How to Make a Kid's Wooden Train Track

wood train track image by sonya etchison from

Dating back to the 1930s, wooden train sets are one of America's most classic kids' toys. Often seen circling a Christmas tree, toy train sets can add to the excitement of the holiday season. This American pastime has endured for years, remaining within families generation after generation.

Though they can be bought in a toy store, building your own train set can make this childhood favourite even more memorable. The track is vital to the train set's overall function and, with the proper tools and craftsmanship, it is possible to "do it yourself."

Cut track pieces so some are curved and some are straight using a bandsaw. Determine the desired width of the track and its grooves depending on the width of the train's wheels. Common track piece lengths are 4¼-inch, 5¾-inch and 8½-inch. If desired, more elaborate track pieces can be cut, such as crosses, ascending tracks and descending tracks.

Make sure to use durable, hard wood, such as birch, beech, hard maple or white birch. This type of sturdy material ensures the track will not break or warp over time. It is best to use the same type of wood for the entire track, so all pieces age consistently.

Create the connecting pieces, also known as "jigs," by attaching a small wooden ball and dowel on one end of the track piece using wood glue. On the other side of the piece cut small half circles that the ball/dowel piece can slide into, connecting the two track pieces. The dimensions of the cutouts are dependent on the size of the ball/dowel piece, which will vary with each type of track make.

Cut the grooves in track pieces with a small router bit or with a band saw. Sand these grooves to create a smooth track for the train's wheels to glide on. The dimensions of the grooves are dependent on the vision of the builder, but should be approximately ¼-inch, 1/8-inch deep and 1 inch on centre. If desired, finish the track with a fine wood glaze.