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How to Build a Cardboard Box of Thomas the Steam Engine

By Mona Harte ; Updated April 18, 2017
Just one cardboard box can be transformed into Thomas the Steam Engine.

The beloved steam engine, Thomas, can be made from just one cardboard box. Spray paint will give it the overall bright blue finish. Thomas' cheery smile and other markings are created with acrylic paint. The finished box can be used as a toy to scoot along the floor, climb into or make into a costume by cutting out the bottom and adding two straps to drape over the shoulders.

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Research Thomas the Steam Engine pictures for reference. These can be found online, in a toy store or in books. Alternatively, your child may have a Thomas toy in his toy box that you can use as a reference.

Tape the bottom of a large rectangular cardboard box to make it extra sturdy. With a marker, give each side of the box (except the bottom) a letter. Label the short side on the right as “A” and the opposite short side as “B.” Label the two long sides as “C” and “D.”

Cut off the top flap from A. This will be used later. Cut a vertical line from the top flaps on C and D down to the top of the box so that each flap has two parts. Fold the two sections nearest to the A side together and tape them together. Raise the other two sides, along with the top flap on B, and tape them so that all three stand up straight. The cardboard box will now have an "L" shape.

Use bright blue spray paint to spray paint the entire box. Let the paint dry. Trace the small plate on the cut off piece of cardboard and cut it out. Paint on Thomas' face with light gray, black and white acrylic paint. Cut out the smoke stack from the cardboard and paint it black.

Glue Thomas' face and smokestack onto A. Create the rest of his engine markers on A, C and D with markers and acrylic paint of assorted colors (black, yellow, red, white and light gray). Use yellow acrylic paint to add a large yellow “1” on both sides of the C and D windows. Trace around a small dish to add wheels. Use black acrylic paint to add a black rectangle near the bottom of side B.

Spread a layer of glue over the top of where the black rectangle was painted. Immediately spread crushed charcoal over the glue. When dry, this will replicate Thomas' coal bin.

Things You Will Need

  • Cardboard box
  • Tape
  • Acrylic paint
  • Markers
  • Spray paint
  • Ruler
  • Utility knife
  • Straight edge
  • Small dish
  • Glue
  • Crushed charcoal
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About the Author

Since 1993 Mona Harte's work has appeared in various publications, including "NYTimes Regional Newspaper Group," the "Calgary Sun," the "Great Falls Tribune" and the "Tahoe Daily Dispatch," as well as international magazines "Atlantica," "Portfolio," and "Open Skies." She holds an Associate of Arts in layout/design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

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