DIY:Train Table Edition

I tried to resist this whole model train thing as long as I could. Olin has loved trains, model trains, lawn mowers and anything/everything mechanical/accessible as long as he has been alive. Once we invested in “expensive” (ie model HO scale) train parts, though, I knew it would be a lifelong thing. I just hope it’s a lifelong thing for him, not just for me. My motherly need to fulfill his desires has pretty rapidly devolved to a need to build the (according to his specifications) ultimate model railroad diorama. The train part doesn’t appeal to me particularly, but solving the ‘puzzle’ of the layout, assembling it and decorating it all appeal to my problem-solving and artsy sides.

Olin has specified that he wants a tunnel, a bridge, a farm, a dealership and a crossing. Making those things make sense in a situation where he has continuous run and (if he wants it) manual operation that makes real-world sense has seriously taxed my brain. I eventually found a double loop layout (I have tried to re-find the link to my original inspiration and totally failed) and have been modifying it slowly to accomplish what I “need”.

I’ve decided that a riverbed will work for everything except the tunnel, and we’re just going to have to accept that as extraneous.  Maybe there’s gold under them hills… Or silica sand, if I’m modeling this area. We’ll see.

I’m modeling in HO scale and I started with a standard 4’x8′ sheet of plywood, thrown on top of an old dining room table. The radius of the curves on my track don’t fit very well in 4 feet and 8 feet was a little too long for the room, plus our house is a rental, so we’d like to be able to get the diorama out someday if we need to. After a little more Googling, I decided that 5 feet by 3 feet 3 inches times two (for a total of 6 1/2 feet) would make the best sense and, if I modeled it right, be able to be divided in half for moving if necessary.

I took my measurements to the lumber yard and explained what I wanted. The people behind the desk suddenly got really interested in my project, and started trying to figure out the most cost-efficient way to get what I needed out of what they had available. The Internet said the best way to do the benchwork was by cutting 2-inch strips off the plywood to use as braces underneath, but the lumber yard people thought I’d be better off with 2x2s. I paid a few extra dollars for them to cut everything to size, bought a handful of nails and a saw (just in case) at the hardware store, and took it all home to assemble.

The assembly was incredibly easy, thanks to the precision cutting skills of the lumber yard guy, and I didn’t even bend any nails hammering them in. I was pretty proud of myself!

Attaching the two sides was a little bit more of a challenge. I had screws and bracket-thingies (I don’t know what this stuff is called, I just eyeball it and imagine what might be useful) but am continuing to use the dining table underneath for legs, for now. The floor I’m working on has a slight slope, and the table isn’t perfectly level, so when we went to screw the brackets on, it was a bit of a mess. Luckily, Tim’s friend Jay was over for dinner (pork marsala with mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes – Tim cooks, I just enjoy it!) and he is a private contractor/handyman. He helped us level it out and got the bracket things screwed on in less time than it took me to explain what I was trying to do.


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