How to Build a Model Train Display Case

Model trains are almost as fun to look at as they are to play with. To showcase and protect your model pieces when they are not in use, follow the easy steps in this article to build a display case with a wood finish. The steps are similar to building a bookcase with doors to keep out the dust and curious little fingers.

Buy glass-fronted kitchen cabinet doors and design your display case around their dimensions. Base the dimensions on the size and number of items in your collection. Buying cabinet doors is much more efficient and economical than building your own.

Purchase enough wood to build a big, shallow wooden box that will serve as the frame of your display case. Get a stain or finish to match the surface of the doors. Prepare for adjustable shelves by drilling holes inside the side panels and inserting wooden dowels. Purchase a crown base if you plan to build a freestanding display case.

Select your shelving, either glass or wood. If you get glass, plan to set your display items on top of track pieces separated by stoppers. If you choose wood, plan to drill slots or install mini dowels to hold your display pieces in place.

Choose the cabinet backing. If you select a wooden backing, ask the retailer to cut it with a panel saw. A mirrored backing will be heavier and harder to work with but will let you build a display case that is more refined.

Build the box. Finish the sides (and base if you added one). Attach the cabinet doors. Hang the case in fasteners driven into wall studs. Slide the shelves on top of the dowels. Arrange your display pieces.


Most home center stores will cut the wood for you before you take it home. Consider purchasing a lighted herald sign to advertise your model train brand. Incorporate the sign into the cabinet as you build it or mount it above or next to your display case.


This article assumes that you have some carpentry experience.

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