Straight Track for Thomas the Tank Engine

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Project by Dave Rutan posted 08-07-2013 08:09 PM 5103 views 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Straight Track for Thomas the Tank Engine
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This might sound odd, but my 14 year old daughter asked if I could make some straight Thomas the Tank Engine track. It’s not that she plays with it per se, but her little cousin has helped bring on a renaissance in her wooden Thomas trains. He plays with them when he visits.

My daughter has started making faux Thomas the tank engine movies with her video camera and the laptop we gave her for her 8th grade graduation. These videos are in the style of a YouTuber. Just look for ’Eneterprising Engines’ on YouTube to see what I mean. She is producing these videos to show her cousin, who has thus far reacted positively.

So, as I was helping her shoot scenes for one video, I was thinking and decided that I could definitely make something very similar to the wooden Thomas track put out by Learning Curve. I’m talking about the old stuff with the kerfs cut across it, before they started printing the ties on (ugh!).

I started with some 1/2 inch wood I rescued from the curbside. It was once part of a drawer. I know it’s not pine, but I cannot tell what it is. I ripped it to width and then cut as many 9 inch lengths as I could. (The finished product is 8 inches long, but you need room for that puzzle piece tab.) I traced the tab end on one end and carefully cut it out on my band saw using an 1/8 inch blade. A scroll saw would probably be even better. The tab always needs cleaning up and is never perfect, but close enough.
Then I cut the piece to final length and trace the slot end. Since I was making a bunch of these, I created the slot on the drill press using a forstner bit and released it with the band saw. I used the router to make the grooves along the length of the track.
To make the kerfs across the track, I set up my crosscut sled with a short pin 1/2 inch from the blade. Setting the blade height to about a strong 1/16 inch, I butted the slot end of the track against the pin for the first cut, then put that slot over the pin for each successive cut. (I discovered that it works better if the pin is either near the edge of the piece, or you make the slot after this step.)
Next you sand each piece. Top, bottom, edges, corners, grooves, kerfs, touch up the tabs… Fun, fun, fun! The result looks remarkably like the real thing. We’re very happy with the result.

Lesson learned: Check your wood. I actually grabbed a piece that I thought was 1/2 inch. It was 3/8 inch. So I went and bought some 1/8 inch balsa (It’s all I could find) and glued it onto the bottoms.

I made 10-8 inch long, 3-6 inch long and a few 4 inch long. If you guys want, I can add some more pictures to this entry I took along the way. I was considering making a slideshow style video of the process.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

9 comments so far

View debianlinux's profile


53 posts in 1182 days

#1 posted 08-07-2013 08:45 PM

I am impressed. Are there no curves in the track?

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1362 posts in 1606 days

#2 posted 08-07-2013 08:58 PM


My daughter said she had lots of curved track. most of the sets and expansion packs we got her when she was small had curves, but few straights.

I’ve given thought to how to make curves as well. Near as I can figure it would involved a sort of wheel or wedge shaped jig to go over my router for the groves. Then I’d need something similar to kerf them on the table saw. If I figure something out, you know I’ll post it.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2053 posts in 1606 days

#3 posted 08-07-2013 09:26 PM

Sweet Job Dave! Those dang things cost a fortune. You have outdone yourself! I’ve seen your inventiveness time and time again. Curves would be no problem for you.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View Grit's profile


32 posts in 1999 days

#4 posted 08-07-2013 11:14 PM


Great job.

I have to share one of my projects with you. For my youngest son (I didn’t think of if for my eldest), and for a friend’s son, I made two 6ft tracks and one 5ft track. Oh, what a laugh was there, and did they get put to use.

Joe M

-- "Be more human."

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1362 posts in 1606 days

#5 posted 08-07-2013 11:42 PM


They would be great for racing engines. Put them on an incline and let ‘em go!


-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View gepatino's profile


214 posts in 1542 days

#6 posted 08-08-2013 01:47 PM

Very nice!

I got into woodworking with the main idea of making wooden trains and toys. Didn’t have much time yet, I just hope I can make any train before my kids get to highschool (I still have 10-12 years to start working). I still don’t have a place to work away from kids (and my wife yelling at my because of messing the living room with sawdust), so I’ll have to wait a bit to start working.

If you are interested, I share some links I found usefull (hey, they even sell router bits to make the male/female connectors!)

A large catalog of trains, tracks and accesories;

Info about wooden trains:

Router bits:

Hope it helps


View crowie's profile


1400 posts in 1368 days

#7 posted 09-27-2013 05:02 AM

What a top idea Dave, That’s something I’d love to be able to do as we have a huge box of track and never enough straights….

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1362 posts in 1606 days

#8 posted 09-28-2013 01:34 AM

crowie, I’m giving thought to making curved track as well. In any case I might make a video about making strait track… eventually.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View crowie's profile


1400 posts in 1368 days

#9 posted 09-28-2013 09:45 PM

Yes please Dave, That’d help a lot of people to see how you’ve made the track, thank you….

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

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