Top 5 N Scale Coffee Table Layouts

N scale coffee table layouts are the best solution for small space layouts. For model railroaders that don’t have enough space for a full size layout, using a coffee table for a model train layout can be an excellent alternative. 

Despite the small size, n scale coffee table layouts can smoothly run trains. The only major limitation is the amount of model train scenery that can be added due to the space limitations.

N scale coffee table layouts are typically constructed from scratch. There’s a few commercial furniture vendors that sell track plans specifically for coffee table layouts. 

Let’s review several examples of N scale coffee table layouts that you can use as ideas when building your own version.

N Scale Coffee Table Track Plan

coffee table track plan

This N scale coffee table track plan consists of a simple double oval Kato track. It has a double crossover loop that allows two locomotives to run at the same time. It also has an incline that is quite steep but the gradient angle is low enough to allow the engines to climb it without any issue.

Coffee Table Layout under Glass

under glass coffee table

The first thing you need to work out is how to lift the coffee table glass to actually reach the model trains. Derailments can happen when someone bumps into the coffee table or if the operator switches track too quickly and derails the locomotives. It’s important to be prepared for this to happen and be able to gently lift the glass without much difficulty.

Table Open Layout

layout on an open coffee table without glass covering

Here’s an example of an open layout plan without a glass covering. It allows for much easier accessibility than coffee table under glass. It also requires more cleaning of the trackwork due to the open exposure. Try to avoid placing the coffee table in a high traffic area because the tracks will get dirty and your trains have a high chance of derailing.

2 by 4 N Scale Coffee Table Layout

n scale 2x4 coffee table layout

The popularity of N scales lies primarily in their compact size and how easy it is for model trains to maneuver through them. But like most scales, it also leaves you with ample room for landscaping. In this image, you can see that the modeler managed to fill out their N scale with gorgeous structures, vehicles, and scenery. The buildings, the trucks, and the bridges all contribute to the layout’s realism. 

Pre-built Layout Design

pre-built coffee table layout
image source

Some like to build layouts from scratch, while others enjoy adding pre-built kits like this Mountain Valley Scenery Kit. This kit includes everything you see in the image except for the train tracks, buildings, and vehicles. At first glance, you can already tell the benefit of purchasing professionally built kits. The majestic mountains look life-like with their naturally colored greenery. Grab this one for yourself and add a blue sky background to make it look even more real.

Completed N Scale Coffee Table Layout

completed version of a coffee table layout

The beauty of coffee table layouts is that their size forces model railroaders to be more creative in maximizing the space. Although the model railroad in this image is smaller than most, it’s impressive that the modeler was able to fit two mountains and three structures in it. The color of the structures and trees could be better but at least it makes up for it with the picturesque mountains and the realistic ballast.

Are you struggling to build a model train layout that fits your limited space but still want a functional, realistic and enjoyable layout with all the bells and whistles?

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N Scale Track Plans 2×4

N scale track plans 2×4 are the best choice for enjoying a model train layout in small spaces. This type of track plan still comes with all of the bells and whistles of larger layouts but in a limited space.

Every model railroader knows the satisfaction of seeing a model railroad come to full fruition. Here, you get to see, step-by-step, the construction of an N scale with a figure 8 layout.

What started as a simple track plan on a 2×4 sheet of plywood resulted in a track that’s far more interesting than others that are twice its size. Despite the relatively small size of the base board, the modeler was able to maximize its entire surface to create breathtaking scenery.

Whether you’re just starting out as a modeler or have been doing it for decades, here’s a 2×4 model train layout you can learn from.

2×4 N Scale Track Plan on Plywood

2x4 n scale track plan

The track plan is on a 2×4 sheet of plywood framed by 1×3 boards. Use a Sabre saw to cut through the 1/4-inch plywood for the elevated track and grade changes. The darker line cuts are the only ones that are visible on the plywood board.

Are you struggling to build a model train layout that fits your limited space but still want a functional, realistic and enjoyable layout with all the bells and whistles?

Access step by step directions that you can watch on your mobile phone, computer or print out while building your layout.

Incline Baseboard on 2’x4’ Plywood

incline 2'x4' track plan on plywood

At this stage, the grades and track areas have been elevated with plenty of support underneath to carry the weight of the model trains. Additionally, a cork roadbed was installed. Notice that the cork roadbed was painted a darker shade than the ballast. This is so that if pieces of the ballast chip off, the roadbed will still maintain its old look. 

N Scale 2×4 Track Plan with Mountains

n scale track plan 2x4 with mountains

Next up is the Atlas flex track. Along with a viaduct and tunnel portals, this was installed and ballasted. The part draped over with a plaster cloth is the mountain in progress. This was constructed with corrugated cardboard web and plenty of hot glue.

Baseboard with Plaster Cloth for Mountain

n scale with plaster cloth 2x4 layout

What you’re seeing here is the finished mountain as well as the elevated areas. Paint has also been applied for sections to make them look like they’re covered in soil. The rocky texture was achieved by covering aluminum foil with plaster and a layer of plaster cloth. After the plaster cured, it was separated from the foil and was used to cover the mountain. Finally, the spackle compound was used to fill in the smaller cracks.

2×4 N Scale Layout with Tunnels

2x4 n scale track layout with tunnels

It’s essential to prime the surface before applying colors, Unfortunately, that was not done here. This was supposed to bear washes of brown, gray, and yellow. The resulting shade is not what was intended due to the plaster’s alkalinity changing the final color.

N Scale 2×4 Figure 8 Design

2x4 figure 8 design

The overall landscaping of the layout is slowly taking shape. Elements such as grass have been added, which gives it a pop of color. Not only does this make the whole more realistic, but it also emphasizes the Figure 8 layout of the tracks. Still, more detail is yet to be added.

Complete N Scale Track Plan 2×4 Layout Design

n scale 2x4 track plan layout design

From a bare 2×4 sheet of plywood, the model railroad has transformed into a realistic piece of work. The empty spaces have been filled out with trees, more color, and structures such as buildings and a bridge. Despite the earlier mistake of not priming the mountains before painting, a rugged and life-like appearance was achieved.

3 Ideas for N Scale Mountain Layout Plans

There are plenty of factors to consider when building N scale mountain layout plans. Two main factors for a mountain train layout are the benchwork and track plan. The size of the benchwork and the design of the track plan will determine if your layout is functional and realistic., 

Building an N scale mountain layout can be a difficult task, especially for beginners. Luckily, plenty of model train enthusiasts out there are more than happy to share the fruits of their labor for inspiration. 

From the material you can use to create stunning landscapes to tips for maintaining realism, here are three great examples of N scale mountain layout plans that you can learn from.

N Scale Model Layout of a Town with Mountains

n scale mountain layout
image source

This N scale mountain layout uses a lot of insulation to create a picturesque landscape. Sitting on top of the tunnel is an inch of insulation with a second layer in the middle section. Luckily, there was enough leftover for two mountains. Thanks to the meticulous paint job, the image almost looks like a photograph of a real tunnel and mountain beside a small town.

Spacious 4×8 N Scale Mountain Layout with Plywood Base

4x8 n scale mountain layout with plywood base
image source

The owner of this HO scale layout maximized their 4×8 plywood base. This portion of the track alone already has a lot on display. There’s the bridge next to the rows of buildings, a bustling street, and a waterfall flowing into blue-green waters. The placement of the buildings and roads is different from what the owner originally planned. Luckily, they still managed to produce a memorable track.

Small Tunnels on a Mountain Layout

image source

A great way to maintain realism in your N scale layout is to build tunnels. This hides your model train as it crosses the landscape, like how the owner designed the layout in the image. Building tunnels can be as simple or complicated as you want with material like Styrofoam and plaster cast. If you want to save time and effort, you can also purchase one that’s already built.

Top Rated N Scale Track Plans 4×8

4×8 N scale track plans are best if you’re planning to grow the layout over time. The main benefit of this track plan size is the flexibility it provides in terms of expanding your layout. If you have the available space, simply adding another 4’x8′ sheet of plywood can double the size of your railroad. The ability to expand provides endless possibilities as your model railroad evolves.

The model railroad track plans come in a variety track types including continuous running, point to point and more complex double track types. The main points to keep in mind when choosing the type of track plan is the level of realism that you’re expecting from the layout and the amount of time that you plan on dedicating to the construction and playing with it.

4×8 Union Pacific Yard Track Plan

track plan diagram of N scale 4x8 union pacific layout
image courtesy of Metro Red Line

This N scale 4×8 track plan features a smaller tunnel on the lower portion of the track in order to make the trains more visible. There is an advantage to this: the train will pass through a canyon and a natural river setting. The disadvantage to this is that you won’t be able to “hide” the trains. 

The trackwork is Atlas Right Track and the dimensions for minimum mainline curves of 18” radius and sidings are 11” radius. The sidings are specifically designed to transfer to another turnout and to incorporate more street tracks. The reverse loop becomes an issue as it might not be suitable for passenger trains.

Traditional 4×8 N Scale Rectangle Track Plan

4x8 N scale rectangle track plan type
image courtesy of My Hobby Models

This is the best example of a traditional 4×8 rectangle N layout. It is designed using a Minitrix N-scale track featuring a double mainline that comes with a small branch track. Other key features of this track are the two train stations and one yard. They are all beautifully integrated into this rectangle track that showcases your N scale trains best. It also provides a wide range of possibilities for later expansion of your layout.

Double Track 4×8 N Scale Layout with Yard

double 4x8 track plan with yard
Image courtesy of P. Carroll

This N scale track layout uses a 15”r curve with quite a few turnouts (mostly #5s and #7s). In terms of the grade of this track, the slope isn’t too stiff given the required 2-inch clearance. 

This layout offers opportunities for future expansion via the upper left or lower right corners. The scenery can be changed too; you can create it based on the location you prefer. For this one, in particular, I used the old west scenery because the shorter cars would make the curves more appealing. The major downsides to this layout are the modest yard and shorter passing sidings. However, these can be remedied by setting the time frame back.

Top 3 N Scale Track Plans 3×6

One of the most popular N scale track plans is the 3×6 foot model train layout. For N scale, 3×6, 3×8 and 4×8 all provide plenty of space for running large freight or passenger trains. 

An N scale 3×6 track plan isn’t nearly as restrictive as the same size in HO scale. You can drive trains faster, avoid derailments with tighter turning radius because of the smaller size of N scale. A standard 30” hollow core door is large enough to build a 3×6 track plan that contains two loops for running two trains and sidings plus spurs.

1. N Scale Track Plan with Switching

3x6 track plan showing 3 industries that track layout can switch to and continuous loop on mainline
3×6 layout with switching and double track plan. Image source

This 3×6 n scale track plan consists of switching layout to three different sections the locomotives can go to depending on the scope of the layout. The three different stops can be customized to your specific N scale layout theme and what you’re looking to achieve from each pit spot. This can be changed to any sort of industry you desire but the main component is the ability to switch from the mainline continuous loop to and double the track operations by switching the track. Like many common track plans, the crossover section area of this 3×6 layout allows the trains to switch directions and reverse as well.

Scale:N Scale (1/160)
Size:Small to Medium
Dimensions3 feet x 6 feet; 36 inches x 72 inches; 91.4 centimeters x 182.8 centimeters

Are you struggling to build a model train layout that fits your limited space but still want a functional, realistic and enjoyable layout with all the bells and whistles?

Access step by step directions that you can watch on your mobile phone, computer or print out while building your layout.

2. N Scale Turntable Track Plan

n scale 3x6 track plan that shows roundtable for turnouts

This 3×6 n scale plan started with a main loop with an Atlas turntable. It’s a great track to build on for n scale layout beginners because it contains a single line and the track is made for passengers, freight and switching. It’s powered by DC wiring is closed route with using the Peco N scale streamline turnouts.

Scale:N Scale (1/160)
Size:Small to Medium
Dimensions:3 feet x 6 feet; 36 inches x 72 inches; 91.4 centimeters x 182.8 centimeters

3. N Scale Scenic Ridge Layout

Kato Unitrack 3×6 track plan. Image source

When choosing an N scale track plan in 3×6 dimensions, you should always consider Kato Unitrack track plans. Each track plan mentions the exact quantities needed of Unitrack to complete the track plan. This 3×6 N scale track plan from Kato is called the scenic ridge layout as it contains an upwards gradient and a single girder bridge. The girder bridge really makes the layout standout as is suitable for moving loads from the factories or industries that you setup based on the theme of your model train layout.

Scale:N Scale (1/160)
Size:Small to Medium
Dimensions:3 feet x 6 feet; 36 inches x 72 inches; 91.4 centimeters x 182.8 centimeters

Tip from a Model Railroading Pro: The general consensus is to either switch up to HO scale to eventually further expand or try to reconfigure the 3×6 n scale layout plans into 90 degree L-shaped layouts with 2×4 modules or a 2×2 corner section, which ever takes up less space.

The theme and era of the layout plays a big factor for 3×6 n scale track plans to operate successfully. Therefore, it’s important to try and reduce curves due to potential derailment issues. The best way to get the most out of a 3×6 plan to reduce the radius of the curves and focus on making an L-shape, which will take up less floor spaces and still give you easy access to the layout from at least one side.

Make sure to triple check the turning radius of the locomotives and cars on you plan to run on the track as that can make or break the layout in terms of enjoyment. The key factor when building a 3×6 N scale layout is the minimum turning radius of each locomotive that will be running on the track.