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How to Make a Cardboard Box Steam Engine

Updated April 17, 2017

Children love to make things, especially things that will be entertaining and useful after they are built. Since many children are also fascinated with transportation-related toys, models of cars, trains, planes and boats are generally very popular and fortunately, are not hard to make. A model steam engine can be constructed from a simple cardboard box, such as a tissue box, according to Crayola.com. Not only is this an enjoyable craft project, but it will last for some time, and when not in use, it can be used by your child to store small items.

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  1. Cut a cardboard roll (either a gift wrap or paper towel roll) into thirds, using safety scissors. Wrap one section in black construction paper, attaching the paper with glue or tape. Attach the papered section vertically to the top front end (the short side) of a small cardboard box, such as a tissue box, using glue. This is the smokestack. Attach cotton balls to the top edge of the section of roll, using glue. The cotton balls represent steam.

  2. Unroll another one-third section of the roll. This will be the grill of the engine. Lay the piece flat to look at its shape. Mark evenly-spaced vertical stripes across the short side of the unrolled cardboard, but don't draw completely across. Start marking each stripe a little way from the starting edge, and stop about the same distance from the other side. Do not follow the angle of the unrolled edges when making your stripes. Be sure they are vertical from top to bottom. Cut these "stripes" out, making openings where the stripes were. Cover your grill piece with black construction paper, again cutting out the openings. Use glue to hold the paper in place. Now set the unrolled section on its edge lengthwise. It will still curl up. To prevent this, wrap the grill section around the front end of the tissue box and attach it with glue. The body of your engine is now complete.

  3. Use markers to draw three evenly-spaced wheels on both long sides of the tissue box, for a total of six wheels, at the bottom. Connect the wheels by drawing two long, straight lines through the wheels on each side. You may decorate the box further as desired. The finished engine can now be used for decoration or storage.

  4. Warning

    Children should only use safety scissors, and even then, should be supervised by an adult.

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Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard roll
  • Safety scissors
  • Black construction paper
  • School glue
  • Clear adhesive tape
  • Cardboard box
  • Cotton balls
  • Magic markers

About the Author

Cathy Moeschet has been writing since 1988. Credits include a public affairs show for WLFL-Channel 22 in Raleigh, N.C., a video for the Handicapped Student Services Office at North Carolina State University and short fiction in Jackhammer II and Planet Relish e-zines. She holds bachelor's degrees from NCSU and Western International University. She is pursuing a Master of Education from Grand Canyon University.

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