Here are some tips from the FREE model railroading report available at http://www.modelrailroadhub.com/free.html
By stretching your arms out in front of you you’ll be able to work out how far you can realistically reach before over balancing. This is important in cases where you might have a train derailed on the back of your layout, or for when you need to manually uncouple some cars, or when adjusting the throw rod for a turnout, or perhaps when soldering a rail wire, or simply doing regular maintenance, or removing some dust.
The questions are: Can you easily reach the required spot and perform the task? Can you stretch in 2 ft while still manipulating your fingers to repair the problem? Will your scenery be in the way of your reaching over?
From experience I know one thing: the higher your benchwork, the shorter the reach. The worst scenario is when extra body weight is applied to the layout to allow for reaching over. The risks are obvious; damaged scenery, damaged track, damaged electronics, and crushed or damaged trains…not to mention hurting yourself!
Constructing access holes is a good idea if feasible. This allows for crawling under the layout so the body can be popped up through the center. Crawling under your layout might not be an easy task especially if you are on the tall side, or maybe not as agile as you once were. Planning your layout with the future in mind is the sensible approach, because none of us is getting any younger.
The other possibility is to make the bench-work accessible from two sides if it is feasible, and strive to limit it to two foot wide (or even less). Unfortunately when building a model railroad, there never seems to be enough space, especially when you desire a wide layout with plenty of scenic features and tracks. That said; the access and maintenance practicalities do require careful thought before planning gets too advanced. If you can’t reach it… you won’t be able to properly maintain it… and, if you can’t maintain it properly… your model trains will not run well on it.
I hope these tips will be of help to someone. And, if you seek more ideas then grab your FREE copy of this report “33 Track & Layout Mistakes to Avoid”. It is FREE to download and share. The link is above.
Take care and have fun working on your model railroad!