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Carstenbahn 0.5

Train Tables for the Rich and Famous...

...is not something you will find on this page!

With the track plan done, it was time to build some tables for the layout.  The stipulations were many: the tables had to be light to be carried around, they had to be strong enough to hold up one-scale trains, they had to set up and come down easily, and they had to be cheap.  I determined that strength wasn't really an issue- tracks and ballast are light.  The tables merely had to resist warping in the middle.  I decided that a simple framework of 1x3 pine would suffice.  These are screwed together, resulting in a frame that looks like this:

Next up is the tabletop.  I chose 1/4" OSB, or pressboard as it is sometimes called.  For my application, the appearance wasn't an issue, but light weight was critical.  In retrospect, there is too much bowing of this type of wood to be effective.  I plan to replace those sheets of OSB with something firmer.  Still, at only $6 for a four-by-eight sheet, it was an inexpensive experiment.

Note:  If you have the lumber yard or home store cut the sheet down for you, be sure to save the extra pieces, as they can be used for additional tables.

Another view of the frame and OSB.  I assembled the frame on top of a sheet of OSB to make reasonably sure that the frame was square. 

I used some scrap 1x3 material to make corner braces to help maintain the frame's shape.  These also double nicely as mounting points for my cheap table legs, which I will talk about next...

I considered commercial foldable metal legs, but at $15 a piece the legs alone would cost over $800!  I also considered wood legs, but I wanted something that was easily removed, so this also seemed to be a poor solution.  I finally decided on using 1/2" diameter pipes and flanges, with caps on the ends to protect the floor.  The result?  $6.57 for a relatively sturdy and strong table leg.  Not only is the leg easy to remove (just unscrew it from the flange), but the table height is readily adjustable.  If I wanted to have the trains low for children to play with, I could simply replace my 3-foot legs with two-foot legs.  Anyway, here is the hardware: 

And we're done!  Feel free to try this yourself if you are interested in a simple train table.  It won't allow flexibility in scenery like an open benchwork design, but for temporary setups, you can't beat the convenience or the ease of storage.  Also, don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.  In summary, here is a list of hardware, and prices from the local home store here in Ann Arbor:

Item Description Cost per Unit Quantity Required Extension
36" 1/2" i.d. pipe $2.97 4 $11.88
1/2" pipe flange $2.77 4 $11.08
1/2" pipe cap $0.83 4 $3.32
OSB / Press Board $6.26 1 $6.26
1"x3"x6' pine board $1.95 4 $7.80
Total Cost     $40.34 (plus tax)

Additional materials you will need are 10 screws at least 1.5" long, and glue and/or short screws for the table top (I use both).  I didn't add the cost for those, because they are relatively cheap.  In addition, after you cut your third 4' x 8' sheet of OSB, you will instantly have enough wood for two additional table tops from the scraps of the previous three tables. 

Next:    What's a train table without trains?