature, so to be sure, you would have to check your local laws.

    The layout is not a permanant structure, so for residential buildings, I would be surprised, if it were a violation. Like having a couch pushed in front of one of the doors. A lot of laws that are written don't mean much, because they can't be enforced. What if it is a violation? I've never heard of a home fire inspection. I would be more concerned about personal safety then compliance.

    They passed a law here that garbage can't be put out until the day of pickup. Garbage guy comes buy before I'm awake. Guess when everyone puts out the trash. :D :D :D Even the cops in the neighborhood :D :D :D
  5. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

  6. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Belonged to a MRR club once that had a duck under right across the front door to the building. We held an open house once a year and would have 400-500 people show up. It was no problem with the fire inspector as it could be lifted up with one hand or in an emergency it would simply break away (destroying a scratchbuilt drawbridge :cry: .

    I wouldn't see a duck under in a private residence being a problem anywhere.
  7. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    As the son and brother of firemen, I was brought up pretty aware of potential firetraps. We even had ropes near our second story bedroom windows when we were growing up.

    I'm an occasional guest to a rather large attic empire, some 40x60 feet in size. With only narrow aisles, the steep, central stairwell and two very small windows at one far end as potential escape points, it's clear that more foresight can be had concerning fire and how to escape it. It does give me pause to consider the consequences involved, especially when your audience involves older folks and children.
  8. Medicine Man

    Medicine Man Member

    Good point there Shaygetz!

    Maybe duck-under's should be held in place by 10-32 nylon bolt's as an "emergency" break-away measure. In case of fire(hopefully never,but should it happen) a solid hit from under neath and it's gone.

  9. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    There is only one entry way into my layout room with no emergency exit. Makes one think, doesn't it.
  10. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    Since smoke rises towards the ceiling in a burning building I would think that you would be on the floor to avoid it anyway, so a duckunder (as long as it wasn't a hop-over :D ) wouldn't be an obstacle.
  11. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    So much thought can go into how much track we can lay and the joy of finally being able to model Pennsy's Horseshoe Curve or the Tiachappi Loop that we forget the practical issue of safety and the well being of our audience.

    I hate to say it, Robin, but I've yet to find a single large layout built with more than one way out from it. Sadly, that way is usually quite awkwardly thought out at that. I went to one that had one aisle, two feet wide, that snaked to two different 90 degree angles before you got to the layout. It was in a brick garage with the garage door sealed shut to build a backdrop.

    I guess I've had it so drilled into me that I rarely visit setups like that one a second time and never with my family. In the above case, simply putting a false wall for the backdrop in front of the garage door would have left a 16'x4' escape route under the layout and out the door. At the most, it would have only cost one foot of mainline on what is a pretty fair sized layout anyway.

    Hope I don't look like that character "Fire Inspecter Bill" from the show "In Living Color". Being in the apartment business, I have to think like that alot. Thank you, Chris for bringing this up. :thumb:
  12. chipmonk

    chipmonk Member

    well you guys have convinced me, now i just gotta get my dad to go for it, thanks for the help
  13. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Indeed, fire exits are only an issue for a layout accessible to the public. The well-known model railroad South Shasta Lines was slapped with a fire-code violation for exactly this reason--not enough exits--but was able to get an exemption because he could not add another exit without destroying the historic value of the layout. Fortunately an understanding judge agreed with this and the violation was dropped.

    But if it's just for you and friends, and you won't be taking through tour groups, then a duckunder is no problem--but your aching back might regret not making it a lift-out section someday in the future!!
  14. hocaboose

    hocaboose New Member

    Remember some thing sas they relate to most fire codes:

    All "habitable" areas need two means of egress (ways to get out). Generally our basements are not considered habitable as they don't have two means-the stairs up to the first floor or outside would be one and an "accessible" window would be the second. Some basements would qualify as having two means of egress via stairs to the first floor and a ground level exit (would make for a much smaller train room though). Accessible windows would help but would also compromise most track plans (and they don't exist in most basements).

    In my humble opinion there are a few things that everyone can do to help make for a more safe Model Railroading environment.

    Have fire extinguishers located in easily acessable areas, and check them frequently. Make sure members of your family know how to use them. Take an old expired one and have a family member pull the pin and spray something with them to get the "feel" of it (we have sprayed our compost pile in the backyard in the past and it teaches a valuable lesson.

    Buy and install lots of smoke detectoer as they are very cheap life (and home) insurance. Make sure to change the batteries when you change the clocks, without fail.

    Have a licensed electrician in to run dedicated circuits into the train room. Also have a switch installed that kills all of the juice into the work space so that when you leave the train room all is off.

    No electric space heaters should be used, nor should any other appliances be running unattended ie a/c units or dehumidifiers.

    Don't mean to scare anyone-just some thoughts...

  15. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Been Doing this stuff all my life.....I never had a "Switch" on a layout - I always pull the plug whenever I'm out of the room (Celler) I never leave any transformer plugged in when there is nobody in the room with it. Why????

    My mother was drying clothes when I was about 10... The lint caught fire in the dryer hose, even before the smoke alarm went off the hose was already on fire & it caught the curtains behind it. (Window in shed, behind dryer) She told me to call the fire department & she went at it with a fire extinguisher. By the time it took her to go the 10 ft. back & forth from where the extinguisher was. The ceiling was black and the hose & curtains were all gone (4' tall & 8' wide curtains).

    It took longer to get the extinguisher & put it out (she did it) than it took for the curtains to burn up.

    About 1/2 the time it took you to read about it. :(

    That was enough for me.... :) :) :)

    Nothing ever runs when noone is home. Washer, Dryer or dishwasher.
  16. siderod

    siderod Member

    I feel that is the long as you can crawl under yur duckunder on yur hands~n~knees, you SHOULD be alright!
  17. DavRed

    DavRed New Member

    As I told my daughter then and my grandkids now its your house how do you get out in an emergency? Work out the route before you need it and try it out.

    Most residential rooms only have one realistic way out, I discount windows how do you get them open, whats on the other side? how do you get down? and so on.

    Get your dad to help and run the route with him until you are sure of it.

    There are no fire regs here in the UK that affect residential property but as my local firefighter said "when your bum is getting hot you move by the quickest way and you better know which that is".

    Had to get my 2p worth in here.
  18. petey

    petey Member

    Maybe we should all switch to garden layouts.
    The habitable rule applies to all of the US?
    While I may, turn down my AC when I leave, I don't turn it off. That would negate the value of having it. I also don't turn the furnace off when I leave the house.
    I don't unplug all appliances, computers, TVs, lamps, etc, when I am gone.
    Living is risky.
  19. SD90

    SD90 Active Member

    My basement has only one set of stairs to get out, but there are 2 windows, 24"x60", they are covered up a bit by the upper level backdrop, but in an emergency, I could get out, there is still 18" above the backdrop. Also, I have a switched plug in that gets shut off when the basement light get turned off. So there is no way I can leave the power on to the layout.

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