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DIY Train Board

Oscar loves trains. When you go to places like MastermindToys they have an awesome train table by their Thomas section. As much as those tables rock, they are problematic for us. 1. A train table is expensive (A few hundred dollars for just the table) 2. It is also HUGE – It takes up a lot of room and 3. I don’t like the look of the tables that they sell. They are really decorated and branded, and not really to my taste. Part of me thinks many times, simpler is, better.

Taking a trip back in time, when we were young, my Dad had actually made the nicest train board for us. It is still is around and Oscar plays on it every week when I visit my family. The minute he is in the door, he bolts to the living room, to where my brother has set it up for Oscars visit. It’s SO cute.

The reason why this is awesome vs. a table is that you can slide it under a couch, or, store it somewhere easily compared to a table. Having a party? Pick that board up, and hide it in the furnace room. Aubrey and I spent the last few weeks constructing Oscar his very own board. The board itself is very inexpensive, the expense is all in the track + accessories. And, in terms of time – the most time you will also spend on it, is figuring out a train layout. (I think Aubrey spent a few hours trying to figure out exactly the pattern of the track) You can see the finished product below…

For full instructions, and to see the original that my Dad make, click to see more after the jump…

Plywood, Any size (but you need it to fit at least a figure 8 set)
Paint, I used for Green, CIL Crowl of Laurel, for Water CIL West Pointe Blue, and for the trim, CIL Forest Black (which is what I painted my front hall table in too)
Train Track We used a combination of Imaginarium track from Toys R’ Us, and Thomas track individual pieces from MastermindToys
Train Accessories
Felt pads for furniture to put on the bottom of the board


1. Figure out the size of the board
Take into consideration you need it big enough to do at least a figure 8 set.

2. Prime the board + Paint. 
TIP: Paint the whole board green at least twice. (See colours that I used above)
TIP: Don’t sketch out the water and try to paint them separately – I tried. It looks messy. Just paint it all green, and when it dries, then paint the blue/water on over top.

4.  Varnish
Varnish the board. This will help protect it against nicks that will inevitably happen with kids and banging stuff.

5. Apply trim + varnish again
I painted mine in a black/gray. Varnish the trim once it is attached to the board, and maybe do another varnish coat on the board for good measure.

6. Apply felt pads
Flip the board over when it is dry, and apply felt pads all on the bottom of the board so it doesn’t scratch your floors. Flip back.

7. Design your railway
Lay out the track as you would like it. Have all of the pieces you want – bridges, tunnels – We mix and matched brands because the track was cheaper at one store, but we LOVED some accessories at another. It took us awhile because some pieces came from ebay, but we wanted to make sure it was perfect.

8. Secure to the board
When you’ve laid out the full track (see the picture below of Aubrey laying it out on the dining room table) pre drill some holes into the track pieces, and then re-screw screws into it. Although some think that part of the fun is putting together a train set, Oscar would destroy it within seconds of us building it. So screwing it down meant he could have fun, and not get frustrated with pieces lifting up.

Aubrey laying out the track – took a few hours to come up with a design. We did this when Oscar was asleep – which is why the baby monitor is with us. 🙂
Thomas Roundhouse was one piece that we had to work with as Aub loved it

My favourite piece is this Brio Drawbridge I won on Ebay

Below is what inspired our set – The one that my Dad made for us kids when we were little. It has survived the years by being able to hide under couches – easy storage. Here is Oscar playing with my Dads as he does every weekend when we go for dinner.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    September 1, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Any time I set up a new track layout for my son, i always have to have 2 elements; the roundhouse (like yours but Imaginarium) and a 2-tier mountain (also imaginarium) the rest can be up to me. I also try and do it when our little guy is asleep as he seems to play with it more often when he wakes up and surprised it’s a new layout.

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