How to Build a DIY Train Table

What do my wife and Matt Foley, the motivational speaker, have in common?

No, she doesn’t live in a van down by the river. But they have both crushed their share of tables.




Click here for the FREE plan!

Our youngest son is a sweet kid, but sometimes it seems like he can’t catch a break.

Like this Christmas.

He loves the wooden train set at our church nursery. And this year Jess found a nice little train table at a big box store. I’ve wanted to make one, but never took the time, so we agreed to just buy it.

He loved it.

Then one night he woke up crying for his mother. Being the amazing mother that she is, she hopped out of bed and rushed to his room.

But she forgot about the train table.

Now, she claims that she just about caught herself and almost avoided crushing the train table. I, on the other hand, am still convinced the whole scene looked like Chris Farley crushing a coffee table.


The result: complete annihilation.

I mean, this thing was destroyed beyond repair. The whole table was made from some kind of recycled paper board so there was no hope of simply fixing it with some glue and a few screws.


If you ever have the misfortune of owning one of these things, you’re probably going to find that they aren’t going to amount to jack squat.

And at this point you’re probably asking yourself, “Hey Charlie, how can we get on the right track?”

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Well…I did what I always do: I put together a plan for a new DIY train table and started building!

I wanted it to be larger than what we originally had, but still utilize the play surface from the old table (which was somehow undamaged). So my plan incorporated a recessed surface in the top to hold the old play board.


Click here for the FREE plan!

If you don’t have an existing play surface to use for your table, there are still a couple of options. You could make the top from stained or painted plywood. Or buy an off-the-shelf play board. I found this cool Thomas play board on Amazon that would be perfect! In fact, I used the dimensions of this play board as the basis for my train table plan.

Building our DIY Train Table

I started by assembling the table base. The legs were made from a 4×4 post that I had lying around from the bedroom storage tower project. The sides were made from 1×3’s. I wanted the sides of the table base to be inset from the edges of the legs, so I used a couple scrap pieces of 1/4″ plywood as spacers and clamped everything in place before assembling with pocket hole screws and glue. The internal braces were made from scrap plywood ripped to 2-1/2″ wide, but 1×3 lumber could be used instead.


Once all of the pieces of the base were assembled, I checked it for square and used a scrap piece of plywood to brace it until the glue dried.


I had some extra plywood hanging around the garage, so I ripped that into 3-1/2″ widths to build the top (instead of using 1×4 lumber). I cut the pieces to length and assembled them per the plan. Next, I mitered trim for around the edges of the table from 1×2 boards and attached them to the top frame with pocket hole screws and glue.

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I cut the pieces that made the table top from 1/4″ plywood. One was solid and the other had a rectangular cut out in the middle, slightly larger than our existing play board. I cut the outsides of both pieces with a circular saw and homemade saw guide.


Then I positioned and marked the cutout for the play board. I drilled holes at each corner with a drill and cut the rectangular opening out with a jig saw. Then I tested it out to make sure everything fit.


Long-term, I also want to make a LEGO base plate insert for this table that can interchange with the existing playboard. I’ll do this by attaching some large base plates to 1/4″ plywood. In order to make it easy to change out the train play board for the LEGO insert, I added a large hole in the middle of the bottom piece of 1/4″ plywood. This will allow us to easily pop the play board or LEGO insert out. I drilled this hole with a spade bit since it wouldn’t be visible, but a hole saw would have made a cleaner cutout.


I drilled pocket holes in the sides of the table base and internal braces and attached the table top temporarily.


I filled knots, rough patches, and other holes in the 4×4 legs with wood filler and sanded everything once it was dry. Then I disassembled everything for finishing.


The table base was painted with two coats of semi-gloss white. The top was stained with a color called “Special Walnut” and finished with three coats of semi-gloss polyurethane.

Once everything had sufficient time to dry, I hauled each piece upstairs and assembled them in our son’s room. This step was pretty easy, as it only required a few pocket hole screws from the sides and internal braces of the table base into the top frame.

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And here it is, the finished product. Our son loves it and I hope you do too!


You might have noticed our upcycled bookcase in the background. Yep – it has made its way into our son’s room.




Your Turn

If you have any questions about the build, feel free to ask in the comments below. If you want to build it someday, make sure to Pin this page for later. We’d love to see pictures of your DIY train table, so go ahead and share a picture or two with us on our Facebook page. Good luck and look forward to hearing from you!