Instructables

Convert a Train Table to a Construction Zone Table

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Picture of Convert a Train Table to a Construction Zone Table
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My little guy likes trucks more than trains, so I thought I'd convert his old train table to something more construction oriented ...
 
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Step 1: The old Train Table

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We had this really cool train table ... which he still uses, but he really like trucks.

I realized that the train surface pops out quite easily and has a nice frame for adding other things.

So I made a new wooden surface and painted it with acrylic paint to look like dirt and stone.

Step 2: Make the Styrofoam Hot-Wire cutter ...

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I made a styrofoam hotwire cutter from some aluminum frame and nichrome wire. A little bit of wood works as an isolator. And my battery charger was perfect for a DC source. Cheaper than buying a train transformer.

Edit: Some more notes on this ...

I picked up the nichrome wire from my local hobby shop for about $.65 per yard. The hardest part is keeping the tension on the frame since the wire stretches quite a bit when hot. You don't want it too hot where the styrofoam smokes. On the 12v setting, it drew about 1.5 amps with 1.5' of wire. Slightly higher current with a shorter length. There are other hot wire cutter instructables on this site which provide more detail on this step. If I was to go with an even shorter length of wire I'd drop down to 6 volts.

In retrospect, I should have made this frame like an X with a bungee on the bottom to keep the wire tight. But it was a hack for a quick one-off. Perhaps version 2 will be more versatile?

Step 3: Start carving your hillside ...

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I roughed out some Styrofoam insulation I had in the basement and used the hotwire cutter to carve it. Then we put a base coat of black on it. Erica was a great helper. With the base-coat, it looks like something out of Star Wars. Then some more paint layers for stone and dirt ... I really suck at this part.

Step 4: Glue the two together, add some flocking and stones ... and Done!

Picture of Glue the two together, add some flocking and stones ... and Done!
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After some frocking and acrylic sealer, some rocks and toy trucks we are ready to go. I give it about a week before it's destroyed.
Kspool6 days ago
Forgive me, I can see it's been YEARS since you posted this but I am so excited to attempt this for my son! How did you adhere the insulation both to the wood and to itself? Thanks!!!
SandyWalsh (author)  Kspool5 days ago
@kspool, :) yeah, it's been a while. I think I just used some wood glue (or white glue). Foam-safe construction adhesive could work too, but it's likely overkill. White glue will work well with such porous material. Good luck!
I have been thinking about doing this same thing for monster trucks... I was going to use paper mache.
I am going to make one for myself always liked playing in the dirt but after knee replacment hard to manuver and yes I am an old kid and I know the grand babies will love it.
JimG
gunman153 years ago
lol
gunman153 years ago
is it destroyed yet
This looks great. My son has a train table as well. I'm a little concerned that mine would not come out looking as good. My son is more into race cars. I am wondering if I can do this, but make it into a high banked oval race track, either dirt or black top... We'll see...
That's a great idea ... I bet that would look awesome. The Styrofoam cutter would make an excellent banked turn. Easy to paint and the grass would look awesome on it. Be sure to post pics if you do it!
some scenery in the middle might go well with the grass, plus things like spectators would add to the effect.
karamo814 years ago
Can you email how you did this? Just wondering...
SandyWalsh (author)  karamo814 years ago
Uh, it's in the instructable.
Great Work. I'll have to make my own version for my son now.
Cthulu5 years ago
First off, The great Cthulu does not play with toys, but if he did I.. I mean he, would giggle like a girl with this project. Great Job!
Maxx16 years ago
Cool +1
ejk006 years ago
You're selling yourself short on the paint - I think you did a great job! I really like the creativity you put into this, and I'm wishing I had one when I was a kid - sure beats tearing up Mom's flower garden and leaving the toys outside. Good job (and good instructable, too!).
watermelon6 years ago
Sir... can you direct me to the office so's I can place an order for 30 tons of bed rock? Wish my dad had had as much talent. Super nice job.
caledonian6 years ago
That's awesome. I need a kid as an excuse to play with toys again.
Nice! It looks like something that would be expensive in a store, now I know how to change mine (if I had one) by myself! Great Instructable!
squeej846 years ago
Not to long until those little rocks are all over the house, but nice instructable anyway, looks great!
SandyWalsh (author)  squeej846 years ago
haha ... no kidding. I'll be stepping on them for the next three months.
canida6 years ago
That looks great!
Here's another Instructable on Mini Island Gaming Terrain that really focuses on painting and detailing for a similar type of project.
SandyWalsh (author)  canida6 years ago
Thanks ... and dang, I wish I had seen that before I got started ... very nice. The flocking and dry-brushing were my weakest things. I think I need to practice on smaller pieces first. Thanks for the feedback.
shortbus6 years ago
cool
keng6 years ago
there's a better way to carve out those hillsides....I think Jimmy JJ Walker said it best.....DY-NO-MITE!!!
trustmefada6 years ago
Nice end product. Its always better to build than to buy, and home projects like these are great for kids creativity. Elaborate more on the styrofoam wire cutter construction and the rest is up to imagination.
SandyWalsh (author)  trustmefada6 years ago
Thanks! I added a few more notes on the wire cutter as per your suggestion. Please let me know if there is something more specific you'd like to know. Cheers!