Standard Height for Trackside Loading Docks?

Discussion in 'Trackside Photos & Details' started by Art Decko, Nov 8, 2007.

  1. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member


    I'm designing a model of a 1920s warehouse with loading docks at both ends. I want one of them to be the right height for servicing typical 20th century American box cars.

    Is there a standard height for such loading docks?

    Thanks in advance for any advice!
  2. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    AD, I don't know the actual height, but the NMRA track gauge has a "platform" check on it. Alternatively, you can set a boxcar on a piece of track and measure from the "ground" up to the floor height of the box car, and that should give you a close approximation.
  3. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member

    Sadly, I have no track gauge - or any track, much less a boxcar. If I did I wouldn't bother you guys with such a trivial question. :)

    I'm not a model railroader, I'm actually a card modeler. I'm sitting here in downtown urban China - about as far as I could humanly get from an American boxcar - thinking about ... loading docks. And this forum seemed like the most logical place on earth to ask such a question. :)

    I guess a smarter way to approach this would be to ask: what's the height (from the ground) of a typical box car floor?
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    National Model Railroad Association has all the "standard" specifications in their standards and recommended practices section.

    Having said that, not all platforms would match exactly. A lot of times a board is used to span the gap between the dock and the boxcar floor, so a bit of uneveness would not matter. My guess would be that over time, a small difference would creep into the equation due to settling of the structure or the railbed. And some places simply had an area where a truck can be backed right up to the boxcar, with no intermediary needed.

    Ian Wilson has some great shots of CN Express & Freight Vehicles linked in the article. Might give you some ideas.

    Hope that helps.

  5. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I just wandered around the layout room with a scale ruler, and found that the loading docks for trains, on my layout, run between 3 1/2' to 5 1/2' high, measured from the "ground" when both the track and the dock are sitting directly on that "ground". These are both commercially available kits (mostly Walthers) and scratchbuilt docks. The most prevalent height, where scenic materials were completed, was about 4 1/2' from the top of the finished ground to the deck of the dock. Similarily, most accurately scaled boxcars measured about 4 1/2' from the top of the finished ground (which is essentially the top of the ties) to the top of the floor. This height also "looks right", an important consideration. By the way, many older model boxcars, such as Athearn, Train Miniature, and others have the lower door track mounted too high, giving the impression that the floor is also at that height. This is one of the reasons that I replace doors and door tracks on these otherwise suitable cars.
    I hope that this will be of some use for your project.

  6. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member

    Thank you all for your fast replies!

    It seems like it would be ideal (for the HO scale workers) if the loading docks on the front and rear of the building were the same height. Turns out that on the structure I have been modeling from, the loading dock for handling trucks stands at 4' 2.5". Sounds like that will be fine.

    This makes perfect sense if a truck can transfer directly to a boxcar.

    Thanks again, guys! :)
  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    There will also be a variation if the amount of roadbed under the track (ballast and fill). There will be a quite different figure if the track is paved up to the railhead to allow trucks to use the same docks.
  8. I was in PRC this past year and I don't recall seeing any trains up-close but what I do recall didn't look that much different then those here so if you are doing models they could be prototyped from what you see locally there in the urban areas of Shanghai. I also recall seeing some really great building I wish I had photographed more so I could build now but I guess I'll need to return there to get more photos to model from.
  9. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member

    Thanks railBuilderdhd! Actually that's the problem - I really have no idea where I could find a rail-served industrial structure with a loading dock in downtown Shanghai, there is just nothing like that anywhere around here. It would be like looking for a rail-served factory in lower Manhattan. :)

    There's a lot of port activity, but I think it's mostly containerized. If I had a car and was brave enough to drive in China, I could go scouting around out in the industrial suburbs, but DoctorWayne and his ruler spared me the trouble. Thanks again :)
  10. Art Decko- Based on my few days in Shanghai I wouldn't want to drive all over town. That city was kinda crazy but I wouldn't want to drive all over New York if I didn't need to as well. Are you located in the city near the river?
  11. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

  12. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Don't rely on China for dimensions. Chinese railroad cars and locomotives tend to weigh less than their US counterparts, so it's likely floor heights and the like will be different.
  13. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member

    Actually I guess I'm lucky, driving here is saner than most anywhere else in mainland China. :eek::)

    I live in the middle of the western half of the city. Although I'm not near the main river (the Huangpu), I actually do live a block from a river (the Suzhou).

    Thanks for the link! Cinncinnatians are lucky, what a terrific station! The music hall is also striking. Do you have any art deco structures on your layout?

    Good tip! Between you and 60103, I now have all the rationalization I need to stay here in my cozy study and just ask you guys the questions. ;)

    Thanks again to everyone for their advice!
  14. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Nope. My layout's set in 1884...and I don't have any buildings yet (just a pair of station kits). But someday I hope to build some 1940's HO modules with art deco buildings!

    That being said, my dad used to own a sleep-lounge car from the Commodore Vanderbilt. The Commodore was a New York Central passenger train that received comparable equipment to the 20th Century Limited. Therefore, it had an ultra-cool art deco lounge. The car was built by Pullman in 1939 (the following year they produced several-less ornate copies). The car was the Chittenango Falls. That coupled with a trip to London, an HO scale Dreyfuss steam locomotive, and a number of other local sites have helped me to appreciate Art Deco above all other 20th century design styles.
  15. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member

    Wow, your dad owned such an interesting rail car! What the heck did he do with it?

    It's interesting to see Deco's enormous influence on all sorts of design, but locomotives must be one of the most dramatic. That is such a fascinating era!
  16. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    He sold it. I had cancer at the end of elementary school, and then my brother and I got involved with sports which eliminated his time to work on it. My dad had previously restored at least 3 railroad cars.

    His plan was to restore and rent it out for railroad excursions. He'd previously done the same thing with other cars, which eventually led to him selling them to focus on a new project. His previous car was an NYC 2600 series coach that he sold to an organization in Orville, OH (same place as Smuckers). There are actually a number of people around that have such hobbies. My dad has always preferred 1:1 scale railroading to my model railroading :)

    Few things could have been better than the sight of a bunch of streamliners sitting in an art deco station. My parents have a poster of a Dreyfuss hudson at Cincinnati Union Terminal.

    I had the pleasure of seeing Raymond Loewy exhibit this past new was cool to not only see the K-4, T-1, and GG-1 pictures/models, but also art deco toasters and such. My wife is a graphic designer, and she remembered studying him early on in college. I don't know how such odd colors and bizarre shapes could ever look good separately, but they sure look cool together!

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