As our family’s collection of wooden track grew, floor railways began to stretch around the house. Our boys’ friends came by to play, and then we hosted a handful of preschool and community events with large floor layouts. It is rewarding to watch a child’s face alight when they see a railway they can engage with. Model railroad shows with electric trains are great, but these running displays are rarely intended for small hands to touch or operate.
But a sprawling wooden railway presents challenges. Little feet totter through the layout, trip over track and frustrate other children. Add to that the strain that develops at critical points as different areas of a large layout are pushed against – popping connectors and breaking track. A large layout takes considerable thought and time to conceive and set up for a brief time and when the day ends, the layout gets put away.
Wooden track can be elevated to a hobbyist level. Great for kids, this railway allows limitless creativity in the medium of wood, glue, metal, fabric, textures and paper. I would suggest it brings with it charm and a bit of whimsy too...
One solution for a large-scale layout is a train table. Unfortunately most are too large to easily transport and quite difficult to reach across. A few could be clamped together to create a larger table, but a flush edge is needed to facilitate running tracks between tables. Since few homes and apartments can accommodate a large train table in the middle of the room, narrower train tables are a more practical alternative.
Model railroad clubs have developed a number of solutions that can be adapted for wooden railways, including modular segments. These facilitate transporting large layouts and allow reconfiguration - even collaboration between model railroad clubs or families with compatible segments. An alternative strategy for limited space and accessibility is a narrow shelf railway that provides access to all tracks from one side - critical when the layout is against a wall instead of monopolizing the room’s center.
Unable to find any mention of narrow wood track tables or wood track modules, I submit the following ideas and dimensions as a standard – suitable for both portable tables and shelf railways...
Creating a railway is a journey. Start with a plan and a few simple tables. Add some accessories and perhaps a customized train. Share it with others. Then incrementally extend and refine your layout over time.
This website presents a range of modular railway table segments envisioned – and in many cases, constructed – to provide a foundation for families and organizations to start with. A few of the modules are quite simple, relying on commercially made track and just a handful of mitre cuts to complete. Most are based on standard track with a dozen or so cuts using a scroll saw or bandsaw to accomplish. And some are quite complex, relying on custom pieces cut using a CNC router to achieve. And terrain modification using a router or jigsaw and orbital sander is generally optional, but a critical feature for a couple of modules.
With a handful of table segments in hand, your modular railway is ready to share. Trees, landscaping and buildings bring realism for a more immersive experience. These can be added incrementally. Just a few trees and a building or two completely transforms the layout, just enough to facilitate creative play.
This site is organized to present a range of modular tables first, logically grouped by size and type. Dimensions, construction details, accessories and a variety of other resources follow. Downloads for much of what is presented – table and track geometry, CNC models and even the content of this website in book form – are available.
Our 5th Anniversary Update of the wTrak Modular Railway Standard is available as a pdf for download to read or print, or as a perfect-bound printed color magazine through Blurb.