If you’ve always dreamt of building a miniature model railway but don’t quite have the space for one, Peter Waldraff came up with a solution by building a complete four-season N-scale layout that disappears into a nondescript coffee table so you can hide your hobby when company visits.
This isn’t the first attempt to build a complete miniature railroad into a coffee table, but most to date have involved sunken layouts that sit inside a table and beneath a pane of glass so there’s still a place for your coffee. Waldraff’s creation takes an entirely different approach, with a detailed three-dimensional mountain contained within an imaginary half sphere so that it can be flipped upside-down and completely hidden inside the piece, leaving nothing but a matching wooden tabletop in its place.
Built using smaller N gauge scale tracks instead of the more common HO scale so a longer train could wrap around the mountain, the layout pivots on a pair of skateboard bearings and is powered by a rechargeable Makita tool battery hidden away inside so there are no wires running to the table to give away its surprise inside.
All of the layout’s models and details are securely held in place using glue so that when inverted, nothing falls off, but that’s not an option for rolling trains, and magnetic tracks aren’t a thing. To ensure the train isn’t subjected to the forces of gravity, Waldraff incorporated a hidden siding track that runs around the inside walls of the coffee table. Before flipping the layout away the train is diverted to this siding where it safely sits until the layout is raised again and it can roll back onto its circular route.
The mechanics of making this all work, including a secret magnetically-triggered locking mechanism, are even more impressive than the incredible detail Waldraff has put into the fake mountain itself.