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How to Make a Moving Toy Train

By David Weedmark ; Updated April 18, 2017

A moving toy train can be made using basic tools, and does not require a lot of woodworking experience. Wooden wheels and aluminum rivets can be purchased at most craft stores. Use quality, knot-free pieces of hard wo,od such as oak, ash or mahogany, to build the train. If the train is for a child to work on, soft woods, like knot-free pine, will make the pieces easier to shape and cut. As an alternative to buying prefabricated wheels, wheels can be made at home using a 1-inch auger attachment on a power drill.

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Cutting the Pieces

Measure and mark a piece of 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch wood to a length of 4 inches. Cut it using a saber saw. This will be the base of the train locomotive.

Drill two holes through the base using a 1/8-inch drill bit, each 1/2 inch from each end, and 1/8 inch from the bottom of the train. Hold the drill straight, and drill all the way through the wood. The wheels will go through these holes.

Measure and cut a piece of 3/4-inch by 3/4-inch wood to a length of 1 inch using a saber saw. This will be the engineer’s compartment.

Measure 2 inches on a 3/4-inch dowel and cut it using a saber saw. This will be the engine of the locomotive. You will need to glue it on its side, so flatten a side by rubbing it with a metal file.

Cut two pieces of dowel for the smoke stacks, each 1/4 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch long.

Drill two holes on the top of the engine dowel to place the smoke stacks. Drill the first hole 1/4 inch from the end, 1/4 inch in diameter, and 1/8 inch deep. Drill a second hole the same size 1/4 inch from the first hole.

Cut a piece of wood, 1/8 inch by 1 inch, to a size of 1 inch long. This will be the roof of the engineer’s compartment.


Dry assemble the pieces first to make sure they fit properly. Place the engine dowel on one end of the base. Put the engineer’s compartment beside it. Then place the roof on the engineer’s compartment.

Sand down the pieces beginning with a medium-grit sandpaper. Then finish sanding with a fine grit sandpaper.

Apply a thin layer of glue to the edge of each of the pieces where they join. Then reassemble the pieces. Clamp them together using wood clamps. Wait for the glue to dry overnight.

Insert a rivet in the hub of four wood wheels, each 1 inch in diameter. Then push the rivets into the holes in the base of the train engine, two on each side, making sure the wheels can spin freely.

Paint the train, stain it or leave it in its natural state, according to taste.

Things You Will Need

  • Wood
  • Ruler
  • Saber saw
  • Dowel
  • Power drill
  • Metal file
  • Sandpaper, medium and fine grit
  • Wood clamps
  • Aluminum rivets
  • Wood wheels
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About the Author

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.

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