Introduction: DIY Cardboard Train Engine

About: I have a knack for making functional miniatures. Stay tuned for more interesting projects.

Here is a great way to recycle cardboard and use some creativity to make your own train engine. The fun thing is that you can make additions, add more features, add wagons, and extend the track and so on. In this instructable, we will see how the motorized engine can be made.


  1. Cardboard from packaging boxes (corrugated type)
  2. Sharp scalpel or a paper cutter of your choice
  3. Glue gun
  4. A compass to draw the circles of 2 different diameters to make the wheel
  5. Toothpicks/Skewer sticks
  6. Dual shaft BO motor
  7. Some wires and a switch to connect the BO motor
  8. 9V battery with a connector

Step 1: Making the Wheels

  • Cut 2 sets of cardboard circles
  • Use strips of cardboard and a circular object that matches one set of circles to make circular rings
  • Sandwich the cardboard ring of step 2 with a cardboard circle carefully
  • Carefully, using toothpicks attach 2 wheels to a BO motor
  • Use a toothpicks and straw bit to make a axle.
  • My engine uses 4 pairs of wheels, if needed you can also add 6 pairs

Step 2: The Motorized Mechanism

  • Use cardboard pieces to join the motor with the wheels
  • The images above are self-explanatory
  • This step is optional (recommended if you wish to used curved tracks) to allow smooth turning of the engine, I have added toothpick pegs in the motorized and non-motorized set of wheels
  • Use a rectangular cardboard piece fix the wheels using a rectangular piece of cardboard and attach the pegs securely using cardboard bits
  • Connect the motor wires to 9V battery with a snap on connector and a switch in between

Customize battery case!

In this project I have made use of recycled 18650 Li-ion rechargeable battery from a laptop battery pack. Initially, I tried to use an appropriate battery case for it but to allow easy replacement, I have used 2 magnetic screws and 2 small neodymium magnets to act as battery connectors.

Step 3: Engine Body

  • First we start with building the springs and other accessories. Do note, these are optional, but add to your engine's detailing.
  • I used a wire and rolled into a spring then attached them to undercarriage with the glue gun
  • Finally, you can design your engine body. I have used a freight engine model here
  • Color it with your favorite colors
  • Use bits of skewer sticks to design the railings
  • I have added a sliding feature in the engine to easily replace the batteries

Step 4: Making the Tracks

Here, I will show to how to build a basic straight tracks:

  • Cut long strips of cardboard as shown in the images
  • Make you own cardboard template to space the tracks evenly and glue the tracks equidistantly
  • You can use sellotape to join the track pieces
  • Finally, you are ready to test run you train engine.

Step 5: Get Set Go!

You can watch this video to see the quick steps and see the engine in action.

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