How to build inexpensive train tables

September 06, 2010

How to make inexpensive train tables in the size and configuration you want!

DIY train table

Let’s start with the before…part of our unfinished basement play area I showed you last year:

play area unfinished basement

The basement has undergone a huge transformation, again. I’m still working on it, but the level of decrapification is high. Like, big time. HUGE.

When I posted the basement last year, we had just started using the space for some of the Bub’s toys. Recently we’ve been moving more and more down there, making this area more of a toy room. I bought the train table at Goodwill for $10 just to have a flat play space down there – the majority of the train stuff was still up in the loft.

A little over a year ago, back when I was doing the decorating thing, I was at a client’s house with the Bub – most of my client’s had kids and welcomed my kiddo when I was just swinging by. (Big bonus of the decorating gig!) They had a fabulous finished basement, with a HUGE train table set up. My client mentioned that her husband had built it and both the Bub and I were in awe. :)

It was huuuuge! She explained how her husband had put it together and I knew right then I HAD to do it. Well, it only took me a year, but I finally did it! It’s insanely easy, and it started with one large piece of plywood – it was four by eight feet.

I had the guys at Home Depot cut it into three equal pieces for me – four feet by 32 inches each. Then I bought a ton of legs – they had different lengths –- 12, 15 and 21 inches I believe. I figured 15 wouldn’t be quite tall enough, and 21 was too tall, so I got the 21 inchers and cut them down to 18. 

(You could save a TON of cash by just getting 2 by 2’s and double ended screws and creating your own legs – but the ready made legs were way faster to install.)

Because the corners were pointy and a wee bit dangerous, I decided to round them off a bit. I used a spray paint can (because it was closest round thing I could find) and simply put it on each corner, outlined the bottom of the can, then cut it with a jigsaw:

How to build your own train tables

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I’m so technical. Whatever works, right? :)

My client’s used Astroturf-type stuff for the top of their train tables, but I wanted something a bit softer (and cheaper!), so I just got some green flannel from Joann’s:

DIY train tables for cheap

With a coupon it was less than $10! I just laid down each table face down and “upholstered” them like I would a chair:

DIY train table how-to

I found these metal, adjustable legs online as well -- they come in a set of four. You can see the brackets for the legs here too – you just screw those in, then twist each leg into the bracket. Easy peasy!

That’s it! I was going to brace each table by installing wood between each leg, but they were surprisingly sturdy as is. I did add a leg to the center of each table for a little more support – in case the Bub decided to climb the train tables.

Which he has. :)

The BIG added bonus of these is the extra storage! My original plan was to skirt each one with some fun fabric, but once I got them up I wanted it to be as easy as possible for the Bub…or ME…to slide the bins in and out:

how to build DIY train tables

I love these bins by the way! Five bucks each at the Deals store -- they come in fun colors and they hold a ton

Extra bonus – all of the Thomas stuff that was up in the loft is going down here – whoohoo!! My husband son has created quite a collection, so I’m glad to get them all down here where he can really spread them out:

DIY train table for cheap

I mean, come one – that is some serious train table goin’ on. Hubby has big plans to get one killer Thomas set up going on these. The Bub may be involved as well.  ;)

And I may or may not be the coolest Mama around right now. This puts me way over the top.

So my before and after for this month – one wimpy (but cheap!) train table before:

And the my-mom-rules, DIY train tables after:

DIY large train tables

I hope to show you the completed basement redo next week. :)

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  1. Very cool! My son has a TON of thomas stuff. He likes to take over every part of the house. I am going to mark this so that one day, when we have a play room, we might be able to incorporate this set up.

  2. That table looks awesome! My Michael loves Thomas too!!!! Have a great week.
    Bonnie :)

  3. That is amazing! I am sure he will love that for a long time!

  4. What a great idea! I'm so impressed. We have Geo-Trax around here instead of the wooden train set, but none the less we LOVE our trains as well. My kids are 8 and 6 and they have been playing with the Geo-Trax for at least 6 years now and my kids STILL love them. They put together these huge train sets all over the game room that wrap around the couch, and then climb up to the coffee table, etc. They would love it if I made them several huge train tables like you did. You are a great momma!

    Allison @ House of Hepworths

  5. Super duper cool! I bet little bubs is thrilled! Fantastic job - WTG Mom!

    Hope you enjoyed your weekend - Have a great week! Stephanie Lynn

    P.s. this party gives me such a kick in the butt to get moving - love it! ;)

  6. very cool mom! Great job, I know Bubs loves it!

  7. It looks fabulous Sarah! I know he loves it. You are the cool Mom for sure after this. *Smiles*

  8. Wow- what a cool mama you boy has! That is seriously awesome. And thanks for hosting the party:)

  9. Looks fabulous! Hey, what is a Deals store? I want some of those containers!! They would be perfect in my little ones room.

  10. Looks fabulous! Hey, what is a Deals store? I want some of those containers!! They would be perfect in my little ones room.

  11. Looks fabulous! Hey, what is a Deals store? I want some of those containers!! They would be perfect in my little ones room.

  12. Fabulous build, Sarah! My son grew up with playing on the floor with all our Thomas tracks. Your version would have saved my back. :)

    Thanks for the partay!


  13. I look forward to this party every month. Thanks for hosting. Great work on the train table.

  14. He is one lucky Bub to have such a crafty mom!
    Love your blog, been following since way before I started blogging this summer...
    In fact, your blog is what inspired me tostart blogging, too!
    It is so much fun!

  15. I just looked at plywood this weekend trying to figure out how I could make a GIANT table for our Playmobil sets and there you were getting the instructions all ready for me.:) This will be perfect for our basement--thank you!!

  16. WOW! That looks amazing! What a child's dream come true!

    I just wanted to let you know I featured your staircase wainscoting in my new post about Craftsman home design...its part of my Throwback Week to the 1920's.

    I hope you get the chance to visit!

  17. Great job, any little boy would love this. Thanks for hosting!

  18. love how everything is housed nicely under that great table. what a great work space! thanks so much for hosting, too!

  19. Great job Sarah! My boys would love something like that too, we are big Thomas the Tank Engine fans! Thanks so much for hosting!

  20. Sarah, I LOVE your train tables! When my youngest was little, he was seriously into trains. We had started collecting Brio and Thomas trains with the older two boys, but the third boy is the one who really, really loved them. We had very little money and never found a good deal on a train table. But we did have a very old table from IKEA--one we'd bought when we were first married. My husband removed those legs and cut them all off the same length, then screwed them back on. I glued astro-turf to the top, and voila! A train table for free! It served the purpose, and it was great--but it was nothing compared to these. You're brilliant!

    I linked up a couple of my August projects, and unfortunately I duplicated one link. I'm so sorry! I was having trouble with the linky tool and thought that my post hadn't gone through. Sorry about that!

    Thanks for hosting this great party!

  21. Wonderful train table!
    I know I'm loosing productive time today... when you open a link I just have to look and look. I have no will power not too!
    But I love it!

  22. I love this idea! How cool?? Great redo and thanks for hosting!

  23. Been waiting weeks to post to this party! Thanks for hostessing :-)

  24. Newbie to the party! Thanks for hosting :) Your Kitchen Island project turned out AMAZING!

    :D Lynda

  25. That's a fun table! I need one for my boys. Thanks for hosting--I'm going to be busy with all the links!

  26. Linked up! But I accidentally linked up twice. Ugh! Sorry about that :)

  27. You may have saved me hundreds of dollars for Christmas this year! We were planning on buying a train table, but love the idea of these tables! So much more room and storage options. Awesome! I might have to send you something with the money I save! Haha!

  28. Awesome job!! We built our son a train table last year and we used MDF for the top and the 4x4's for the legs... this thing is a horse ITS HUGE and I can not lift it!! He loves it and while I was cool right after I finished it that has long passed... dang it mom points expire!!


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