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Building That Extra Special Model Railway Table

Jun 5, 2008
You've finally decided that you want to build your own model railway and the train table that it will need to sit on. Often the first choice for a layout will be a table top or a sheet of plywood. Although this may seem the easiest way, it definitely has its restrictions.

The biggest concern is that everything has to be on top and nothing can be below ground level. This is when most modelers see the benefits of building a table tailor made just for any scenery or landscape they might choose.

You need to start by planning the size, weight and design of your layout. If one section has more scenery, it will need more support. An L-girder support system is the choice for model layouts. It can give you all the strength needed as well as being very adaptable.

L-girder bench work is very strong, and still about as inexpensive as you can get. It's a very functional structure, and is easily put together. It is a platform consisting of girders, cross braces and joists, all working together to do the job. Most of the time the joists are about 18 inches apart, but they do not need to be equally spaced.

Be careful in choosing the lumber for the table top as well as for the support system. You will need a flat piece for your roadbed to avoid any problems but take care in choosing the support pieces as well. Cheaper grades of lumber may eventually warp and that could spell disaster for your project.

If your layout is larger than a standard 4 X 8 piece of plywood, you'll still want to consider having each piece no larger than that for easier transport should you have to move the layout. Assemble all the joints between the bench work cross members as well as the support risers with wood screws accessible from beneath the layout.

By doing this you will spare the scenery if you happen to loose a screw. Try not to split the wood by using screws that are too large or by placing them in the wrong spots.

Choose any spots carefully that you want to cut for scenery or access. Opinions vary as to whether you should saw holes in the table top before or after the track is placed.

Personally, I think it's better to do so before the track is added so that the vibration from sawing doesn't loosen the track or ballast and ruin the smooth run of your operation. This is just my opinion though.

Tabletop layouts tend to be from 48 to 55 inches high. This is adjustable and if you've bolted it together instead of using nails or screws, you can change it with just a wrench. It's best if you can see the tops of highest hills and grades without needing a step stool.

Take the time needed in planning your special train table. It will be well worth it.
About the Author
Are you looking for information about model trains such as why dcc vs analogue control is better? Learn more about getting your model railroad layout set up the way you want on The Model Railroader website
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