Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Making the train costume happen

Last year, after spending some time trying to figure out how to make a train costume and then having Calvin fall in love with a Winnie the Pooh costume at the resale shop, I told Calvin that he could be anything he wanted from then on as long as he could make the costume. About the same time I told me that this year he would return to the train idea, and that he wanted his dad and myself to be signals. As long as we can make it, kid...

This year, as the date neared, I found myself wrestling with ideas and plans. There is nobody else out there making a train costume that isn't Thomas, but I found another mom's costume plans posted on her website and adapted them to fit our own needs. I followed her plans for basic box assembly—starting with a paper box (the same box we used over seven years ago to deliver the decorations to our reception site, and again three years ago to move baby items to the new house), a shoe box of matching width, and (thanks to my mom) two hat boxes.

Calvin helped me shop or search the basement for all the necessary items, and then he helped me use the t-square and pencil to mark the boxes for cutting. We used the hot glue gun to attach the boxes initially, then covered the whole thing with black duct tape; Calvin helped hold the pieces in place while I applied hot glue, and he helped press the black tape into place. The duct tape added stability to the whole ensemble and also made it relatively water-proof just in case.

Calvin picked out black paper plates for wheels and silver and gold poster board for accents. He also picked a picture from his historical trains book for me to use as inspiration. He decided on silver for the wheels and gold for the accents. I cut the accents and wheels after he went to bed (since I'd waited until last minute and wanted the costume done before the costume parade in Dexter the next morning—nothing like last minute). There's nothing like scrapbooking materials for a project of this kind—I used my circle cutter on the wheels, the t-square and my circle punch for the side accents, and the Cricut to cut the fours. Engine, engine number four...

The straps are nylon and I stapled and duct taped them to the inside of the box before applying adhesive backed Velcro at the appropriate sizing for Calvin. The final addition, though, was the smoke stack. The original plans called for a tube but Calvin wanted an old steam engine, which would have had a conical smoke stack in front, so we stopped by our downtown hardware store while we were trick or treating on parade (even without the smoke stack he was a hit on the first dry run) where we found the perfect metal funnel. At home Calvin helped me measure for the location, I used a box cutter to make two diagonal cuts, and I adhered it to the front with hot glue.

You'll remember that he also asked us to be signals, so to round out the ensemble on Halloween night I made a RR sign and a railroad crossing sign which two of his loving entourage (including also his Oma, Opa, and Aunt Ann) carried throughout our neighborhood escapades.

My favorite part of this costume was Calvin's involvement. He picked the costume and he helped make it, which means that when person after person asked him if his mom made it he was able to say, truthfully, "we made it together," and then often went on to explain what each part was made of and how it was assembled. Even the remotely curious were treated to his well spoken explanation.

Reader Comments (10)

I absolutely ADORE this costume. My little one absolutely loves trains, and I'm thinking that we might go that way for Halloween this year. Thanks for the inspiration and tips on how you made yours! :)
July 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAramelle
This costume is too cute! My three year old loves trains and has been begging to be an engineer for halloween! I was hesitant because I thought it was a little too plain. The addition of the train is so perfect! We'll have to do it this year!
October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJesseca
Wow! This is so cool! Love!
October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBritney {Jesse's Girl}
I got totally inspired by your post and decided to make a train costume for my son, too. we tried it on the other day and it was a huge hit! here's a link to his album if you'd like to take a look!
October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeran
Hi there - love this so much and am planning to make it this year. What did you use for the cylinder at front of train? I'm looking through post and must be overlooking it? Thanks so much for this wonderful post w/instructions!an
October 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
The cylinder that makes up the front of the train is made of two plain cardboard hatboxes (the kind you can buy for crafting at Joann's or Michael's), one with and one without the lid (the lid makes the face of the train where I placed the black paper plate and the number 4).
Hope you have has much fun with the project as we did!
October 8, 2013 | Registered Commentercortneyandjon
I love this train! You are so talented! In the process if making it now.... What did you use to make the number 4 and the border? I have gold Duck Tape but I don't know if I can cut it and make it look nice. Also did you have any problems with the Duct tape not sticking and peeling back?
October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKelley
Thank you for posting such a thorough and detailed post! I needed to make a train for my son's school transportation parade. I had no idea where to begin and your post really made it look reasonably easy to do. I made it and the train was a huge hit! The one problem I encountered however was keeping the cylinder in place. I used hot glue, and it held for some time, but sadly went over board by the end. :( Nevertheless, I'm so happy with the way it turned out. Very creative, thanks for sharing!
September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
This is so freaking cool. You have inspired me to make one for my two year old son and involve him in the process! Thanks for this fabulous post. You rock.
October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobbie Ring
Ah, thank goodness for you! My son wants to be The Polar Express for World Book Day next week. My initial ideas were rubbish compared with your fab job! Thanks so much for sharing. X
February 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTeeky

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