Trains

“Under-The-Table”
n-Scale Layout

Finished Product

As a kid, I was pretty nuts about model trains. My brother and I spent countless hours as basement engineers of our O-Scale layout. Flying the engine off the track was awesome! I always knew I would get back into model railroading some day. N-gauge seemed like the best choice because of the space savings. It also happens to be inexpensive compared to others. I wanted the train layout to be in the main living area of our house because I just couldn’t picture myself going downstairs (by myself) to operate the train. All that work for no one to see! My buddy, Joe, had this great idea of building a small layout underneath a glass-top table. We talked about it for years but never took action.

During one long winter, I decided to give it a shot. I happened to have a glass-top table in our family room that measured 2′ x 4′. that seemed big enough for a small layout. My wife (for some reason) actually liked the idea of put a model train set in the family room so I knew I had to act fast! I bought a piece of very thin ply-wood (1/8″) and reinforced it with wood braces made of corner molding. This was strong and light. I cut it so it would fit underneath the table suspended on the four corners by wire. For the layout, there really wasn’t much I could do in a 2′ x 4′ space. I decided on a figure-8 with a tunnel. I later added a very small switching yard to hold extra engines. Here are some pictures of the layout construction…

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First Steps

Framework
I Laid the track down for reference and positioned the Styrofoam risers (from the local model-train shop). I cut up some cardboard boxes for the bridge structures and blue painter’s tape held everything down.

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Basic Structure

Structure
More cardboard and tape to form the banks and tunnel entrances. I used thin hobby screen to form the sides of the banks. I crumpled the pieces of screen up first to produce a rough texture.

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Plaster Contours

Plaster
Things got messy here. I placed plaster cloth placed over the contours. Then used paper towel strips dipped in plaster for tunnel entrances and contours. Regular wall plaster was used at the end to fill in any rough spots.

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Some Paint

Paint
I sanded and touched up the plaster for a few days to get it nice and natural looking. Then I was ready for the paint. First, a base coat of satin tan spray paint. Then acrylic model paint by hand with a little sponge for the texture. I used gray, black, tan and white to try to make it look like the real stuff.

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Plants

Landscaping
Added trees and grass. The trees are ‘lichens’ and the grass is a bag of green dust (don’t sneeze) – both readily available at the local shop. It was stuck down with brushed-on 50% white glue 50% water mix. After the vegetation was positioned, I put the glue mixture in a spray bottle and soaked the whole layout. This sticks everything down nicely!

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Add The Track

Wiring And Finishing Touches
The track was placed and the turnouts were wired. I left the tack unattached to the layout base so I can service it easily. For the switches, I mounted 2 toggle switches directly on the side of the layout instead of using the big ‘dumb’ plastic switches that are included with the turnouts. The transformer plugs into two sockets on the side of the layout (One for the track one for the switches). This way, I can unplug and hide the transformer under the couch when I am not using it. I threw a few buildings down but I’m not sold on them.

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Complete

All Done!
There it is! Up and running! It is nice to have cocktails over the “Family Room Express.”

Looking Under The Table

Look Out! Train Comin'!

Conclusion
I think the project was a great success. The best part is that we can enjoy the layout all the time without having to go to the basement. It takes up exactly no space and the wife likes it! It is not the most elaborate of layouts but it satisfied my train “bug” for a while and it is fun to watch.

Future
Use real roadbed and better quality track. The EZ-Track turnouts are absolutely terrible.