Build a Train Table for Thomas the Tank Engine!

Have you considered building a train table for your toddler to play with his or her “Thomas the Tank Engine”? Well, why not? It’s actually very easy.

Our son, Rob, built one because he could not find exactly what he was looking for; plus, it was more affordable and much more sturdy than train tables that were available at the local retail store or online. (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)Rob finished it just in time for his son’s third birthday. Now, Thomas, Percy, and all of their friends from Sodor have a place to play.

Follow along as we see what he did to build the train table. The project had to be fairly basic as Rob has a very limited amount of tools. It had to be completed partly indoors and partly outdoors due to limited space and not much free time.

The basic size for the train table was determined by the sizes of lumber the local big box carried to reduce the amount of board cutting time. He wanted a good looking wood finish that could be stained or painted and be durable for his children’s use and would last a long time.

With those specifications in mind, we agreed on a pre-cut 2’ X 4’ sheet of good quality plywood. For the sides and the legs, he used 1”x3” and 1”x4” clear spruce.

Total list of materials for this project is:

  • 1 – 2’X4’ piece of 3/4” plywood (top)
  • 2 – 1”X3”X8’ clear spruce (legs);
  • 2 – 1”X4”X8’ clear spruce (legs);
  • 2 – 1”X4”X8’ clear spruce (top rail);
  • 1 – Glue (I prefer Sumo or Gorilla Glue) It is VERY strong and waterproof;
  • Assorted finish nails.

You will need these tools.

  • a miter saw box and back saw;
  • hammer;
  • assorted clamps; and
  • power sander with assorted sandpapers.

Sand all the materials with 120 grit sandpaper. Be careful NOT to round the edges, keep them square.

Cut the 1X3 into 2 ft sections, set aside.

Cut the 1X4 into 2 ft sections, set aside.

Glue and nail together as per the picture. Keep the ends even. Set aside until the glue dries.

Cut the remaining 1”X4” into a section 49 ½” long. Cut the ends at a 45 degree angle. Cut the remaining piece 25 ½” long. Do the same with the other 8’ piece.

You should have 2 pieces 49 ½” long and 2 pieces 25 ½” long. The 45 degree cuts should point inward as these will be the inside corners.

Glue and nail the longer pieces to the edge of the plywood ¼” to ½” above the top surface. This will keep things from rolling off. Now fit the shorter pieces to the opposite ends. These should fit like a picture frame. The top is completed.

Now take the four legs and glue and nail to the inside of the top. Make sure the legs are the same length. You may want to shorten them to a height suitable for your child. My son made his table 20” high for his three year old son. The train table should be something they can grow into and not out of.

Sand the entire table with 220 grit sandpaper. Apply the first coat of stain or wood sealer, Sand again with the 220 grit sandpaper. Make sure there are no splinters or rough surfaces on the wood. Apply the finish coat.

I like polyurethane as it has proven to be very durable. If you are going to paint the wood, apply a good quality acrylic paint and let the paint thoroughly dry before using.

We have been discussing adding drawers under the table to put the toys into when not in use, maybe a pull out of some kind or perhaps wheels to simply roll the drawers around.Maybe we should rethink the wheels because these drawers could become cars to crash into the walls… then we get to repair the damaged drywall!Pull out drawers it is – with wide gaps to make sure hands and fingers do not get pinched.

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