Coffee Table Railroad Flips To Hide The Fun

The livingroom coffee table has long been a favorite realm of the model railroad. But what to do when you actually want to have coffee? [Peter Waldraff] has come up with a most eloquent answer to the problem by designing a coffee table model railroad capable of turning the world upside down.

This isn’t [Peter’s] first rodeo. In his demo video below he shows off a coffee table train he built 20 years ago using a rectangular layout under glass. This time the circular design means a spherical volume can rotate around two skateboard bearing pivot points, revealing the mountainous scene on one side and the boring old wood table on the other. But what happens to the N-scale train itself when gravity is reversed? There’s a brilliant solution to that!

The frame of the coffee table includes an outer loop for train storage. Before flipping the model upside-down, the train itself is sent to this siding for safe keeping. In an earlier build video we can glimpse the latching mechanism that uses a solenoid and is actuated by a magnet in the center of the table. A clever use of toggle bolts (sometimes known as butterfly anchors for securing things on drywall) has them transfer power to the outer ring of storage track when their spring-loaded arms come in contact with some screw heads on the other side of the gap. The source of the electricity is a rechargeable Makita power tool battery in a hidden chamber within the mountain.

Of course we’ve seen other hideaway coffee table trains like this lovely hand-carved version. But you have to admire how [Peter] managed to incorporate everything into a self contained unit here, without the needing to store a removable cover. If you are someone who wants to always show off your handy work, that’s where a perspex box coffee table design comes into play.

13 thoughts on “Coffee Table Railroad Flips To Hide The Fun

    1. It did seem familiar from a tv show, and I thought of the Thunderbirds, but also the sixties Batman show.

      But nothing specific came to mind.

      Then I thought of the Green Hornet tv show from around the time of Batman. I think it had a flip table for cars, the regular one and the crime fighting one. But I haven’t seen the show in a long time

  1. I was wondering how you would release the solenoid latches if the battery runs out of charge when the layout side is hidden. Is there a way to feed in electrical power or a mechanical means to unlatch the top?

    1. Nazanin,
      I do not make these to sell them, that being said, it does not mean I would not sell one in the future for the right price, but it would have to be a large… number, probably way more than anyone would want to pay. I put so much time into making it.
      Thanks for the interest, Pete :)

    1. Stacie,
      Like I said above I do not, but all the components are easily found. The wood was purchased at home depot and Wood Craft. All the electronics can be purchased through Amazon and I think I purchased the solenoid from Adafruit. The pivot was built using skateboard bearings easily found on line or at a sports store. I have the schematic posted on You tube for the electronics. If you search my name(Peter Waldraff) on You tube it will take you to my page and all my videos.

      Thanks for your interest, Pete

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