Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Building a Train

This year for Halloween, my four-year-old decided he wanted to be a train.  Not an engineer.  A train.  And not just any train, certainly not Thomas, he wanted to be a Union Pacific Diesel Engine.  Due to the fickle nature of four-year-olds, I began asking him about his Halloween preferences back in August, just to make sure he was truly set on what he wanted to be.  He has never wavered.  So, after wracking my brain for a good month, I set to work collecting supplies and inventing this thing.  In all my online research, I couldn't find a single other person who's created something like this.  How can that be?  Maybe the little man is a bit more unique than we already thought?  I decided to create the base of the train using foam core.  Foam core is light, fairly easy to cut through and a bit pricey but not as pricey as other options out there.  It is also sturdy and easy to cover with a variety of materials.  I pretty much just sat down on the floor in my living room one night, put on a movie and started cutting foam core and shaping this thing.  My main source of inspiration was his little toy U.P. engine sitting next to me on his train table. 
I needed to make sure this is fairly weather-proof, so covering the foam core was my biggest hurdle to overcome.  I didn't want to use paper or paint because I didn't do a super-awesome job creating that under-structure as you can see and I didn't want it to get all bubbly or melt in the rain.  I decided, after much internal debate and facebook crowd-sourcing, to decoupage canvas.  Why canvas?  Because it was the only reasonably priced fabric I could find in that accurate color of mustard that U.P. engines are painted.  It turned out to be a pretty great medium for the modge podge.  I hid the fabric-color-change-seams with red grossgrain ribbon "stripes."  I used some shiny vinyl for the windows and felt for most of the other details.  I am very proud of free-hand-cutting the logos and all the letters.  My husband and grandpa both asked me where I bought the U.P. logos!  The lights are some wooden disks that I painted.  The wheels are ribbon spools painted black.  The whole thing is held together with a whole lot of packing tape, tacky glue and modge podge but it is amazingly sturdy.  The straps are made out of woven nylon strapping and I attached them to the train with glue, tape AND brads (it would be tragic if it fell apart mid-festivities and he's got to wear it a few times).
I'm pretty impressed with the outcome.  The little man loves it and whenever his little brother sees it, he points to it, giggles and says "toot-toot!"
Since I way over-bought fabric, I'll be making a matching treat bag too.  Anybody out there need about a yard of mustard-colored duck canvas???
Side-note about the picture.  I took him down to the industrial part of South Seattle (SODO) where they happen to park a whole bunch of Union Pacific engines (I chanced upon this street making a wrong turn a few months ago).  I knew today would be my only shot to get down there for these pictures.  Union Pacifics don't travel north of the industrial area south of Seattle and starting Friday night, one of our main North/South roads will close for 9 days straight making me not want to go south during that time if I can at all help it. While I was posing my son safely away from the tracks and out of the street, a woman in a van pulled up.  I was sure she was going to tell me I was on private property and needed to leave, but instead she told me that she works for Union Pacific, thought this was the cutest thing ever and desperately wanted to take his picture too.  She asked me if she could post it on facebook since she was friends with a bunch of the engineers.  I gave her my blessing, she snapped the picture and off she went telling me we'd be fine as long as we stayed off the tracks.  I later kicked myself for not giving her my contact information...The little man could use a U.P. contact, don't you think?  So, if there's a photo of him circulating around facebook (not mine) and you happen to see it, send it back to me! 

7 comments:

  1. I'm really glad my girls are perfectly happy with the princess dresses already in their dress-up bin:) Seriously, though, this is SO incredibly cool. You had better win some best costume awards!

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  2. Ok, I realize this was posted forever ago, but I'm dying at how amazing this costume is!! I've been searching high and low for this exact DIY for my little boy. My husband works for UP and so naturally I have a train fanatic on my hands and this is exactly what he wants me to make him! You did so good. I've purchased most of the supplies that you used but I was wondering if you would be so kind as to ball park some measurements and/or peices of the foam board? I have a feeling I'm going to butcher this...if you have time anything u could let me know would be so helpful. I'm so glad I found this!

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    1. I am just now seeing this! Sorry, Misty! I hope it turned out well. :)

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  4. This is an amazing costume! I read the story and feel that our son is exactly the same. We live close to a UP line and he's been obsessed with trains from day one. Last year, he was a steam engine, but I was able to find a pre-made costume. This year, he hasn't wavered on what he wants to be (a UP Diesel Engine) so it sounds like my husband and I are going to attempt this! Would you be willing to share rough dimensions? Thank you so much for sharing your photos and story!

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    1. Sure! It's a good thing I still have it after all these years! :) It is about 24" long, 16" tall, 17" deep.
      Oh, and the straps are held on with a whole lot of duct tape on the under-side as well as fastened with metal brads through the foamcore, and the straps, to the underside of them (you can see the little metal square connectors on top).
      I'm so glad this is helpful! I hope you have a great time making it and all his dreams come true. :)
      My little boy from this photo is now 9! I can't believe it. He was 4 when this was made.

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    2. This is so helpful! Thank you so much! I have a feeling my little guy will be 9 before we know it :( Have a great Halloween!

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