Coffee Table plans

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by clemsparks, Dec 27, 2001.

  1. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member

    Hi all,

    The recent thread on coffee table layouts has me intrigued. I'm starting to research a nice coffee table layout of my own.

    Does anybody have any good links or plans for cofee tables to build a railroad in?

    Here's one that I've found that would be a good candidate: .

    I'm basically just looking for visual cues so I could draw up my own design. If you've got any good photos or drawings or links of interesting coffee tables that might lend themselves to a railroad, why not post them here :).

    I'm excited to possibly build a little showcase that can also be a part of our living room furniture! Even better...My wife likes the idea :).

    Maryville MO
  2. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    Are you looking for furniture to build in or ideas for the layout? The main problem I've seen with coffee table layouts is no switching. I guess I'm a purist but I think a railroad needs a reason to exist. Some location, industry, process that requires material to be shipped and some place that wants the results.

    The only othe thing I could think of would be a passenger train but then you still need at least two stops. and thoeretically, it should be a point to point. Perhaps an urban scene with independently controlled streetcars/trolleys would be interesting but still...

    Does anyone just like to watch the trains go around in circles? Even my 4y/o wants to add and subtract cars to the trains, and bring dinosaurs and spaceships from one side of his room to the other. (often on the same train) The one time I started to glue down his Brio track, he had a fit because much of his fun is derived from putting it all together.

    Hmmm, I seem to have gotten off track a bit... sorry.
    now, were you looking for layout/trackplan ideas or furniture?
  3. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    I think model railroading always involves some degree of compromise.
    I think if you're planning a layout that will be featured in a display context, such as a coffee table, display window, etc..., it follows that access may be somewhat restricted, & a continuous run situation would probably be the best path to follow.
    On the other hand, there's certainly no reason you can't have a switching, or point-to-point layout built in such a way that it is an attractive addition to a room. One advantage this design has over a contiuous run plan, is that it can be built on a fairly shallow shelf along one or more walls.
  4. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Here's my little N scale RR, that's still under construction.
    Though it's not in my living room, it would fit easily enough. It's only 13" deep, & 60" long. It's sort of a box, with one side open, & a flourescent light inside.

    Attached Files:

  5. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Here's a closer view of the right end of the layout. You can put a lot of N scale RR in a very small space.

    Attached Files:

  6. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member

    For clarification, I am looking for furniture Ideas.

    As far as the theory of a coffee table goes: I'm just mainly looking to get a twice around so I can watch trains run and wow guests with the ingenuity.

    I'm new enough to model railroading that I can do without the switching for now. I need something small like this to get me started and then I'll most likely go from there.

    The track plan I'm leaning toward now is similar to Woodland Scenics' "Scenic Ridge" layout. This basically calls for only two levels of track which should hopefully lend itself well to a coffee table.

    My plan is to build a coffee table such that a "drop in" module can be placed inside. This may not end up the case, but I would love to be able to change the scene (say, for chrismas) in relatively short order.

    Any more thoughs or ideas are appreciated!
  7. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    Charlie, that's great!

    It looks to be about 20" tall, is it covered on the top with lighting inside?

    Clem, you might be better off building your own table, that way you are sure to get exactly what you want.
  8. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member


    I am planning on building my own table. I'm just wondering if anybody has seen good plans or has ideas for me. I'd love to see more photos of other peoples table layouts or just nice coffee table designs so that I could work on a plan for my own.

    I like what you've done with yours, I wish I needed a dining table...wait...I do! :)
  9. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi clemsparks
    here's a 4' by 2' in N-scale, the trackplan isn't mine only I had to draw it up for John Farrel (UK N-gauger) as I photographed his layout for publication a couple of years ago.

    Attached Files:

  10. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    That's a neat looking plan, Shamus!
    Are the tracks in the upper left portion hidden?
    I really like your idea of making the scenery removable. I think by using extruded styrofoam for the scenic base, you could work that out pretty easily. This would also make construction easier, if you could remove the layout to work on it, without fear of damaging the furniture. You mentioned Christmas... you could build enough of these, that your layout could change with all the seasons!
    My layout does have a top on it, & the inside height is about 18".
    It's just two pieces of plywood, hung on shelf brackets, one above the other. The back & sides were made from masonite, & the bakdrop is an old piece of vinyl flooring, which bends around corners very easily.
  11. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member

    I had thought about using the foam for a base. My issue is that I'm wanting to run two levels but still keep the "box" portion of the table as shallow as possible to keep it looking more like a typical coffee table.

    I may decide to make it more like a chest (all closed in beneath the table and between the legs) if I can't keep it looking slim.

    I've thought about having glass in the sides of the table also. I'm really not sure how all this is going to work since I've done virtually zero woodworking before. (I don't think building a bunch of bluebird boxes for my Eagle Scout project counts :).)

    My goal is to have something that would look totally at home in the living room if the train weren't present. This way I'll be sure my hobby won't be detracting from the presentability of the room (the two-year-old's toys all over do enough of that :)).

    I think I might just go ahead and build a 2' by 4' layout. If it goe over well, then I guess I could build the table and drop it in :)

    And I do like the seasonal Idea. Santa's workshop at the north pole, unloading boxcars of toymaking supplies. Or a whimsical Thomas loop in a "The Little Engine That Could" type of theme would be good too :).
  12. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    I really like the idea of a removeable set and several different dioramas that drop in... (gear whine and smoke)
  13. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hey Clem,
    Can I borrow that "Approximate Perfection" philosophy?
  14. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    The other day when mean "Santa" was building the train table for my son's new wooden layout, I took a step back to look at it and thought, "Well, it's up to my usual standards of mediocrity!"

    Perhaps my slogan should be, "Always striving for the pinnacle of mediocrity."


  15. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    Clem, the trackplan I posted in the other thread needs 5.25" of clearance, but with a simpler plan you could have as little as 2.5" cearance. with a simple over/under you could get by in as little as 4.25". The more complicated the plan the more room you need. even the plane I posted if stretched by as little as 8" could (From 62" to 70") fit into a 4.5" clearance.

    I was costrained by the size of my dinning room and interest in uniformity of appearance.
  16. Catt

    Catt Guest

    How about

    Almost good enough,is close enough.
  17. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Or: "Close enough to be good enough!"

  18. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member

    I suppose...Just don't go having any "delusions of adequacy!" :)

    I came up with the approximate perfection while talking with my wife one day:). More typically my philosophy is "Perfect is acceptable". We all know how often that works out though ;)
  19. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member

    That's great info to know. I was hoping to keep my table in the neighborhoot of 5 to 6 inches from base to glass. Hopefully that will give some room for scenery even on the top level, but it might get tight. I'd like to leave as much vertical room as reasonable for possible alternate layouts in the future.

  20. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    I will not be able to put any sceenery taller than the trains on the uppermost level of the layout, and so have decided to model an area of no trees and no tall structures on that section, I hope it turns out well with out looking out of place. High desert seems to be the way to go, an if the only real green area is in the lowest section near the farm.

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