Toy Trains

How to Make a Trackless Train

Cut the blocks to traincar size one at a time. Use sandpaper to round off the corners and sand down the front of the locomotive to a round boiler. This may require the use of a hand moto-tool. Make some diagonal relief cuts in the loco piece and cut off as much as possible before starting to sand.

Paint the cars if you are going to and coat them with sealant. Wait for the paint to dry and then either paint, draw or apply stickers to make doors and windows in the cars. The larger the blocks you use and the more detail you add, the more realistic it will look and the more fun it will be for your child to play with.

Drill small holes in the bottom of each car horizontally for the axles for the wheels. Insert the axles through the holes and insert pins through the axles to keep them in place. Attach the wheels, using glue if necessary.

Attach magnetic couplers to the cars. These can be purchased from a hobby store. Also, you can just glue one continuous string under the cars to make the train whole.

Glue a string or strap to the front of the locomotive so that a child can pull it around by that. Make a loop that the child can put his hand through. Paint a face on your locomotive if you want to.

Things You Will Need

  • Balsa wood
  • Hobby glue
  • Small metal rods
  • Rubber or plastic wheels
  • Sandpaper or a hand power tool
  • Power drill or drill press

How to Make Trains From Aluminum Cans

Assemble the cans in a fashion that resembles train cars. For example, make the engine car with a cylindrical soda can and position two sardine cans at the back. Place a tart pan on the front of the engine car to make a bumper, then place a soda bottle cap on the front to make a headlight. Make the rest of the train cars simple, with single soda or soup cans or rectangular tea tins attached to narrow sardine or mint can bases. Attach all the parts to each other with double-sided foam tape.

Punch holes in the centers of four metal iced-tea caps and four soda bottle caps; these will serve as the wheels for your train cars. Use a hammer and nail to punch the holes in the caps.

Stick washers on the sides of your cars in the positions where the wheels will go. Use double-sided foam tape and be careful not to cover up the washer holes.

Straighten one end of a paper clip for each wheel. Thread the straightened end through the washer -- position the bent end under the train -- then thread your larger and smaller caps onto the paper clip. Bend the tip of the paper clip to hold them in place.

Duct tape the bent end of the paper clip that's under the car to the bottom of the car, so the assembly will hold together.

Connect your cars by clipping a bulldog clip on the back of each car, attaching a suction cup hook to the front and hooking the cars together.

Things You Will Need

  • Aluminum and/or tin cans
  • Mini tart pan
  • Metal caps from beverage bottles
  • Double-sided foam tape
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • 1-inch metal washers
  • Paper clips
  • Duct tape
  • Small bulldog clips
  • Small suction cup hooks

How to Troubleshoot a Geotrax Locomotive

Check the track itself, if the locomotive is getting stuck or caught up in one area. If the track appears loose or not completely connected, click it into place.

Inspect the wheels on the bottom of the train. Use a small cloth or a Q-tip to clean out the wheels, if they are dirty.

Press the power button on the locomotive, if there is no power. It has an automatic shutoff, if left unattended for several minutes.

Open the battery compartment on the back of the locomotive with a Phillips screwdriver, and switch out the three AAA-batteries with new ones, if the train will not power up.

Open the battery compartment on the handheld remote with a Phillips screwdriver, and switch out the three AAA-batteries with new ones, if the remote will not power up.

Things You Will Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Cloth
  • Q-tip
  • Six AAA batteries

GeoTrax Layout Ideas

Loop

In this basic layout, the trains will go around and around in one single loop. This layout requires nine straight and four curved pieces.

Loop with Cross Overs

In this layout, the trains can go around an outer loop or go from top to bottom along a pair of inner tracks, one curving down from left to right and the other from right to left. This layout requires nine straight pieces, four curved, two left switches, two right switches and one cross. Adding two end ramps will give you places to park your other trains when not being used.

Asymmetrical Figure Eight

This layout forms a figure eight, with one loop larger than the other. A tower placed over the loop adds to the interest. This layout requires four straight pieces, five curved, one T track and the optional Siren Sounds Rescue Tower.

Figure Eight with Flyover

This longer and larger track design creates a larger and narrower figure eight with an elevated crossover in the center created by two supporting pieces called stanchions. Other supporting pieces include two guardrails at each corner of the elevation so the train does not go flying off the track as it slides down the elevated track. This layout requires seven straight track pieces, five curved pieces, two elevation ramps, two stanchions and two guardrails.

Modified Clover Leaf with Elevated Flyover

This is similar to the previous layout, except there are two track loops above the central elevated flyover, and one large loop below, making it look similar to a clover leaf pattern missing one leaf. You will need six straight pieces, 11 curved pieces, one cross, one T track, one left switch, four half pieces, two elevation ramps and four stanchions.

How to Build a Train Table for Free

Scour classifieds, like Craig's List, for anyone giving away a wooden table. Train tables are typically 18 inches tall and 49 inches by 37 inches, in length and width. You want to find a table with approximately the same size on top, and then you can shorten the legs. Also, ask friends and family for any unwanted tables.

Go to garage sales and yard sales at the end of the day. Usually the best deals are found at the end of the day when sellers just want to unload all their items. Ask if they are willing to give you a table for free for your child. Another way to find a used table for free is driving around the neighborhood on garbage day. Often, people leave old furniture at the curb that they don't want anymore.

Saw the legs of your free found table to about 18 inches tall for each leg. Finding a coffee table that is already about 18 inches is ideal, but sawing is an easy task. If you don't have a saw, ask a neighbor if you can borrow one.

Sandpaper the cut edges till they are smooth. Glue a piece of felt, the same size as the bottom of the leg, onto the bottom of each leg to prevent scratching your floors.

Things You Will Need

  • Found table
  • Saw
  • Scrap felt
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Scissors

Tip

This train table will not be exactly like the kind sold in stores, but it will be free. If you have more scrap wood, you can nail or glue a lip surrounding the top to keep the trains on the table.

Finding scrap wood is another option for building your own train table.

GeoTrax Set-Up Instructions

Build any structures that come with your GeoTrax set. Each structure comes with a base. The structure snaps into the slots on the base. Some structures are more complex than others.

For example, the GeoTrax “All About Trains Motorized Starter Set” comes with a coal loader, a relatively easy structure to build: It has four slots that slide and snap into the base. The “Workin’ Town Railway” comes with a windmill, which slides into its base like the coal loader, but you must also install the windmill blade by snapping it into the slot on the windmill.

Snap male connector snaps on the track pieces into place on top of female connectors to create your track. Use your imagination when creating the track layout or follow the set’s directions for the intended layout.

Position the accessories and structures around the track. Some accessories, such as the coal loader, have a small tab that fits on notches located on the underside of certain track pieces. Other accessories, such as the gantry from the starter set, stand freely.

Open the battery bay of the train engine with a Phillips screwdriver. Slide the batteries in and replace the cover.

Slide the looped-end of one of the train cars onto the hitch of the engine. Repeat the process with subsequent train cars. Put the train on the tracks. Press the start button on the top of the engine to operate the train.

Things You Will Need

  • GeoTrax track, trains and accessories
  • 3 AAA Batteries
  • Phillips Screwdriver

Train Centerpiece Ideas for a Child's Birthday Party

Cake

A train-themed cake centered in the middle of the party's food table will really attract young party guests' attention. To create your own train cake, simply bake a cake mix in six loaf pans. Use four of the loaf cakes for train cars and the other two cakes for the other parts. Frost each cake in a different color and place cookies on the sides of the loaf cakes for the train's wheels. Decorate each car body with candy pieces and use animal crackers for the train's passengers. You can also create a train-shaped cake with a train novelty cake pan and frost it.

Balloons

Balloons are festive decorations and will serve as a fitting centerpiece when bunched together for a bouquet. Gather a few pre-filled Mylar balloons and bunch them together with several latex balloons. The Mylar balloons should feature popular train cartoon characters, such as "Thomas the Tank Engine" to coincide with the party's theme. Tie the balloon ribbons to a small weight to keep them from flying away. If you have exceptional artistic abilities, consider creating a few steam train balloon animals to use as centerpieces or hire a balloon artist to make them.

Toys

A moving toy train display centerpiece will wow the birthday child and his friends. Assemble a remote-control train set and place it in the center of a large, sturdy table. Use the remote control to move the train backward and forward. Have the party guests gather around to hear actual train sounds and follow the train around the track with their eyes. For non-moving centerpieces, set up a wooden block train set or line up plush toy trains in a row.

Books

Since the birthday child is a train admirer, he is likely the owner of several train-themed children's books. Using a large suitcase will be a fitting way to display train books. Place an open suitcase against the wall on the party serving table. Line the top inside of the open suitcase with a few books. Place the other books on single book display stands in the bottom inside of the suitcase. For a different approach, slightly open the books and stand them up in a circle on the table.

Thomas Track Master Railway Instructions

Unpack all of the tracks. Place all of the tracks with the railway grooves face up.

Snap the tracks into place by fitting together the grooves at the end of each track. In general, your track should be set up in an oval to allow the trains to transverse the track correctly.

Attach the station, bridge or tunnel to the end of one track piece. Snap another piece to the other side of the station, bridge or tunnel.

Open the battery cover at the top of the train. According to instructions etched into the battery compartment, insert the batteries into the indicated grooves. Replace the battery cover.

Turn the train on by moving the switch, which is located on the side or bottom of the train. Place the train on the track and watch it go around the track.

How to make a wooden toy train with railroad

Measure with a tape measure six inches from one end of the 25 by 30 by 200 mm (1 by 3 by 80 inch) pine board. Mark this measurement with a pencil. Cut the board at the pencil mark with a mitre saw. Do this five more times to make six, six-inch pieces from the 25 by 30 by 200 mm (1 by 3 by 80 inch) pine board. These pieces will form the train cars.

Draw with a pencil the outline of a train car on each 150 mm (6 inch) wood block. Be sure to include an engine and a caboose. Cut out the outlines of the train cars on the band saw.

Screw a hook onto one end of each train car, then screw an eye onto the other end each train car. The hooks and eyes will allow the train cars to be connected to form a train. Measure and mark one inch from the bottom edge of each train car. Mark the measurements with a pencil. Place a wheel on each pencil mark. Fasten each wheel in place with a small wood screw and screwdriver. Tighten the wheel so that it will just barely spin freely. You do not want the wheel to wobble when you spin it. If it wobbles, the wheel screw is too loose.

Position the 18 by 600 by 600 mm (3/4 by 24 by 24 inch) plywood panel on a work surface. Use a pencil to draw a loop for the railroad tracks. Use a router with 1-inch dovetail bit to cut along the pencil line. Move the router slowly along the pencil line until the train track loop is completed.

Sand all of the exposed surfaces of the train cars and the train track with 120 grit sandpaper. Use craft paints and a paint brush to paint the train cars and the train tracks. Add as many or as few details to the track and train cars as you would like. Allow the paint to dry. Connect the train cars by connecting the hooks to the eyes. Place the train on the track.

Tip

Paint in mountains, streams, a railroad depot, and trees along the railroad tracks. Paint names and animals on the train cars.

Warning

Always wear eye protection when working with wood. Follow tool safety warnings carefully for safe use.

How to Build a Lego Train

Take your first Lego with wheels to use as your engine car. If your wheeled Legos have places for attachments at either end, try to find one with only one extension.

Build up the sides of your engine car so that they are slightly higher than the middle. If you want a modern looking train, consider building it up at an angle so that the back of your train car is higher than the front.

Position small, flat Legos with markings on the blocks in the middle front part of the train. These are the controls for the train.

Place the Lego conductor behind the controls in the middle of the first car.

Attach your engine car to the next car. If both pieces have protruding attachments that link, you can attach these. If not, find a long, narrow Lego to attach to the back middle of the first car and the front middle of the next car.

Add Legos to the second car to achieve the look you want. Often the other train cars end up as a uniform rectangular shape.

Repeat Steps 5 and 6 to add other wheeled cars, building a train as long as you want.