Train Table

Ah, toy trains. I remember my first toy train. It did not need a table. The three rail metal track was layed out on the floor and the engine was powered by an electric motor.


This train does need a table. The track is made of wood as is the train and it is powered by the little hands of a two-year old.

A nice train table and two storage boxes– were priced at $300. I thought that was way too high until I started building it. Building it yourself saves more than half the cost but after the rubber feet bumpers, casters, chalkboard paint, varnish, wood and miscellaneous materials were purchased we were $90 lighter in the pocket.

Before you rush out and spend money on materials be sure you have all the tools to build this project. At a very minimum you will need a table saw and belt sander. It is assumed you also have the normal assortment of hand tools. Electric drill, drills, screwdrivers, paint brushes, hammer, nails and so forth. You would do well to see about gaining access to a drill press to drill the holes through the legs. The legs need holes for screws. This allows you to break down the frame for transport or shipping. If you are going to use the table where you build it, or have a truck, it would certainly be possible to avoid the holes and screws and permanently mount the legs.

Chalkboard paint? Chalkboard paint is fairly common and makes a reasonably good chalkboard. We wanted the top of the table to be a chalkboard so that it could serve a double purpose.

I have also heard that you can make your own chalkboard paint. Here is a link that tells you how to do it.


Table top inside dimensions are 48 X 32 inches. This is the dimension of the top itself, before it is framed. The skirt keeps little train parts from falling to the floor. The top dimension is sized to allow colorful landscape posters to cover the top. Makes the train layout look more natural.


Here you can see the bolt holding the end piece to the table leg.


That is chalk on the chalkboard top. One of the ways of conditioning the blackboard is to cover it with chalk after the paint has cured for three days. Rub chalk all over it. Let it sit a few minutes. Then erase the chalk with a clean, damp rag. This was done before the final trim was installed around the table top. I have not figure out yet how to remove the chalk dust from the patio. I suspect a garden hose will be involved.

See the prevarnished lumber leaning up against the wall? That is the skirt material that will be installed around the table top. It is prevarnished so that we dont slop paint onto our blackboard top. Notice also that the skirt material is clear pine. No knots or imperfections. We cut that wood from a larger pine board on the table saw and discarded those parts that had knots. That is far less expensive than buying clear pine.


The chalkboard paint was also used on the storage box covers. So you can either sit on boxes with covers in place or draw on them with chalk or remove the covers and draw on them. Lots of possibillities.

The table legs are 3×3 inch pine and were made from two joined lengths of 2×4. The leg assembly is in four sections. Two of the sections had legs securely attached with glue and dowels. These two sections were fitted to the skirt framing the underside of the table top. Two additional end pieces are attached with bolts and T-nuts. The attachment can be seen in the pictures. A 1/4 inch diameter, 4 inch long bolt passes through the end skirt, through the leg and is screwed into the threaded T-nut that is installed into a hole in the far side of the leg. These holes almost have to be drilled on a drill press to keep them straight and true.

The wood is pine. The actual table top is hardboard that has had three coats of blackboard paint applied. The painted top is glued to a sheet of half-inch thick plywood for support. The finish is Minwax Honey Pine Stain & Polyurethane.

I did not even think of painting the plywood directly with chalkboard paint. My guess is that would not make a very good blackboard. The surface of my plywood was too rough and soft.

The hardboard is VERY hard and the finished side is VERY smooth. Excellent blackboard material. The hardboard blackboard is attached to the plywood with glue alone. Some clamping helps but I did not have the clamps required to seriously hold the parts together and had to rely mainly on gravity and some heavy concrete blocks.

Storage boxes are made from pine shelving. Mitered corners glued and held secure with dowels and more glue. Bottoms of the boxes are hardboard riding in a slot cut into the end and side boards before assembly. Tops covers are hardboard that has also been painted with chalkboard paint.

Explore posts in the same categories: Toys

One Comment on “Train Table”

  1. Mike Says:

    I’m not that savvy at building but I love what you created. I too totally disagree with the price of very inexpensive looking train tables. Yours looks extremely sturdy and much better quality plus the chalkboard top is a perfect idea. Do you have a list of the materials you used? What is the plywood resting on. It looks like you have have it a layer, then the plywood then the hardboard. Also….any more amplifying info on how to build the shelves? Sorry for all the questions. I appreciate any feedback. Very nice work!

    Very Respectfully,

    MIke Albus

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