SUBSCRIBER & MEMBER LOGIN

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Train table basics: What to look for when looking for a platform to run trains

Considerations for toy train enthusiasts who just want to buy a train table instead of building one
A 4-by-8-foot flat table with a spot for a transformer is a modern take on a Lionel dealers' layout.
Classic Toy Trains files
Toy train tables are a must-have for almost anyone looking to operate or display their collection — from Lionel and American Flyer to Thomas.

Throughout the years, Classic Toy Trains has promoted building tables and Model Railroader has published fine plans for small layouts

But some toy train enthusiasts just want to buy a table and be done with it.

Classic Toy Trains Editor Hal Miller details the basics of buying a toy train table and what characteristics buyers should look out for.

For starters, Hal says, a good train table must "hold up your trains."

"And I'm not being as funny there as you think. It has to be sturdy," he says. "Ultimately that's all it REALLY has to do. Looking good, being expandable, are side benefits. It can be furniture or as simple as a workbench."

A quick internet search for "train table" reveals dozens of pre-made tables or stands available for purchase. Many of those are designed with children in mind and specifically the common wooden or plastic toy train systems available today.

"One for kids would have to be shorter, probably 24-inches high — max. One for kids and adults should be around 48 inches tall," Hal says.
Basic plans for a solid train table.
A home-made train table can be solid, despite being simple.
Classic Toy Trains files
"Second, if its for kids, you want a lip around the table so parts don't fall off."

By contrast, tables intended for adults to use with toy trains are often flat from edge to edge, which Hal says harkens back to Lionel store display layouts that were also flat.

As far as what materials a table should be made from, Hal says toy train operators need not be choosy. Even tables made from plywood and 2x4-inch dimensional lumber should be solid.

"Bombproof, really," he says.

But one important train table feature might be its ability to be folded or easily disassembled and stored when not being used. A classic table that combines stability and portability is the old-school table-tennis table.

But ... "Nobody has them anymore. They are really good and most fold pretty compactly," Hal says. "Many are on wheels and you can move them out of the way too."

As for finishing work, again that is a toy train enthusiast's choice. Plain wood or laminates are fine. For a table that will be used often and mostly for trains, colored paint or mats help toy trains and scenes become more realistic.

"What Lionel did for its store displays back in the day was use green paint for grass, black paint for roads, gray for rock or concrete, etc.," Hal says. "It does make a difference in how it looks, definitely. But to a kid, a bare table is also a fertile playground, and much of the scenery is added by imagination."

Hal says that toy train operators looking to buy a table should always avoid "anything flimsy". And, above all, consider how they intend to use the table — that consideration will help a toy train operator determine how large (or small), or how portable a table needs to be.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Read and share your comments on this article
COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE

Want to leave a comment?

Only registered members of ClassicToyTrains.com are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
0
FREE DOWNLOAD

FREE DOWNLOAD

Learn which classic toy train track works best for your locomotive's power.

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Get the Classic Toy Trains newsletter delivered to your inbox twice a month

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Classic Toy Trains magazine. Please view our privacy policy