These days, I don't have as much room for hobbies, so in order to give model trains a try I need to use N (1/160 scale) or Z (1/220 scale) scale trains. N scale has much higher availability and lower cost than Z scale, so I decided to go with that. Additionally, I wanted to buy something somewhat prepackaged to help speed up the layout, so I decided on implementing the Woodland Scenics Scenic Ridge layout.
After deciding on this layout, the first thing I needed to do was build or buy a sturdy 3 foot by 6 foot (0.9 m by 1.8 m) table. Since I have some experience with woodworking, I decided to build one. The basic requirements were a sturdy top and some folding legs so the layout can be stowed in the attic or transported in a truck.
First I constructed a table top from some clear 3/8" (1 cm) plywood and some 1 x 4" (2.5 by 10 cm) braces. One of my
favorite tools is a
Dewalt plate joiner. This is also known as a
plunge router or a biscuit joiner. Basically it cuts precise slots on two adjoining pieces of wood, and you fill the slots with
glue and a little, wooden, football-shaped biscuit, and then you have a strong, nicely aligned joint. You can cut as many slots as
you like, but you only need about 4 for a 6 foot length. Shown in the first photo is the table top all cut, glued, and clamped.
The top is upside-down and sitting on some work sawhorses. Click on the photos to get a larger image.
This photo shows a close up of the pivot bolt and the top of one leg.
Hmm. Note how I have the one pivot very close to the edge of the table top side piece. Also note how I have the pivot bolt
ending in a sleeve embedded in the nice soft clear pine side of the table top. Not very robust, but this is what you come up with
as you are creating a design in your head as you walk up and down the hardware store aisle.
Lesson 1, soft lumber is not as strong as plywood, hard wood, or metal. Lesson 2, do not depend on wood to provide a strong
point for hardware attachments: ratheru se hardware (such as a bolt and a nut) that goes through the wood and not embedded in the
wood (e.g. sleeves, nails, screws, etc.) Lesson 3, learn to plan a little better so you only have to build things once.
Ker-runch. Engineering disaster number 2. Not learning from my first mistake, I decide to use some wood screws and a slot in the
pipes to keep everything in place. Eventually the screws get ripped out of the wood and the slots get all bent and twisty and
difficult to use. I remove the screws and drill holes through the braces. I redo the leg braces with simple holes. And I get a
wingnut and a bolt to hold the bracing in place. In other words, get rid of the wood fastener hardware and use all steel
There were a few mistakes and much to learn along the way, but in summary I am happywith this sturdy and transportable table. The next article in this series is Part 2 - Laying N Scale Track, or leap to any article below.
Thanks for reading my articles. More train layout photos and articles will be posted in the near future.