I believe most official Thomas parts are built of maple, and if you have some laying around you can certainly use it as it doesn't tend to sliver and is very durable, but can be a bit pricey and it's a shame to cover such nice wood with paint. I have chosen Basswood for the project as it is light, inexpensive, easy to work with and it does not give slivers, so is safe for little hands. (And I had some lying around).
This station would work with most wooden train tracks of this scale: Plan Toys, Melissa & Doug, Brio, Ikea all use the same gauge track and connectors.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Drill Bits - 1/4" and 1/2"
Sandpaper (Medium fine works well - 100 or 120 grit)
Scroll, Jig or Band saw, whichever you prefer...or a coping saw if you are oldschool.
Materials needed for this project:
Basswood 48" x 5" x 0.5" (about $5 at your local craft shop)
1/4" dowel 4" long (the small wood pegs from Ikea furniture work well, if you have any leftovers)
1/2" dowel 2" long (I used the handle from a cheap foam paintbrush)
Acrylic Paint and Varnish
Sharpie Markers (thick and thin)
Brown paper bag
I found it really useful to have a piece of standard track for setting up the saws and testing sizes. If you are making this toy for somebody else and don't have track pieces laying around, you can pick one up at most good toy stores for under $2.