Edward, King of the Trains

Halloween is a big deal in my family. We go wild with decorations, spooky lighting, and of course, HOMEMADE costumes. We love it. You can imagine my disappointment when my beloved first born child balked at wearing any kind of costume. No hats, no makeup, no capes, no tails, no weird shoes, nuthin. His first Halloween, he cried the entire time he had on his little monkey costume. His second Halloween, I got him a yellow shirt and drew a charlie brown zig-zag on it and called it a day. His third Halloween, he refused to wear anything but an orange shirt with a jack-o-lantern face on it. WHO IS THIS CHILD??

So along came Halloween #4.  I knew if I could come up with the right idea, that he would come around. Or…I hoped anyway.

I focused in on what he loves the most. Thomas & Friends. I thought,”What about a train costume?” I scoured the internet for ideas. Almost Everything I found was a big bulky wearable box. I knew that he’d wear that for about 8 seconds and then take it off and play with it. Then I found my big break! Thomas the Tank Engine WAGON! With some trepidation, I pitched the idea. He thought about it for a minute, and then I got a glorious, resounding, “Meh, I guess..But I want Edward”


Ok, I (maybe not so secretly) wanted to do this just for the challenge. I’ve always loved to build stuff. Models out of cardboard in college? YAY! Giant wagon train? Close enough. LETS GO!

So it was game on. We already had a wagon, and a few big boxes, so I got started. I had a few design challenges right off the bat.

#1. This thing had to be portable. And we don’t have a truck, so the “train” parts had to be easily removable
#2. It needed to be sturdy enough to stand up to a 3 year old. Nuff said.
#3. It needed to actually look like Edward. Duh.

So off to the garage to get started! I found an old A/C box that was just the right size for a cab. I cut a couple of notches in it and it slid right down over the edge of the wagon.

Thomas Wagon Cab
An old air conditioner box is the perfect size for a cab!

The back of the box was cantilevered out over the back of the wagon, and it needed some support. I found an old shelf support and used some rope and chewing gum (ok, not really) to rig it up to the back axle. Perfect! This part stayed on permanently (until after Halloween anyway) but the box was removable.

Cab support
An old shelf support holds up the back of the cab

Next I needed a boiler. I took a large sheet of cardboard and scored it with a box knife so that it would curve neatly. I cut out a round piece for the “face” and added a funnel. I sized the funnel so that we could fit a cup inside it and add water and dry ice for “steam”. We never got around to actually using that feature though. I cut out a few windows and the much anticipated door and he was ready to take a ride! It was at this point that I knew I had him. He also announced that he was going to wear an engineer costume!

Added boiler and funnel
The curved cardboard boiler and funnel. At this point he’s thrilled and ready to take a ride!

I added some skirting and front and back buffers, and it was time to paint!

Adding skirting and buffers
Adding skirting and buffers


It took more paint than I expected, but we got him the right shade of “Edward” blue.


We continued to paint and add details and I realized that I really needed to add a roof to the cab for it to look right.

no roof edward
I realized here that I probably needed to add a roof to the cab.
Getting closer
The paint job is coming along, but that roof still needs help!

The final details that would bring it all together were the face and lamp. I printed the face on the plotter at work so that we would have one big sheet (yay architecture!), and I spray mounted it on to the cardboard. For the lamp, I used a small PVC elbow joint and glued paper over the end. We put a small headlamp inside and it glowed perfectly!

Its done!
Face and lamp complete the wagon. BB and B2 take an inaugural ride.


Here he! All finished!
Here he is! All finished!

And here we are in our costumes! Somewhere along the line, he decided he wanted to be the “fireman” who shovels coal into the fire box. I was assigned to engineer duty, and thanks to a $3 thrift store find, I was able to take on the role. My mom made his overalls and I got the hats for $1.



Anytime you plan for an outdoor event like…trick-or-treating, you’re at the mercy of the weather. And of course, that Halloween it rained. And rained. And RAINED. Total wash out. Edward is a lot of things, but hes definitely not water proof. Luckily, there was a big trick-or-treat event at Lowe Mill and we were able to take him there.

Lowe Mill
Trick-or-treating at Lowe Mill. Rain can’t stop us!

With Halloween past, we have kept Edward in the garage and he’s played with pretty frequently. The following Halloween, we used him again, and this time (after he had a general hot glue and tape tune up), we added a bell. We did lose the lamp somewhere, but he hasn’t asked to replace it, so its good. Here are our 2014 upgrades:

Edward round 2
A year later, he was still in good shape and ready for another Halloween. BB’s pants were a little too short though.

And now its summer 2015 and just this evening, we had the Edward wagon out for a ride. His paint is getting scuffed and chipped, his funnel is loose, and his back buffer has fallen off, but its nothing a little paint, hot glue, and tape can’t fix. And if his current enthusiasm is any indication, we’ll need lots of glue and tape so that Edward will be ready to ride for Halloween 2015.

2015 Edward
Looking a little ragged, but Edward is still holding on! He’s ready for his next Halloween ride.



2 thoughts on “Edward, King of the Trains

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