I am pondering building an N-scale layout in a coffee table. I am wondering if anyone has any good plans for one. 48" in length seems to be the norm in length for these and around 28" in width. I would like to be able to make is just alittle narrower. Does anyone know of any plans for a table/layout that are around 24"-26". I really appreciate all the help this website gives me as I have recieved very good information in ALL my other posting. I have to admit I feel somewhat new to the hobby since i don't work at it as much as I want to, but everyone is so nice in the replies. Thanks.
The limited size for a coffee table does not lend itself well to many options for a layout. You can get a twice around with a spur or two or even a figure 8. The question you need to answer is what kind of theme you are looking for.
I think the latest edition of Model Railroader had an article on a coffee table layout. Atleast, I read about one in an article recently.
You can find a little bit of info using Google. I Googled the topic after seeing the article. There are a couple places selling very pricey complete sets.
If I were to do it, I would make the sides glass on all sides so you could view it from every side. Just have wood in the corners to support the top and the sides. Of course, it would be a glass top. The top should probably be hinged, so you could easily open it to rerail and problems. I would probably have a couple rerailing sections of track on there too, just to help eliminate the need to open the top and fix anything. A coffee table is bound to be bumped from time to time. With the small size of N scale, I would think that could lead to some derailment issues.
February 2009 Model Railroader does have a nice N Scale article, "Make a coffe table for your layout," on pages 66-71, by Stephen F. Anderson.
The layout is simply an oval with two industry track spurs to the inside of the oval. Any 2'x4' layout will fit into the coffee table space.
What is nice about this article is the inclusion of two slide out drawers: One for the layout, and; the other for a DCC Control Panel. The plans also include a glass lifter, and electrical wiring including LEDs.
There are very detailed drawings for actual oak coffee table construction with N Scale "under glass" which has been lacking in other articles I've seen. It is sometimes easy to forget that the coffee table is first of all a coffee table!
Here's a link to other magazine articles about N Scale coffe tables, HO Scale coffee tables, and O Scale coffee tables going back to 1952...
Conemaugh Road & Traction circa 1956
Model Railroader magazine