I live in a relatively small apartment and if I want to use my n-scale layout I have to set it up and when I am finished pack it away.
The other day my wife said she wants to replace the kitchen table. So I had a thought about a kitchen table with a false top that would allow for a n-scale permanent layout inside.
So for every day usage the table is a table. However when the table top is removed I can have a permanent layout. Also it will be good as little kid will not be able to get at the n-scale pieces and try to eat them
Not as a kitchen table, but if you search the web for coffee table layouts, you will find something you might be able to adapt, or at least get you started with your own design. The problem that I see will be the 'table height', both above and below.
There was an article in Model Railroader about a guy who built a layout in a dining room table (he too had a small apartment). There was a glass table top section in the middle. The layout was a convoluted figure-8 (I think -- it might have just been a convoluted 'oval'). Most of the trackage was not detailed (it was under the wooden table top and not visible) -- only the center part was detailed (a small town scene with a couple of tracks passing through town). The idea was that during dinner, the train would travel by the center every so often.
I have made a 2'x4' N-scale coffee table layout, with a glass table top.
The idea of the layout-in-a-table is a not uncommon idea. N-scale is a reasonable scale for this sort of design.
Congratulations, you've reinvented the portable layout! IOW, common problems produce common solutions. In this case, the thing is to build as light-weight a layout as possible. I recommend insulation foam. Read on.
I built a 31"x48" layout in N scale (for our trade show) in less than a week to an attractive but semi-finished stage. It's based on the Rockport and Oyster Bay design in 101 Trackplans (p.13) In HO that's
4'x5', so I reduced the plan dimensions to 65%, which fit the width available. I photocopied the plan, and cut the photocopies apart in various ways, sketching in the connecting bits until I had a plan that worked. My version uses 11" radius curves, with a passing siding as well as a spur at Swampscott.
I used 3" insulation foam as the base (water level). This comes 15-5/8" x 48", hence the 31" x 48" size of the layout. You could use a couple of
2" layers if you can't get the 3" size. A couple of strips of 1/8" luauan ply glued crosswise underneath relieve the strain on the lengthwise glue joint. Then I glued on pieces of 1" pink foam (track level) to outline the bay. The track was laid on cork glued to the foam, and a couple of cheap N scale bridges were adapted to fit the river crossing and the mouth of the bay.
I added several layers of pink foam for the elevated landscape. I used acrylic latex contact cement, and carved the landforms with a paring knife. Overlapping pieces of plaster soaked cloth (approx. 6"x6") covered the foam, and an all-over coat of sandy covered latex paint gave me a base colour. I used acrylic washes to darken the exposed rock faces, and glued down Woodland Scenics ground foam with diluted white glue for a basic ground cover elsewhere. When that had dried, I misted the whole thing with water + a few drops of dish detergent, and then dribbled very diluted white glue into the ground cover to fix it. Worked like a charm, and very fast and clean. The messiest part was carving the foam, there were bits of foam all over the place. Static cling. ;-) BTW, I did not glue down the the layer that covers the tunnel, as I might need to get in there. Instead, I relied on the plaster cloth to hold the mountain in place. I placed a few buildings and trees here and there temporarily. The whole thing weighs about 3lbs, and is very, very rigid.
The layout attracted much favourable comment, despite its semi-finished state. I'm puttering away at finishing it for next year's trade show. I'm reducing the size of the bay, to provide building lots in the village, for example. Haven't worked out how to do the water yet, will probably use the painted water + high gloss varnish method. I will add sky boards on three sides, for a more finished effect. (You may want sky boards on all four sides, I think.) A small corner of the hill will remain unfinished to show how the layout is put together - I want viewers to go away feeling that they can do something like this themselves.
IMO, small layouts like this are a lot of fun. You can build them quickly, getting them to a finished state in weeks instead of years. They are easily stored, so that you can build several, so you can try different themes and different scales. For example, an On30 oval will fit nicely onto a 4'x5' base. (Guess my next project. ;-)) They are cheap enough that you can afford to give them away when you want try something else. They can be small enough to fit into the trunk of the car.
Footnote 1: if you want to use a published plan, choose one that's smaller than the space you have. Then you know for sure it will fit. It's better to enlarge a plan (stretch it, increase curve radius) than to shrink it.
Footnote 2: make friends with a local contractor. He'll be glad to give you cutoffs of insulation foam which would otherwise end up in the dumpster. If you can't get big enough pieces to form the base on their own, use 1/8" plywood and glue the foam to that. It's important for the base to be at least 3" thick for rigidity.