So you have really gotten into this model train hobby and have spent hundreds of dollars on a cool track, exciting scenery, and a locomotive and rolling stock so real, the kids are trying to get aboard, but your wife wants the dining room table back. What do you do? Well you build a model train table of course. But what if you are not a carpenter or don’t have any close friends or relatives who are? This article will give you some options.
The first option is having no table at all. In other words, put your layout on the floor. If you do this, there are a couple of precautions you will want to take. First, you do not want to put your layout directly on a carpet. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, most carpet will release fibers that will get caught in your track and trains and could potentially get tangled in the moving parts. Second, static electricity can be generated by walking or crawling on the carpet, and it will be discharged, giving you that annoying shock, when you touch the track. If you have nothing but carpet, consider putting down a base of particle board, plywood or some other non-conducting material under your layout. One other thing about putting your layout on the floor, if you are like me (getting up in years), crawling around on your hands and knees will take its toll on your body and you will probably be able to spend less time on your hobby.
Another option if you don’t want to build your own model train table is to use folding tables. These are quick, can be moved with your layout, and they are relatively inexpensive. There are downsides to folding tables as well. First, they are not as stable as a table you might build yourself. Secondly, there are only certain specific sizes of folding tables available and those sizes may or may not be amenable to the size of your layout.
A quick and easy way to set up a model train table is to get some sawhorses which are readily available in your local home improvement store. These can come already assembled, or you can purchase just the brackets and add your own two-by-four legs so that you can decide what height you want. The sawhorses become the legs of your table. The table top can be constructed of a smooth door (the hollow ones are cheaper and lighter), some ½ inch plywood or particle board, or even some 1 inch lumber (10 or 12 inches wide) glued or nailed together. The advantages of this approach are that it is inexpensive, can be more customized than folding tables, is quick to assemble, and it’s portable. Disadvantages include some instability, and aesthetics.
A model train table (also known as benchwork) is an essential element of your train layout. But you probably did not get into model railroading because you love carpentry. While custom or purchased benchwork specifically made for model trains may be the best solution, it is certainly not the only solution. Try one of the methods above if you want a quick, inexpensive workable solution.