If you have a little train-lover in your house, this DIY train costume is a great trash-to-treasure creation. Your little engineer will love choo-chooing around the neighborhood in this costume!
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Can you believe it’s almost Halloween? Are you knee-deep in homemade Halloween costumes, or did you just shop on Amazon this year? Or, maybe you haven’t even gotten that far yet.
My boys have been talking about Halloween for a month now. They like to practice trick-or-treating at their bedroom doors and giving each other pretend candy. It’s pretty entertaining.
Costumes are one of the parts of Halloween I love. It’s a good excuse for me to dust off my sewing machine and create something magical for my kids. Two years ago, Little Man decided to be a monkey, and I made Little Brother an infant-sized “Man in the Yellow Hat” costume to go with it.
Last year, Little man wanted to be a train. I mustered all my crafty creativity and created a cardboard box train reminiscent of Thomas, complete with a smoke stack/candy chute and a working light on the front. He LOVED it, and I loved seeing how much he enjoyed walking around and showing it to everyone.
When I asked Little Man what he wanted to be for Halloween this year, he told me, “I want my train again, Mom!” Great! I thought. That will make things easy then.
Then Little Brother piped up, though, “I want train, too, Ma!” Okay…so now I’m making a Percy inspired train for him. It’s a bit of work to pull it all together, but it’s a relatively inexpensive costume, and how cute will my little matching trains look on Halloween night?
Plus, It’s been much faster this time since I (mostly) know what I’m doing.
Because I’m making another train costume, I thought I’d share the process with you all. Note: all the process photos below are of this year’s Percy costume (because I didn’t take any of the process last year), but the finished pictures are of Thomas because I’m still putting the finishing touches on Percy. Once I finish both and get some (hopefully) cute pictures of my boys in costume, I’ll share an updated picture of both finished versions.
If you have a little train-lover in your house, read on for a step-by-step tutorial for how to make your own Thomas (or Percy) inspired train costume.
DIY Train Costume
- large cardboard box (I used a diaper box) + extra scrap cardboard
- duct tape or packing tape
- hot glue gun
- card board tube (I used a container from bread crumbs)
- round plastic container (I used a plastic treat container from a thrift store)
- black paint & brush
- spray glue
- colored butcher paper
- cardstock paper
- silver brads
- red electrical tape
- plastic tap light
- printable wheel templates (download below)
How to make your train:
Here’s what I did for each of the parts of the train. Mostly, it involved a lot of trial and error (and a gigantic mess) to create the look I wanted, but hopefully I can cut out at least some of the guess work for you.
This is what my garage looked like after a couple hours of working on Percy:
Choose a cardboard box that fits your child well. We had to try several before I found one that would work. It needs to be wide enough for them to stand in, but also long enough to actually look like a train. Once I had a box I thought would work, I cut off the extra flaps at the top. Then I turned the box over and cut out a space for my little engineer. I purposely cut as little as possible, leaving as much of the box intact as possible so it would be more sturdy. Sturdy is important when little boys are involved. 🙂
You can see how I shaped my box below:
I used spray glue to cover my box with colored butcher paper, folding it over the top edges to cover the cardboard wherever it would be visible. Just think like you’re wrapping a Christmas present.I’ve seen a lot of tutorials that just used paint, but I wanted a smoother look, rather than being able to see the texture of the cardboard underneath.I looked at pictures online of Thomas the train, and decided on the details I wanted to include. I DIYed those accessories out of cardstock (some I printed from a source I can no longer find, so I’ll add the link if I find it later) and glued them on. I drew lines lightly in pencil with a ruler and used red electrical tape to make the red lines on the side of the engine.
Front smoke box and smoke stack:
To make the front of the train, I first had to build out a little platform on the bottom using scrap cardboard. Then, I painted my plastic bucket and bread crumb containers black (I just used regular acrylic paint).I added a little detail of red electrical tape around my tap light and stuck it onto my plastic container with a Command Strip. I was just going to glue it, but I wanted to be able to take it off and put new batteries in if needed. I used hot glue to attach my plastic tub/light to the front of the train.
For the smoke stack, I cut out the bottom of the container (so it was a hollow tube..this became our candy chute). I cut a hole in the top flap of the cardboard box and slid the tube into place. I added some duct tape and hot glue to secure it in place.
Bumpers & wheels:
For the front and side bumpers (red), I just cut scrap cardboard to the size I wanted and then covered the strips with red butcher paper.For the wheels, I adapted an image I found online.
If you want to download the wheels I created, click below.
Print 3 copies of the color of your choice (for 6 wheels total), cut them out, and glue them to more scrap cardboard. I attached them to the train using silver brads so they would actually turn.TIP: Make holes for your brads using a nail first, otherwise they are REALLY hard to push through.
Secret candy box with trap door:
This was by far Little Man’s favorite feature of the costume. He loved telling people while we were trick-or-treating to put the candy down the smoke stack. I just glued a kid-sized shoe box to the inside to catch the candy, and cut a little “secret” flap so we could reach in and get the candy out. Below you can see how I cut the box. I ended up cutting off some of the flap, and then I taped/glued it to the inside of the front of the train.
Attaching the straps was a little tricky. I made some simple straps out of scrap black fabric I had on hand, which was easy. (If you want to avoid sewing, you could definitely cut the straps off an old tote bag, use some old suspenders, or even some sturdy ribbon.)
Last year, I tried taping them on…fail. Then I tried making loops that could hook onto upside down Command hooks, which was better, but still…fail. This year, I’ve decided to use the same brads I used for the wheels to secure them to the sides of the train. Again, puncture the fabric with a nail before putting the brad through the strap fabric, or it’ll never work. The one I tested today seemed really secure, so I’m optimistic about this strategy.
Tip: attach the straps so they cross over each other on your child’s back. This way, the straps won’t constantly be falling off your little engineer’s shoulders.
I borrowed overalls from a neighbor, bought a red bandanna at Walmart for a dollar, and scored a train engineer hat at our local thrift store for super cheap, too. This year, I had to look elsewhere for a hat for Little Brother, and found one for less than two dollars at our party supply store.
What are your kids going to be for Halloween? Do you shop, borrow, or DIY?
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