Model trains look best when they’re sprawled out over an awesome landscape! These design pieces for model trains tend to be special. That’s why knowing how to build a train table is such a good idea!
Although you have the option of buying ready-made model train tables, they often don’t comply with the layout design you have in your mind. So the next best step, especially if you’re going around corners or want a U shape, is to get DIY with it and learn how to make a train table for model trains!
DIY seems to be the best option, and you’ll have full liberty of designing the table according to your layout. So let’s look at how you can make a train table for model trains.
What tools will I need to make a train table?
You will need all of your DIY project tools. Especially power tools and machinery for wood cutting.
Make sure you have the following: pen, paper, marker, tape measure, level meter, saw, drill, screw, clamps, glue, sandpaper, and most importantly wood. If you want, you can add a foam layer on the top of the table for more decoration options.
You will also need professional carpentry skills to get it done perfectly. Otherwise, there will be some slightly noticeable variance in the measures.
Plan your layout first
Now the first thing to do is to make a plan. How will your layout be? You need to plan all of this ahead. According to your plan, you can divide each section and start building them.
So first design the table layout. How the frame will be and what will be the length and width. You will cut the wood according to that layout design of yours to build the frame first.
What wood should I make my model train table out of?
Pinewood is the best option for building model train tables. They are durable and cheap enough to be the best economic option.
But make sure that the pinewood is graded common. Low-grade pinewood will break down easily. So be sure to use common-grade pinewood. If you have the money, then you can go for a more luxurious option.
When you are buying wood from the shop, ask them if they have any cutting service available. Most of the time it is free for customers. So make use of that opportunity and make the frame in the shop.
How high should a model train table be
The height of the model train table is your choice. But we would recommend you to settle down at 48 inches. The recommended height is between 33.4 inches to 52 inches.
But then again, you have complete freedom in determining the height of your model train setup.
Just remember this principle, the more the height, the more support you will need to keep the legs stabilized.
So, design multiple module layouts according to your whole setup. Now let’s see how we can build the table.
How to build a basic model train table
- Build the Frame
You may have already built the frame from the shop when buying wood. If not, then measure each pinewood piece and cut them. Drill holes and join together using screws. Also, apply glue in the joining spot for more durability. We would recommend you to use clamps whenever you use glue. It will make the bond stronger.
- Attach Plywood base on the frame
Now that we have the frame, it is time that we construct the plywood base on top of it. Measure the frame and cut the plywood board. You may have to use multiple plywood boards to cover up the frame.
Attach the plywood board on the frame with glue and screws. Remember to drill holes first and pre-treat them to make the screen go all the way in. Use weights on it so that the glue can bond well.
Now check all the edges and cut any extra plywood there. Use sandpaper to sand and smoothen the edges,
- Add the legs
The next thing to do is make and attach the legs. Use 50 inches long 3X3 pinewood for this purpose. Make sure that the woods are straight. Cut four pieces with equal height and attach them with the table frame using a screw. Drill the holes first.
- Add foam on top
Now add a foam layer on top of the plywood base. It is optional, but as you are designing a whole new environment you should use the foam.
The foam layer will give you the flexibility of designing the environment. You can cut holes in it for the river, set up hills on it and many other options are available.
Attach the foam on the base with glue. Brush the foam with a wire brush to label it with the glue. Then apply weights on it evenly for a perfect fit.
- Use plywood sheets on the side for reducing damage to the foam
If you have applied the foam, you need to make sure that they do not get damaged. That is why attach thin pieces of plywood at all four sides. You can use any kind of glue for this job.
Any tips and tricks to know
- Ask if the woodshop has any cutting service available for customers. If so, then cut the wood there while buying them. This will ensure a professional fitting of the frame.
- Measure the gap between the top of the legs and the bottom of the legs to see if they are straight.
- Add a cross-brace layout in the side legs for increased stability of the table.
- Add an adjustable foot under each leg. This will allow you to adjust the height of each leg separately to level the table accordingly.
Building your model train table gives you the liberty and more ground to design your layout. It may sound like a hard task, but it is quite easy. You just need to follow some simple steps.
If it is your first time, then we would recommend you to take the help of someone experienced with carpentry. Just try it. It will be fun.
Peter has been building model trains for longer than he can remember. An avid fan of HO and O scale this blog is a creative outlet to allow him to dive further into other scales and aspects of the model train community and hobby.