In my travels on the internet I stumbled across a plan for making wooden crate trains. Of course, my beady little brain decided I just had to have a Hogwarts Express one. We have a forbidden forest of plants next to our front walk, and I thought how much fun would it be to have the train along side.
The train I saw online was a Halloween themed one and it was cute and all, but I told myself, “self, make it Hogwarts-themed, then you can leave it up year round!”
So I did just that. Little did my fella (Joe – my crafting assistant/consultant) know at the time, I am slowly turning our house into Hogwarts when he is not looking. Just kidding! He is completely on board with the plans. It creates a very nice happy place to escape to, and bonus the house is just plain awesome for it.
First, I had to wrangle the materials. I went hunting at my local craft stores (luckily we have 3 within 4 miles of the house) so it is super easy for me to pop out for a few minutes to grab supplies.
Michaels is where I got most of them for this project, but I had a dickens of a time collecting all the wooden circles needed for the wheels. I have not seen them in stores or anywhere for that matter since I completed this project, and I still look every time I go, but still no luck. Huge frowny face.
I tried to order them from Michaels, but it was still it a no go. In any case, I did find options online:
https://woodcrafter.com/plywood-circles-thick/ that would work just as well or if you are handy with a saw you could cut and sand your own wheels. I’ll show you what I have and you can figure out for yourself which direction you want to go.
(4) large wooden craft crates 18”x12.5”x9.5” (1 for engine and 3 for cars)
(1) half wooden craft crate 10″ x 5″ x 11.75″(for top half of engine)
(2) 7” wooden circles (pine plaque) wheels for engine car
(4) 4” wooden circles (pine plaque) wheels for engine car
(12) 5” wooden circles (pine plaque) wheels for remaining cars
(6) 3” craft circles (unfinished) for decal for logo 1 each side of car
(1) cylindrical tube container for smoke stack (I used a scotch bottle tube). I believe the dollar store has similar tubes or a Pringles can – just a basic cylindrical shape
(3) “hook & eye” door latches for car couplers (stainless is best to limit corrosion. Our train lives outside, but it may not matter if you keep it indoors)
printable vinyl/Sticker paper for the decals
(2 cans) red spray paint, outdoor quality
(1 can) black spray paint, outdoor quality
drill/drill bit to attach your size door latches
(you will need enough for all of the wheels 16 wheels total)
box of 6d (six penny) nails
(36 each) 1” fender washers (2 for each wheel) optional makes the wheel spin
small wood screws- OR- wood glue (wood glue is easier-but dealers choice)
sand paper – I used medium (to take off splinters and sharp edges)
spare bit of cardboard for painting
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Prepping the wood
This one should be a quick(ish) project depending on the weather. I promise! Ours took forever since it kept trying to rain on my while I was painting.
Before painting, I sanded all the wood (crates, circles, the works).
I then set up my spray paint fortress in the front yard, laying out old mailing boxes to limit the mess. 3 of the large crates, the half crate, and 6 of the 3” circles will be spray painted red.
The remaining larger crate, smoke stack tube, and all the 4”, 5”, and 7” will all be spray painted black.
For everything I painted the inside and out for maximum protection of the wood.
Allow to dry.
Assembly of the cars
Decide the order of your cars. I choose to have the large part of the engine crate upside down and red cars right side up. I occasionally use the red cars to hold holiday decorations. Using the drill, install the door latches connecting the cars together, as a train. Note: The final car will not need one on the back end.
Use your printable sticker/vinyl paper to print out a 6-3” Hogwarts Express images and sticker them to the 3′ red circles. Use the wood glue to fix them on the side of each red car. In my experience, hot glue does not work; they will just fall off after a short time.
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We spent time in the image editor printing the wheel decals, but honestly I don’t know how necessary that step was, as the level of effort depends upon the look you’re going for. I think the black wheels alone do a fine job. I only bring that up since we used just sticker paper and a clear coat to protect it and they lasted until the first heavy rain. I will say if you are sure it won’t get wet plain sticker paper is totally fine to use. If you choose to add the wheel decals apply in the same way as the Hogwarts Express images.
Attaching the wheels
Note: Using the fender washers allows the wheel to spin. You could just hammer the wheels in place if you do not wish the wheels to move.
For each car we measured and marked where we wanted the wheels.
The engine gets the 4- 5” wheels and the 2-7” wheels.
Each of the red cars gets 4-4” wheels.
We lined up the center of the wheel and used a 1” fender washer and the nail to punch and hold in place. We then used another 1″ fender washers on the back side of the wheel and lined up the nail with the car where we wanted the wheel to be. Hammering gently into place.
Attaching the Housing and Smoke Stack
Take the half crate and flip it upside down, making the top housing of the engine. I attached it with screws but I’m sure wood glue would have been MUCH easier and eliminated a great deal of guesswork.
Once you are sure it is dry, attach the smoke stack to the engine in the same manner as the half crate.
TaDa! You are finished. Don’t forget to subscribe for updates.
If this project inspires you to make your own please tag/share with me on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest. I would love to see what you come up with.