How to Make Wooden Toy Trains

By Adam Benjamin

Wooden trains give children hours of lively play. A child can arrange the cars in order and drive the train around to re-create the powerful movement of real trains traveling the rails. One by one, the cars move by, rolling behind the mighty engine's lead. You can craft a wooden train one car at a time.

Design the train. First choose your favorite freight train or passenger train. If you prefer to create your own, imagine the train and make a sketch. The number of cars is up to you. An engine and one car, a two-car train, or a long train with six to 12 cars, each 3 to 6 inches long, can easily be rolled along the floor. On grid paper, draw the engine and cars. For each car, draw three views: from the side, from the front and from the top. Label the dimensions and give names to the pieces. Write down the colors on the pattern for each car.

Transfer the drawing onto wood pieces, using transfer paper. Begin by placing the transfer paper and then the side view on a medium-size block. Trace the design with a pencil. On the same block, transfer the front view to the block front and the top view to the block top. Complete blocks for the engine and each car.

Draw two to six wheels for each car. On the small blocks, draw the circular side views for the wheel shape, and rectangular front and top views that give each wheel its width. Now choose your axle width. Draw circles with the axle diameter in the center of each wheel. On the narrow medium pieces, transfer the axle diameter from the top view and the circular shape from the side view.

Cut, shape and assemble the engine and cars. First, roughly cut out the body pieces for the engine and cars. Make close cuts for the wheels and axles. Cut the axles to the right length and thickness. Where you want the wheels, drill axle holes through the car bodies.

Use the wood-carving tools to complete the engine and car shapes and make your characteristic marks. Round the wheels into balanced circles. Round the axles. Sand each piece with 120 grit sandpaper.

Put the engine and cars together. Place the axles through the holes in the cars, and secure the wheels on each axle end.

Paint the cars. First, sand each car with finishing sandpaper of 220 grit or finer. Arrange your paint colors. One by one, paint the cars, starting with the engine. Use several coats and give each paint layer at least 24 hours to dry.

Connect the train engine and cars. On the back of the engine and the front and back of each car after the engine, place a magnet. Secure each magnet with glue. Make sure the magnets line up.

With the engine in front, line the cars in a row. Connect the train at the magnets. The round magnet fronts make for nice turns.

Things You Will Need

  • Wood blocks, medium size (2 inches by 3 inches by 6 inches), hardwood such as oak or birch
  • Wood blocks, narrow medium (1/4 inch by 1/4 inch by 2 and 1/2 inches), hardwood
  • Wood blocks, small (1/2 inch by 1 inch by 1 inch), hardwood
  • Magnets with a rounded front
  • Colored enamel paint, child-safe
  • Paper, grid
  • Paper, drawing (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Transfer paper
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Wood-carving tools
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint brushes
  • Wood glue

Tip

Work along the surface of each car, from front to back, when shaping the car features such as an engine boiler, whistle and cab. Paint each car with vivid colors, making your child's play more engaging.

About the Author

Adam Benjamin Pollack is a San Diego native dedicated to the great sentences on civil society. He authored the Subchapter S Report to tell legal news for the American Bankers Association. He holds a Juris Doctor from Indiana University and a Master of Public Policy from University of California, Berkeley.