Building a Train Bed




Introduction: Building a Train Bed

After looking all over the internet, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't happy with any of the train beds available. The only one I did like was super expensive. So I decided to make my own (I used a picture of the one I found on the internet to get approximate dimensions).

The bed is made out of 1/2 inch MDF, railing and trim is made with pine. All edges of bed are routered (except exterior edge of round part). I painted in latex paint and covered with acrylic satin gloss. Bed comes apart in several all together it would weigh about 350 lbs and be unmoveable.

Major Tools needed:

Air Compressor
Brad Nailer
Staple Gun
Scroll saw
Miter Saw
Table Saw
Table Router

Materials (approx):

3 - 4x8 1/2" MDF
4 - 1x4 Pine Boards
4 - 1.3 Pine Boards
6 Lag bolts
Cap Nuts


Step 1: Making Mattress Base:

Go buy a mattress and measure the dimensions. Then make the top part of the bed where the mattress will rest in. This is pretty simple to do. I used some L brackets for support on the inside corners of the bed. Used a brad nailer and glue to hold it together.

Step 2: Making the Round Part:

This is a tricky part...not easy at all. If you don't measure this thing perfectly, you'll be doing it again. So measure 6 times, cut once on this part. See pic for details.

The diameter of the round part needs to be as wide as the top bed you made in step 1. Make sure you cut the circles out of the middle of the MDF (you will need the "scrap" piece to build the bumper of the train). I screwed together two pieces of MDF and then cut one cirlce to get exactly two cirlces the same size. You will then need to router out the inside edge of the circles to countersink the mason board you will use to wrap the round part. See See picture for how I put it together.

Step 3: Build the Base:

The base is smaller than the bed part you made in Step 1. It's about 10 inches narrower (so that the top part will over hang the sides for depth. It's also not as long, but the front part should be flush with the top part of the bed.

Step 4: Step 4: Build Bumper & Dry Assemble:

Using the scrap wood from Step 2, build the bumper. Pretty simple. Put the bed together using bolts. See picture for bolt placement. 

Step 5: Build Cab Walls:

To get proportion and window placement, I first used a giant piece of card board to make a sample wall. Once I had it the way I wanted, I drew the dimensions on the MDF and cut it out. I placed pine 3 inch strips running verticly for support (those are glued and nailed to the wall). I then drilled holes to attach wall to bed made in Step 1. I counter sunk the holes and used a lag bolt to attach to the bed.

Step 6: Build Roof

I used the same technique to build this as I did the round part in step 2. I wrapped the top part with mason board (however, I did not spackle it).

Step 7: Side Rails

See notation on picture. Pretty easy step.

Step 8: Back Board

Add to back of bed and attach to cab walls only.

Step 9: Wheels and Front Part

Cut out wheels on scroll saw as well as round piece for front part of train. Do not attach them. You will paint first then attach (much easier to do this way).

Step 10: Paint & Piston Case

Disassemble bed and paint. You are also going to need a piston case. I made this out of MDF, just like I did for the round part in Step 2. However the mason board won't wrap around an object that instead of spacing wood supports every few inches like I did on the round part, I put wood spacers right next to each other and then filled spackle on top of it and sanded.

You will also need the bars that attached to the wheels. Measure and attach them with nails and glue. I then added a silver screw for decorative purposes.

One painted you'll also need to make the smoke stack. I made this one on a lathe. I turned a 6 inch x 6 inch x 8 inch piece of wood to make this one.

Step 11: Final Product

See attched pics. My son loves it. You'll see that my other son has a truck bed that I made him 2 years ago.



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48 Discussions


1 year ago

How much did this whole thing cost you? This is beautiful, by the way. I'm considering making a Hogwarts Express one for my stepdaughter!

3 replies

Thanks for the kind words. I really have no idea how much I had into this bed...$200 to $300 would be my guess. What did it cost me in time...that's incalculable!

Oh, I guess you did include that. Any ideas for someone who doesn't have access to a lathe?

Fair enough. Do you remember where/how you got the train whistle part on top of the circle? I've got the rest pretty well set, but that is a complete mystery to me on how to do. Thanks!


2 years ago

well done!

no cut sheet, what size bolts ? very incomplete plans considering i joined a 3 yr program to get better. Whats up with this?

1 reply

Hi Jim, I'm just an average guy that tossed this on here. The plans are what they are....probono. Enjoy.

Ok. This is amazing. One quick question... How on earth did you cut a perfect circle from the MDF? The only way I know how is to draw the circle from a center point then use a jigsaw, but it never comes out perfect... Is there a trick you used?

3 replies

We cut (nearly) perfect circles with the router. We found a jig pattern online, I call it my banjo cause it looks like one. It gets screwed to the bottom of the router base. I sandwiched ours with the router base on the bottom so it's still smooth sailing, and got extra long screws to replace the shorter ones. You put a nail in the "neck" of the banjo and into the board you're cutting and spin the router around.

I cut a full 4x8 board of MDF in half. Then I screwed the boards together on the four corners. I found the center point on the board put a screw in there and then tied a string to it, hooked a marker on the end and then used it to draw a circle on top of the board. (I measured out the radius and cut the string to length. I used a hand held jigsaw (not easy) and cut on the line...cutting out two circles at once. This was the hardest part of the bed. So take your time. The cut itself doesn't have to be perfect as you can sand it, but you need to be shooting for a nearly perfect circle. Following the line you drew should do the trick. Good luck.

Thank you so much for the reply... I think the key here is TAKE YOUR TIME... something that I start to lose site of in a project. Ok... I am going to get a nice new jigsaw blade and try it...slowly :).

Again, thank you.

You are such an awesome Dad for making this for your son. Love it. This could be a great side business for you if you have the time. I would buy one from you in a heart beat!

Thanks for your amazing work. As a casual DIY'er with limited tools/space, I modified your design into a much simpler version below. It may not look anything like your bed, but much of the design ideas were inspired by yours. So, thank you!


Sorry if I missed this, but do you have just the mattress on a platform? Or the box spring as well? This bed is seriously awesome!

1 reply

No box spring. Just the mattress. Let me know if you have any other questions.

That bed is awesome. I would like to build one and was wondering if you could give me the dimensions of each piece.

2 replies

Sorry, but the bed is fully assembled right now and I don't have time to take it apart and measure it. All measurements are a derivative of the size of the mattress you are working with. So, if you go buy a mattress and just build a box for it to sit in (see step 1), the rest of the bed will come together for you.

Thanks for the reply. I understand about not wanting to take the bed apart. I was really just wondering if you could tell me the height of the base (the part with the wheels), the height and width of the window panels, and dimensions of the bumper. If you do not want to take the measurements I understand. I think I can get close by using the pictures as a guide. Your bed is great and I just hope to be able to reproduce it.

Thanks, Matt

WOW! This is amazing!!!! I'm hoping between my husband and myself we can follow your instructions and make this for my 2 year old! He's been really into "choo-choos" recently and would NEVER get out of bed! ;D