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n-scale coffee table?

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n-scale coffee table?
Posted by tinman1 on Thursday, December 25, 2008 9:40 PM

I will admit I am a HO and HOn3 fan, which can take up a mountain of room. My wife asked if I could put some sort of layout in the living room, but it would have very strict parameters. It would have to be small, protected from animals and easy to keep clean of , well , everything. After a few minutes of thought I came up with N scale in a 24x 60 coffee table. It would need to have a glass top and sides for viewing and probably storage/ staging under behind wood. The case would have to look nice, which shouldn't be a problem, be self contained with very minimal to no 0-5-0 work, and protected from the occassional spilled beverage. For the N-scalers out there, is this fairly doable in this area and have it look ok? I figured it would be similar to a 4x10 HO layout, but I'm afraid the smaller scale would make everything appear to be jumbled together. It would need to be more into the round n round operation with a couple turnout routes. A bit of operations would be great if it could be done without any hands involved. I imagine total elevation would have to stay around 8-10" as well. Thoughts n Ideas???

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by tinman1 on Thursday, December 25, 2008 9:53 PM

I'm seeing another post calling out minimum 15"r and larger for N scale. That could sink my idea, as it would start looking like a dining table. What type radius is needed for the smaller locos, like 10 wheelers or atlantics n pacifics?

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by Neiler on Thursday, December 25, 2008 9:57 PM

I think for a 0-4-0 and a short train you could get away with 9" radius or smaller. Try it. I'd stick with the HOn3 and do a shelf layout - maybe with a plexiglass cover or doors. How about in a side table?

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Posted by Bobster on Thursday, December 25, 2008 11:28 PM

 Greetings,

If you could go just a little wider to 25 or 26 inches inside the table you could use 11" radius then use straights to get your desired length.  If you replaced a few of those straights with switches you can have operations within the oval.  Shorter engines and shorter cars make for a longer looking train.  This is just a quick thought before I turn in.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,

Bob

Modeling in N scale: Rock Island freight and passenger, with a touch of  the following;  Wabash Cannon Ball,  CB&Q passenger, and ATSF freight and passenger.   I played in Peoria (Heights).

 

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Friday, December 26, 2008 12:39 AM

Some of our Japanese friends have crammed a major part of Tokyo into an N scale layout no bigger than that...

Seriously. the sly trick would be to go with a loop/figure eight, short loco, short cars (and not many of them) and some seriously rough terrain, with the track popping out of tunnels, crossing bridges and having a long, completely hidden straightaway where the train can lay over out of sight.  I presume that your wife wants to be able to entertain mundane visitors, not run TTTO with a full deck of car cards.

Perhaps a little negotiating can get you a slightly wider curved-end table to ease the radii and eliminate the 'one end curve directly over the other' problem.  That, plus making sure that the trackwork is absolutely bulletproof, should make under the glass top excursions a rare event.

This is a place to rigidly apply the KISS principle.  If you can reduce the operating controls to an on-off switch, by all means, do so.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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Posted by CSXDixieLine on Friday, December 26, 2008 6:34 AM

I have a little 2' x 4' N-scale layout that uses Atlas snap track with 9 3/4" radius curves. There are no problems running smaller 4-axle locos like an Atlas GP38 and shorter cars, but later when I moved up to a larger layout, I found none of the larger locos or cars I purchased would work on the little layout (sideswipes with scenery and adjacent tracks). Jamie

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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 26, 2008 1:31 PM

Typing "n scale coffee table" into that new-fangled invention Google yields many links, photos, even a youtube video or two.

There are commercial suppliers who will build them or sell plans for building the table itself. I can't personally vouch for any of the commerical vendors, but here's a photo from one of the sites.

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Posted by Neiler on Friday, December 26, 2008 5:57 PM

Wow. Plans for $25 seems like a deal. Maybe the coffee table idea isn't so bad after all!

 N

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Posted by tinman1 on Friday, December 26, 2008 7:22 PM

Cuyama, that is what I'm talking about, although I never looked it up it's not because I'm lazy. That looks crammed together and has no change in elevations, just a big loop as I had figured. It also goes for $3-$4K, depending on features. I am looking for comments to avoid the cramped look, and tunnels, bridges and grades were what I was thinking would help. I could increase the width to 28 if it is REAL benificial, but the length of 60" is all I could pull off. As I said, the case is not a big deal, that is my line of work. I just don't want to go buy a bunch of N scale trains if it won't work as I hope. An encased wall shelf layout wouldn't work for me either. I have no available space for it, as I have to replace a piece of furniture to do this. My choices are the couch, loveseat, tv, grandfather clock, gun cabinet or coffee table. You can understand why I chose the coffee table. It is also easily moved for the occassional rearrainge. Being able to pull off some switching would be great. I'm assuming kaydee makes connecters similar to the HO connecters. Are the small ones reliable/easy with the magnetic uncoupler? I am trying to keep in mind that my wife will undoubtedly want to play, and I must make it enjoyable for her as well. I need to prepare for her to do a full speed coupling into a trackstop.Banged Head if it's possible. She's not young anymore and sometimes the coordination is slow.

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by cuyama on Friday, December 26, 2008 8:11 PM

tinman1

Cuyama, that is what I'm talking about, although I never looked it up it's not because I'm lazy. That looks crammed together and has no change in elevations, just a big loop as I had figured. It also goes for $3-$4K, depending on features. I am looking for comments to avoid the cramped look, and tunnels, bridges and grades were what I was thinking would help. I could increase the width to 28 if it is REAL benificial, but the length of 60" is all I could pull off.

The google search would yield many links, not just the one I included. But if you don't care to research, so be it.

A 28" width in N scale will allow you to get one track "up and over" the other easily, if that is your desire.

We usually refer to them as "couplers", not "connectors", but the N scale MicroTrains couplers (formerly Kadee) work just like the HO scale Kadees.

One of the best things one could do to avoid a crowded look is to use a ridge in the center as a scenic divider. A few inexpensive N building kits taped together or cardboard mockups arranged on top of the existing coffee table would tell you much about how the scene could look.

Good luck with your project.

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Posted by pcarrell on Saturday, December 27, 2008 12:50 AM

I think you might want to check out this website.  It should be a great help.

http://www.carendt.com/ 

Philip
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Posted by tomikawaTT on Saturday, December 27, 2008 10:22 AM

A little clarification to my earlier post.

What I envisioned was a twice around, with the second "around" twisted into a figure eight.  By running in only one direction and hiding the steepest (downgrade) track in a tunnel you can make the upgrade (the long tangent I suggested) a much easier climb.  Rough terrain and fewer buildings will make the space look bigger.

For an enclosed layout, I wouldn't try to do any kind of switching - but I would incorporate a purely cosmetic turnout or two (the mundanes expect them.)

Chuck [Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - in twice-n scale (1:80, aka HOj)]

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Posted by Wdlgln005 on Saturday, December 27, 2008 8:25 PM

 One way to go would be to use Kato Unitrak. The smallest radius is 8.5".  Trolleys & PCC cars can run on this. They also have some 9" radius. The Kato track is nearly bulletproof and can be painted & ballasted to make it look better.

For equipment, check ot the Athearn/MDC little steamers. They make a 2-8-0 & a 2-6-0. Athearn did a good job updating the old design with new paint, trucks & couplers. They also have some nice Overland or shorty Overton passenger cars. You may also find a short 4 car ot freight.

You may be able to make a hidden track "staging" area to park a short train. Just be sure not to have too many "earthquakes". You may have a plan to be able to lift the top should the layout need any updates or maintenance. 

Glenn Woodle
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Posted by tinman1 on Saturday, December 27, 2008 9:09 PM

cuyuma

We usually refer to them as "couplers", not "connectors", but the N scale MicroTrains couplers (formerly Kadee) work just like the HO scale Kadees..

I knew that. I'm just a little fuzzy headed. Seems Santa not only brought me scenery materials, but a nasty cold as well. It's been 20 years or better since I've had a cold or flu. I almost forgot what the tingling spine felt like. I don't think your following me on what I'm asking. Let me put it this way. I am doing some research, right now on this forum. Of course any manufacturer will say their product is the best thing since sliced bread. The people on these forums are not as biased. Sure, you have your UP rules n B&O just stinks people, but in general the posts on here are a better source than anywhere else.

In HO, this would be roughly 4'8 x 10'. Certainly not a large layout, but with short trains with matched locos it can have some interesting aspects. Now taking it down to N scale, one should be able to ALMOST duplicate the HO layout. Biggest difference between the two is vision isn't scaled. You can view almost half the HO scale layout at a time while being able to view the whole layout in N scale. This is the biggest hurdle in my mind, making a loop track not look like a loop track.

TomikawaTT, why would you pass on any sort of switching? Does it pose much difficulty? I have already built the cabinet in my head, and the top would be wood framed with the center being glass. This would be hinged to allow access to the layout and lighting, which would be mounted to the wood framing. Your suggestions on the rough terrain sounds like a good idea. I think I would also agree on getting skimpy with the city buildings and go the rural route. I had thought about a couple bridges as well. Something that would have to interesting, filling in for the lack of a city.

Thanks everyone for your input. I will continue to build this in my head and then hopefully get some sort of plan posted.

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by tomikawaTT on Sunday, December 28, 2008 8:20 AM

tinman1

I knew that. I'm just a little fuzzy headed. Seems Santa not only brought me scenery materials, but a nasty cold as well. It's been 20 years or better since I've had a cold or flu. I almost forgot what the tingling spine felt like. I don't think your following me on what I'm asking. Let me put it this way. I am doing some research, right now on this forum. Of course any manufacturer will say their product is the best thing since sliced bread. The people on these forums are not as biased. Sure, you have your UP rules n B&O just stinks people, but in general the posts on here are a better source than anywhere else.

In HO, this would be roughly 4'8 x 10'. Certainly not a large layout, but with short trains with matched locos it can have some interesting aspects. Now taking it down to N scale, one should be able to ALMOST duplicate the HO layout. Biggest difference between the two is vision isn't scaled. You can view almost half the HO scale layout at a time while being able to view the whole layout in N scale. This is the biggest hurdle in my mind, making a loop track not look like a loop track.

TomikawaTT, why would you pass on any sort of switching? Does it pose much difficulty? I have already built the cabinet in my head, and the top would be wood framed with the center being glass. This would be hinged to allow access to the layout and lighting, which would be mounted to the wood framing. Your suggestions on the rough terrain sounds like a good idea. I think I would also agree on getting skimpy with the city buildings and go the rural route. I had thought about a couple bridges as well. Something that would have to interesting, filling in for the lack of a city.

Thanks everyone for your input. I will continue to build this in my head and then hopefully get some sort of plan posted.

I can certainly understand being knocked bandylegged by a virus.  For the last few days my wife would have had to get a little better to die.

If this is going to be your only layout, and will be easy to reach into during operating sessions, there are any number of HO 'operator' track plans for 4x8 and similar sizes that should 'shrink' nicely.  I was assuming that you were going to build a larger 'operate like a railroad' layout elsewhere, while the coffee table would serve mainly to amuse the ladies of the, 'Golf, Gossip and Soap Opera Society,' by running through the foothills under their sarsparilla glasses.

I would still try to design in one continuous run with all trailing point turnouts, to satisfy the, 'Amuse the mundanes,' function.

If you are going to incorporate changes in elevation, Kato Unitrack (and other rigid-roadbed track) isn't the best choice - unless you and your rolling stock are happy with vertical kinks entering and leaving grades.  Due to your space constraints, some of your grades are likely to be pretty steep.

Just my My 2 cents, meant only as a source of ideas.  Feel free to use or disregard any or all of the above.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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Posted by tinman1 on Sunday, December 28, 2008 10:13 AM

This type is virus is compounded by our dogs. They believe they are lap dogs (only to my wife and I) and they CAN put the "square peg in the round hole". The male is at 180lbs and the female is 115. They WILL fit in any given area, regardless of how silly they look.

 This is neither my main layout nor my prefered scale. However, it WILL be the most viewed, particularly by my wife, son and grandaughter. I just don't want it to look like a toy. On the other hand, it does not have to look like I swiped it from the oval office. You suggested a twice around over under. That sounds reasonable given the area. Having tunnels to hide some of the track AND train for a bit sounds good as well. Originally, my thoughts were leaning to DC. I was looking at 1 train with only 4 or so cars. I am now thinking about DCC and two trains, if I can have enough track hidden to basically allow one train visible while the other is in a tunnel on the opposite side. I'm not sold however on hiding 50% of the track. Maybe 30%. If the locos I'm looking at are capable of 9 or 10"r, then I think the 2 track main can mostly be broken. In "General", what grade will the smaller steam locos (4-4-0, 2-6-0, 4-6-2) go up comfortably pulling 4 cars ? It would be nice to know what I have to work with.

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by Neiler on Sunday, December 28, 2008 2:57 PM

After seeing the other ideas I thought I'd also try sketching something to fit in "our" coffee table at home. I like the idea of switching but also liked some running room. With some doodling I think the "folded dog bone" would put some track in view with a single station and the lower dog bone having a couple spots to store a train to mix it up.

The visible portion would have a little engine house and mill so the through frieghts could drop a string of cars for the mill and vicinity that the local would handle. In the mean time a passenger train or fast freight would run by. Best of both worlds!

Went to a swap meet yesterday and saw that many N scale cars could be had for about $8 each - like new. We'll see what the other half has to say about me adding a layout to the living room (already in the garden and have a dedicated room for the On30 / HO.

Neil

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Posted by tinman1 on Sunday, December 28, 2008 5:37 PM

I'm always on the lookout for idea as well. I might not act on them for awhile, but they sit up in my cranial attic gathering dust till one day ......

 I guess the good thing about a project like this is you can just pick it up and move it with no effort other than unplugging it.

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by ranchero on Monday, December 29, 2008 9:14 AM

N scale is a great scale annd it will readily fits the area you have in mind but keep in mind while designing that cars are a bit more difficult to rerail, especially in cramped condition. now this could be just my big clumsy HO finger but i always had trouble with those.Also try to remeber the area where it will be located...most likely a living room, that means a lot of movement and a lot of chance of bumps and hits...what would merely nudge a ho car will definetly tip over a n scale car. Not trying to discourage you , just trying to save some aggravation down the line.

 

like tomikawa said, I'd recommend emphasis on a long mainline with maybe a spur or two for storing or staging purpose. I find most people (read:non model raildoader) prefer to see trains run than to watch switching. If thats the crowd you want to cater to, then thats the way to go. You can always operate on your own layout.

I recall a nice track plan from the 70's if i recall correctly, built by the rochester MR club. I think it was Richester something or other... try searching for it. it had a long  main a small yard and 2 or 3 industries that are easy to operate  ( all trailling)  a small hidden portion, interesting grade elevation and a few bridges too. i think it would be a very good compromise if you plna to use short trains ( i.e 4 axle diesels and short consists)

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Posted by WaxonWaxov on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 1:18 PM

I considered doing this a few years ago and gathered information on the subject.

While Ranchero makes a good point of if the table gets bumped, things will derail, I would suggest the following.

1) put rerailers in as often as you can: road crossings, regular rerailers inside tunnels, etc. If the train is still moving, you might be able to rerail stuff in the rerailers.

2) over-weight the cars. For a display like this, one loco and maybe six cars max is feasable. that being said, that loco should be able to pull a handful of cars, even if they are full of lead... literally. heavier cars don't derail as bad.

Also, Don't foget about Z Scale. But, the derailing, etc. will be as bad or worse.

 

 

 

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Posted by Blue Flamer on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 4:50 PM

I saw one of these coffee tables a few years ago and it was about 26" X 48". The top and three sides were glass and the fourth side was wood. All four sides hinged down out of the way for access to the lower outside tracks and the fourth wooden side concealed two staging tracks and a through track. The top hinged upward out of the way for access to the centre area where a couple of bridges crossed over each other crossing a deep centre gorge. Most of the track was visible and was cut into the cliff faces and ducked in and out of short tunnels except where it went into a long tunnel along the wood enclosed side. This long tunnel was accessible  when the wooden side was opened up. A couple of the tunnels went through the scenery from the inside to the outside and ran along the outside where they were visible through the outside glass panels.

The frame of the table was made of Oak and was stained with a medium oak stain. The top overhung all four sides so that if something was accidentally spilled on the top, it would run off onto the floor and not into the layout. The glass was all tempered glass with beveled edges. A very classy touch.

The controls were built into a small drawer under the table and consisted of a DC controller, a couple of Block Switches for the staging area and a couple of turnout controllers.

It all worked very well and the wiring was quite simple as he ran only one train at a time and they looked very nice snaking in and out of the tunnels and clinging to the cliff faces.

I hope that this may give you a few ideas to work on. Good luck.

Blue Flamer. 

"There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness"." Dave Barry, Syndicated Columnist. "There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes." Doctor Who.
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Posted by tinman1 on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 5:00 PM

It does give me more ideas. Thanks. I was thinking that I would put glass on all 4 sides and make a pull out control panel, similar to a drawer. I was also hoping to be able to get enough drop in elevation to put the staging under some elevated track. I know alot of people say the cliffhanger trains are boring and everyone does it, but I like them. I'm thinking that with some of the grades I'm sure to get, I'll be down to 4 cars or so. If I can drag 6 without issues, great!!

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by Packers#1 on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 6:29 PM

 There's a guy on another forum I'm a member of who did just this, but I tihnk he left the sides open to do some switching work. He modeled the DRGW in the Rockies in the diesel era. Here's his photobucket album:

 http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc96/Johnny-s_Shark/Train/

Sawyer Berry

Freshman Engineering student at Clemson University.

Planning a modular switching layout based on a pair of Missouri shortlines. Also enjoying researching different railroad lines that would be fun to model.

 

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Posted by knewsom on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 6:30 PM

I have been working on mine for the past two years.  It is tough to work on it with four little hands always wanting to help.  My parents gave me a $10 coffee table from a yard sale to start with.  It was only the top with 3 pieces of glass when I began.  First I added a lower level and routed the sides so that I could add glass around 3 sides.  The other side was set up for the controls.  I decided to use DCC from the beginning and order a NCE PowerCab as it would not take up any space in the table.  I also got two Lenz LS150's to handle turnout control and routes.  The track plan that I designed allows both switching moves and continuous running on both levels.  All of the switching takes place on the bottom level however.

I wanted this table to also serve as a program work bench for my HO scale layout, so using a set of speaker jack terminals and a double pole switch i set up a program track on the opposite side of the PowerCab plug in panel.  When not in use the PowerCab and my additional throttle are stored in a locked storage compartment on the control panel side.  In addition there are two switches in the locked storage compartment (little hands).  One is uses to toggle between the layout and program track terminals and the other is to turn on the lights in the buildings and streets of the layout.   You can contact me via email if you would like to see some pictures.

 

 

Thanks, Kevin
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Posted by WaxonWaxov on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 9:38 PM

Also, how are you going to get power to the table if it's in the middle of the room?

I wonder if you could install a set of lantern batteries and run it on true DC.

 

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Posted by Neiler on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 10:26 PM

That is really cool - like a fish tank.  I like the idea of a battery powered, self contained unit, as well. There are really cheap inverters that people use in the car to switch to AC for DCC or whatever and, given the small size, it seems that DCC makes a lot of sense.

I'm still thinking of a case more like a side table behind my couch that separates the living room from dining. It could be higher and longer but the all glass fish bowl approach is really appealing. Maybe a switching layout in a larger scale? Could be 7' long but only 12"- 15" wide. Food for another forum topic.

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Posted by groundeffects on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 4:01 PM

Hello there,

I was in the same situation, and I made a coffee table layout.  I used a Ikea glass coffee table, which cost about 150.00.  Dimensions are about 52" x 27".  The usable height (between the book shelf and the glass surface is about 9-10 inches. The table itself is a lightly stained wood, and is very nice.  It sits in our living room. 

The layout itself is a loop of track (semi-dogbone shaped) with a small, John Allen style timesaver switching area within the loop.  The switching area faces a small harbor and is part of a small harbor town.  The harbor itself divides the layout into two sections, so besides the harbor town, on the other side of the layour is a small mountain ridge (remember the 9-10 inch height limitations) with a small logging spur.  As the Ikea table only has glass on the top (none around the edges), I've considered adding glass around the 4 sides to provide a bit of protection (dust or perhaps a pet cat).  With the sides open, I've used Caboose Industries ground throws on most of the switches.  It's not too hard to throw a switch, and for the times I want to do more then just run trains around in circles, I can take the glass off.

The layout itself is removable from the coffee table itself, so I can take the layout outside if I want to do any work that involves a mess.

There are a couple of things you need to watch out for, if you build a coffee table layout.  Besides the height limitations mentioned above, you need to watch out when deciding on which trees or buildings to place on the layout.  If they are too big or tall, the tree/building will easily dominate the layout.  In N scale, that means limiting trees to 3-4 inches at the most.  I've pretty much scratch built my own buildings too, so I can get exactly what I want.  It can also be very easy to get carried away adding details, so the layout ends up with a cluttered look.  There have been times I've added something to mine, only to take it out a couple days later.

I'm not sure if my avatar for this website still has a photo of my layout/harbor, but if so, that is my coffee table layout.  I'd give it a try if you are strapped for space.  Its nice to sit and watch the trains run, while the TV is on.

 Jeff B.

 

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Posted by tinman1 on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 5:24 PM

The height restrictions have crossed my mind. I was thinking about a more rural setting with some foothills and the occasional rockface. Adding trees to that might be interesting. With me building the whole table, I can do a little compensating. I was thinking of 10-12 inches in available height but I don't think I need any connifers hitting the bottom of the glass.

As for the power, I have a large area rug under the table now. It gets me close, and I can wing it from there. My mother bought the hogwort express train (LGB?) which runs on batteries and a remote. It lasted all of 20 minutes running around her tree before it died. She was happy with it but I think it's a pile of junk. It was way to expensive for the cheap looks and construction.

Tom "dust is not weathering"
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Posted by maxman on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 2:14 PM

tinman1
After a few minutes of thought I came up with N scale in a 24x 60 coffee table.

 I presume you've seen it.  But if not, the February 2009 issue of MR has an article on building an N scale 48" by 23-1/2 " coffee table layout.  It might give you some ideas.

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Posted by tinman1 on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 5:43 PM

Yes , I have received my issue on Saturday. Ironic I guess. It does give me some more things to think about though. I'm not planning on starting this in the near future as far as I know. I have some other more pressing issues that came up and require my full attention. Seems that whomever did the electrical work in my basement was unaware that wire nuts only cost pennies apiece and are preffered over duct tape and lamp cord. They had installed a drop ceiling to hide some mechanicals which hid all of this. I am currently re-wiring the entire basement, changing from a couple florescent lights to can lights and then going with a drywall ceiling. My railroading is currently limited to what I can accomplish at my desk and be able to be put in the drawer. I have however started my test track layout which sits on top of the desk. I'm kind of stuck at the moment though. I wanted an operational track scale (Aug 2000) to be part of this and cannot find the issue. I have my risers and spline in, and am deciding on the final location of the kaydee uncoupler.

Tom "dust is not weathering"

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