Build yourself a fun, durable toy for nearly no cost! Use a scrap piece of 2x4, you could made from pallet wood.
I designed this train in the early 80's when I had 2 boys, 2 & 3 years old. My budget was limited as well as my tools. The primary goal was to use the KISS principal (Keep It Super Simple). The one shown is the first one I made for my 2 yr old in 1985, it's now one of my grandson's favorate toys. It was exciting to see the sparkle in his eyes when I told him I built it.
It's made from a 2x4, 4ft long, some 3/4 pine, 1/4" & 1/2" dowel.
It took several versions to come up with this one. Earlier versions had multiple pieces for each car and each part needed to match others and be assembled.
It took a while to settle on a standard 2x4 as the main wood. It comes with the edges already rounded which meant less sanding, it's cheap & readily available. I tried hardwoods because they looked better (to me), but the kids prefered this version every time.
Step 1: Parts List
4 ft 2x4 or shorter pieces to fit plans. Pallet wood will also work.
1 sq ft of 3/4" or 1/2" thick wood for wheels. (scrap pine or pallet wood).
3ft of 1/4" dowel
1ft of 1/2" dowel
glue stick or spray adhesive
Step 2: Tools Needed
table saw (Optional)
1 1/2" & 2" ID (inside dia) hole saw
3/16, 1/4, 5/16 & 1/2 drill bit
7/8" spade bit
sand paper & paint as desired
Step 3: Make Copies of the Plans.
Print the plans on regular 8.5x11 printer paper. Use a glue stick or spray adhesive to attach the plans to your 2x4, putting the front of the train engine on one end of the 2x4.
The plans could be drawn directly on the wood using the dimensions shown.
Step 4: Cut the Point for the Front of the Engine.
A. Cut the boiler section with a jig saw.
B. Clamp the 2x4 with the bottom of the train up. Draw a point on the 2x4 from the center at the end at 45deg both directions. Set the jig saw to 45deg and cut the point.
Note: The first step must be completed so the jig saw is only cutting thru 1" of wood. This is the trickiest part of the train, that's why you want to start at the end so if it takes some trimming you can move the engine plan down to compensate.
Step 5: Cut the Roof for All the Cars at Once. (optional)
Set the table saw to 15deg and slightly less than 5/8" height. Set the fence so when the 2x4 goes thru, the blade barely comes out of the board. This will leave a small flat top on the train. Cut the entire length of the 2x4.
This step could be eliminated if you don't have a table saw. It just adds a custom look.
Step 6: Drilling.
Attach the rest of the patterns and cut out the profiles, window holes and axel holes. I drill a 3/16" hole for the windows then use a 7/8" spade bit half way thru on one side, then finish the hole from the other side. This way you don't get tear out when the bit pushes thru, and it also guides the bit so the holes match.
Do not enlarge the windows untill you've cut the profiles out. The pattern will tear off when the spade bit starts.
Step 7: Drill the Holes for Connecting the Cars Together.
Drill a 1/4" & 5/16" hole for the dowels where shown. Round over the ends of the cars around the dowel holes. Use a jig saw then sand smooth.
Glue a 1" long 1/4" dowel flush to the top on the 3 cars, using wood glue.
Step 8: The Boiler.
Find a piece of scrap 2x4. Mark the part that will work for a boiler. It has to be at least 1.5" x 1.5" x 3 3/8".
Step 9: Cut Boiler Material.
On a table saw cut to 1 1/2" square. Cut 45deg off each corner as shown.
Step 10: Optional Boiler (if You Don't Have Access to a Table Saw).
If you don't have a table saw, a short piece of hand rail or 1 1/2" dowel will work.
Step 11: Add Holes, Then Cut Boiler to Length.
Mark holes in boiler, drill holes 1/2" dia x 1/2" deep for the headlamp, smokestack, whistle & filler. Then cut the boiler to length. Cut a short piece of 1/2" dowel for the headlight, a longer one for the smokestack. Round the end of the dowel, & cut it to about 1" for the whistle & filler.
Step 12: Make Wheels.
Find a piece of scrap wood. Cut wheels out using a hole saw, cut half way thru each side. There will be no tear out that way, and the hole saw will clog up less by cutting half way thru. Have the hole saw cuts overlap and go off the edge of the board to allow the sawdust to come out the edge of the cut. There will be less time spent cleaning off the holesaw this way.
Step 13: Paint the Cars to Taste & Assemble.
If you choose to paint, paint each piece before assembling. Paint each car a different color, I used only 1 color for each car so I didn't have any masking to do. The boiler, smokestack & wheels are black, the dowels on the boiler should be a contrasting color, white, yellow, etc. After the paint is dry, assemble the engine, glue all parts in place & glue the wheels to the axles.