Model Railroad In A Coffee Table

model railroad coffee table

click the image to enlarge

click the image to enlarge

click the image to enlarge

click the image to enlarge

click the image to enlarge

“I’ve got no space for a model railroad” is no excuse… Just build one in a coffee table!

These pictures are of Ray Howard’s first ever model railroad which he started when he was 60 years of age…

It is N-scale and built into a coffee table which is 40 inches x 30 inches (1m x 0.75m for the metric people).

Here is what Ray (Dunston, Lincoln, England) had to say about his model railroad in a coffee table…

“These are a few photos of my first ever model railway layout, started when I was 60 years of age.

It is ‘N’ gauge built into a coffee table which measures 40 inches x 30 inches.

The raised areas, such as the tunnel entrances shown, are made from Polystyrene which has been painted in water based emulsion paint then covered in ‘sprinkle grass’.

It is a basic oval with a false straight running to the two tunnel entrances at either end. A 1950’s GWR (UK) rail-car runs around the oval.

I chose this because of the sharp turns and it helps to fill the track edges with some height as the coach overhang doesn’t come into play.

Most of the buildings are Metcalf and the rest Hornby Skeldale.

The streetlights all work and most of the buildings have lighting inside so it does look quite good in the evening. Only the oval is powered for train use.

I call it ‘Clapped Out Junction’.

It was a great project to start off with, and now that it is complete, I am turning my attention to an ’00’ gauge layout, DCC controlled but will have to wait until a move of house to start this, as it is to large for my current home.

Being a modern house the loft is not suitable for the 22 foot x 12 foot plan (6.6m x 3.6m).

As a beginner I found the coffee table project helped me to gain experience in track laying and wiring as well as building the houses etc.

It was inexpensive, so to speak, and fueled my new passion for model railways.” – Ray Howard

Thanks Ray for sharing your pictures and story. That is an exceptionally good effort for your first layout and will give many beginners the ideas and inspiration they need.

Got any questions for Ray or comments? Please leave them below

Be Sociable, Share!
The following two tabs change content below.

Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan fell in love with model trains at the age of six when he visited an NMRA Convention in Seattle with his father. Forty two years later, his passion remains just as strong. After achieving a successful career in architecture, Dan’s particular interest is within layouts and buildings. With a wealth of knowledge on the subject, Dan loves nothing more than sharing this with others and is delighted in the forum of members who are brought together over the hobby they have in common. Dan lives with his wife Helen in Washington. As a professional painter, Helen has learnt through Dan about Model Trains and they now enjoy working on projects together. The only member of the family who isn’t allowed to join in is their over-enthusiastic Labrador called William who has been strictly banned from the workshop! You can find Dan on Google here!

Tags: , , ,

Leave A Reply (24 comments so far)


  1. dave
    6 years ago

    A superb job you made of the coffee table Ray. With my eyesight it would be a big problem for me, and clumsy fingers.

  2. Dr Raymond j
    6 years ago


    This is absolutely incredible and shows what can be done with a little imagination. I would have thought a coffee table much too small, but you have demonstrated that is not so!

    I’m starting off and have a little more space than a coffee table, probably about 1.2 metres by 1 metre. I was thinking of N scale. Obviously, the main thing before one even starts is to use some imagination.

    Thank you for the encouragement. Raymond.

  3. Nancy
    6 years ago

    It is beautiful and gave me several ideas to try out. Have been trying to figure out how to build a tunnel and what you did will work for me. I set up 10 N scale tracks in my Carolina Room and use Styrofoam covered in landscaping material to set my buildings on that way I can just remove everything at the end of having it set up and store everything flat . I really like N scale as you can do so much more in a smaller area. PS I am 69 years old and didn’t start building my set ups until I was 61.

  4. Mike Baker
    6 years ago

    Good effort, best micro layout I have seen. Must be a talking point for visitors. Hope my first effort turns out as good!

  5. Brian Silby
    6 years ago

    Very well done Ray I have six N gauge layouts which I exhibit up and down the UK and also in Holland and Belgium Brian Silby Wellingborough

  6. Paul
    6 years ago

    Really nice work!

    6 years ago

    I’ve several of these and they are very nice. If one wanted a Z scale nearer eye level, an aquarium could house a layout as well.

  8. Bakes
    6 years ago

    Ray super job, looks really great. Showing us that limitations can be conquered when you plan your entire train experience….Dan you are showing all this planning need….good going boys.

  9. Richard Moses
    6 years ago

    Really good. And it is very neat, and nicely detailed.

  10. Ron
    6 years ago

    Great compact setup. I would not have come up with that idea.

  11. Will Farr
    6 years ago

    Great job Ray, congratulations.

  12. Hat
    6 years ago

    Very nice work for first. Am 75 disabled & with poor eye sight, but starting my first. Can only hope it is half as nice. @Nancy, after cutting out the tunnel portal, I covered with tile grout & after it had dryed a little I drew in the brick with a exacto knife. Then painted the lines I drew to look like grout lines. You can color the grout any color you wish.

  13. mike
    6 years ago

    Ray, fantastic small layout.

    Was the N gauge track set track,and all the building purchased or did you make some of them.

    I myself work in HO gauge DCC, in the loft 10ft x 8 ft with a well in the centre.

  14. Bill
    6 years ago

    that is amazing; very creative; if the straights were wired, they could be the holding tracks to add an extra engine or something (just thinking out loud, so to speak). This makes me wish I had some N gauge stuff

  15. John Wingell
    6 years ago

    WOW! It’s hard to believe that is your first effort.

    Very well done Ray.


  16. Zol FOX
    6 years ago

    This is an excellent example of allowing yourself to do what you want and not take a great deal of space and still show off a working layout and keep it in front of you and not hidden away if you are in a small suite – flat – house – etc. and if there was a hole in one end there could be a connection to a larger layout for other activities… and “N” scale is just large enough to have fun with at a reasonable cost…
    Thanks for the “Work” Ray,

  17. Tom Fitzpatrick
    6 years ago


    Excellent layout, the big issue is how much enjoyment do you receive showing to friends and family. Very imaginative and superb use of space.

  18. Warren Thwing
    6 years ago

    I wish I was smart enough to build something as great looking as this coffee table, WELL DONE Ray!!!!

  19. Patrick Mulligan
    6 years ago

    Thanks Ray. Was already aware of coffee table layouts, had to search long for a glass topped one suitable. Now just trying to find the time! (I’m 40’s)

  20. Reigh
    6 years ago


    Thanks for giving me a great example of your work! You started your 1st project when you turned 60. I will be 60 in March, and I believe it’s time for me to start one. Received my O class Lionel train from my dad when I was in 3rd grade…1962. Still have the train in my possession, and my wife and I have been decorating our living room with it and my wife’s village collection every December for the last 10 years. When it’s done this December, I’ll also submit it too…thanks!

  21. David Young
    6 years ago

    Cool!. I have been working on a N scale coffee table design, but stalled due to lack of money. I suggest “Model Railroads in Small Spaces” by Kalmbach Publishing as a reference Does anyone else have additional resources?

  22. wayne
    6 years ago

    very good!!!! wayne

  23. Larry DesAutels
    6 years ago

    I once started a small coffee table layout with a 2 foot by 4 foot track layout. It was a folded dogbone with part elevated over the bottom loop. I never had it completed though because I had to make a sudden, unexpected move so I put into the trunk of my car and left. I finally gave it to my son-in-law because I did not even have room for that much of a layout in the mobile home I moved to.

  24. Martyn Gregory
    6 years ago

    GREAT JOB Ray this keep’s me insired to not give up on my ‘OO’ lay out, hope that your next project turns out just as good for you

model trains for beginners


model trains for beginners