Model trains should either be on a layout or on display. I’ve found that if Lego model trains are left of the floor of a 6-year-old’s room they get smashed and mulched, resulting in a substantial rebuilding effort spanning multiple instruction booklets and multiple days.

There are several places that will sell you shelving or an entire shelf unit for your gauge of train, including for Lego trains, but they are all very expensive and the shipping is also substantial. There are some nice plans build your own (my favorite one is here) but I fear my routing skills are sub-par. So, the question is how to make a set of shelves specific to the Lego train gauge without spending a fortune and within my meager woodworking skill set.

I went to Home Depot with a Lego wheel set and walked up and down the wood molding isle, testing every piece of wood to see if the molding groves happened to match the spacing on the wheels. I found only two quality matches. Both were molding for going around a door. One was a high-end staining-grade wood, and the second was a lesser shrinkwrapped kit made of pre-primed pine. Although I liked the quality of the higher end one for this task I opted for the cheap option. For a mere $13 dollars I could have shelf wood with no need to set a table saw to do routing. I picked up  two pieces of 4″x3/4″x8′ pine for $9 , for a total outlay of $21.

The two sides were just a bit over twice as long as the header, so this yielded 5 rows at roughly 38″ each with only about 3″ of scrap total, plus Betsy got some cool architectural feature pieces from the cheap set that I’m sure will end up in some future project. I used the flat pine for the sides and top, but the bottom is one of the 5 shelves. I opted to make the spacing between the rows identical since all our trains are in the same relative height range but this is a personal taste issue.

If you do try this, I recommend against trying to grove the sides as the molding pattern looks bad inside the groves. I chose to pre-drill and use screws, but this is also tricky; the molding is thin making the risk of splitting or missing a serious one.

The pine boards for the top and sides is slightly deeper than the shelves. I toyed with adding an inset backer but ultimately decided it wasn’t necessary. After installation I found this was for the best as the wider trains need the extra space.

It isn’t perfect. My pre-drilling has left a variety of countersinking depths, I didn’t rip down the pine to exactly match the depth of the molding, and the wood shelves are a bit thinner and flexible than I would ideally like. But given that most professional solutions are $35 per shelf plus expensive shipping I’m very happy with the results.

I’m hoping this will be the last round of Lego train reconstruction.