DIY Train Costume

It’s time to prepare for Halloween and start making your DIY costumes.

Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays. No, it has never been about the candy, I only ate a few pieces. I loved it for the sheer joy of dressing up as someone or something else. I always loved playing make-believe and this was the perfect excuse. Making a costume always made the experience better, even when it was simple things like wearing a bathrobe and slippers, curlers in my hair, my mom’s giant glasses, a dried on facial mask, and carrying a coffee mug to be “a woman who just woke up.” The creativity involved always added to the excitement of the holiday. Plus, there was something empowering knowing that my costume was one of a kind. I would always feel special wearing my homemade costume, while most of the other kids were sporting something from the store, typically matching a handful of our peers.

I wanted to continue this with my family and  keep costumes as zero-waste as possible. Let’s be honest, costumes don’t tend to last long, the store-bought ones are too expensive or they don’t have what you need, or your child, like mine, will be having a bad day when it comes time for them to wear the costume in public (he loved playing with it at home).

This DIY train costume was worn by a very grumpy 1 1/2 year old, for less than 5 minutes out in public. Despite crying halfway through his turn and trying to throw himself on the ground as we walked through the costume contest, he still won the award for “Most Original Costume.”

This DIY train costume is very simple to make and we used items we already had at home, but it did take a week to complete due to the time required to let the paint dry and having to work on it during my son’s nap.



First, I found a rectangular cardboard box that he could fit in without it being too large. I then cut off all 8 flaps, keeping them for further use.

I then gathered my remaining supplies: The cardboard flaps, 6 Noosa yogurt lids, 1 Noosa yogurt container, an empty oatmeal box, a Pringles can, a toilet paper roll, clear packing tape (next time I work with a box, I will use Kraft Tape), cotton balls, a hot glue gun (I love this mini hot glue gun, found here), scissors, dark red paint, gold paint, white paint, black paint, a yellow highlighter, small paint brushes, black felt (found here), a piece of white paper, a pencil, and washi tape (found here).

Since, my box had seen better days, I gave it a little more stability by taping the edges, on the outside and the inside. This helped my box not fold flat while I was working on it.

Using one of the small flaps, I cut out a rectangle which would fit on the small face of the box, leaving room around the edges. This piece was used to make the sign. I then took my Noosa container and used it to trace a half circle on the bottom center of the cardboard rectangle and cut that section out, creating an arc shape.  (See figure 2 on the image above.)

Using  the arc shaped cardboard, I traced the shape on a piece of paper and cut it out. After painting the cardboard sign gold, I then drew the train name, “Orion Express,” on the cutout paper. Flipping the paper over, I used a pencil and heavily traced the name. Using washi tape, I was then able to tape the paper with the pencil drawing against the dried red cardboard sign. This kept the paper from moving around while I rubbed on it, allowing the pencil drawing to be left behind on the red paint. (The washi tape comes off easily, with no sticky residue, and doesn’t harm dried paint.) I was able to complete the sign by painting over the pencil markings.

To make the light, I colored the center circle of the bottom of the Noosa container with a yellow highlighter. I then painted the bottom outer ring and the sides of the container with gold.

Glue your sign and light to the front of your train.

(You can either paint the large cardboard box before or after glueing everything on it.)

Glue 3 of the Noosa lids to the bottom of each side of the train’s body. Make sure you have the label glued to the box, so it isn’t showing. (I only glue a little in the center of the lid, so I could gently lift the edges out of the way while painting the train body.)

Take one of your small cardboard flaps that you saved. From the bottom corners of the long side, draw two lines towards the top center side, creating a triangle. Cut the triangle out, you should be left with 1 large triangle and 2 small triangles. Use the large triangle to create the same size triangle out of another small flap. You should now have 2 large triangles and 4 small triangles. Glue the 4 small triangles between the 2 large triangles, with the bottom side of every triangle lined up together. Then take your tape to make a smooth surface for all sides, so you can’t see the 4 small triangles when looking from the front point. Paint the entire thing black. This will be your pilot and it will be glued at the bottom of the front of the train body. Make sure you glue it with the side all 6 triangles are lined up on against the box.

Take the oatmeal box, you want one of the large faces standing horizontally, so it can attach to the inside (or backside if there isn’t enough room for the box and your child) back face of the train body. cut a circle the size of the Pringles can on the new top side. Insert the Pringles can, with no lid, and glue them together.

Paint the Pringles can, front, bottom, sides, and top half of the back of the oatmeal box black. After it has dried, glue the bottom half of the oatmeal box to the back of the train body. Half of the box will be sticking above the train. You now have a smokebox and smokestack.

Take the toilet paper roll and glue cotton balls all over it. Even glue cotton balls on top of the cotton balls at the top, to cover the entire cylinder. You can even gently tug the cotton to get it to shape the way you want. I tugged to make it look like it was floating backwards due to the train moving forward. Then, glue your smoke inside the Pringles can smoke stack.

Now you can paint the train body red and add any details. (I painted gold rivets along each vertex and white identification numbers on the sides.) You can use washi tape to help keep glued on items clean, or quickly wipe paint away.

After everything has dried, take your black felt, found here, and cut rectangular straps (I just cut it in half). Glue them to the inside-front and the inside-back of the train body. (Make sure you first test them with your child to see what height and width they need them to wear the train costume comfortably.

DIY Train Costume Instructions:

Train body 1: Cut off all 8 flaps on your box.

Sign 1: Cut a small rectangle out of one of the flaps for a sign.

Sign 2: Using the Noosa container, cut an arc out of the bottom of the sign.

Sign 3: Use paper and a pencil to create the letter rubbing for the sign.

Sign 4: Rub the letters onto the gold painted sign, then paint over the letters with white.

Sign 5: Glue the sign onto the front face of the box/train body.

Light 1: Color the bottom inside circle of the Noosa container with a yellow highlighter and the bottom outer ring and container sides with gold paint.

Light 2: Glue the Noosa container, with the rim against the front of the box/train body, directly under the arc in the sign.

Pilot 1: Cut two large, equal size, triangles out of 2 small flaps; also, creating 4 equal size small triangles.

Pilot 2: Glue the 4 small triangles inside the 2 large triangles with all of them having the largest edge touching.

Pilot 3: Tape the sides of your 6 triangle pilot piece, then paint it black.

Pilot 4: Glue the 6 triangle pilot piece with the point facing out, to the bottom of the front face of the box/train body.

Wheels: Glue all 6 Noosa lids, with the top of the lid (label side) to the train body. Make sure you have 3 equally spaced on each side at the bottom of the box.

Smokebox 1: Your oatmeal box will lie horizontally, with the front of the box facing you.

Smokebox 2: Cut a hole the size of the bottom of the Pringles can in the new top side of the oatmeal box.

Smokebox 3: Paint the smokebox black on all sides, except the back; only paint the top half of the back of the box, since the bottom half will be glued to the train body.

Smokebox 4: Glue the bottom half of the smokebox the the inside-back face of the train body, making sure the top half is above the train body.

Smokestack 1: Glue the Pringles can inside of the smokebox, where the circle was cut out.

Smokestack 2: Paint the smokestack black.

Smoke 1: Glue cotton balls all over the toilet paper roll. Making sure the sides and top of the cylinder are covered.

Smoke 2: Shape cotton balls to create the smoke look you want by gently rubbing and tugging at the cotton fibers.

Smoke 3: Glue the smoke inside of the smokestack.

Train body: Paint the inside and outside of the box/train body red, then add any gold details. You can use washi tape to help minimize touchups from dripped paint.

Costume Straps: Cut the black felt in half, lengthwise. Have your child hold the box in place while you determine the length and width of the location the straps need to be glued inside of the box, then glue them on.

Your train is complete!!

You might want a few accessories to make the costume complete, like conductor clothing and a train whistle. (My son still wears his overalls and keeps his conductor’s hat and whistle in his dress up box.)

Have a fun Halloween and enjoy your DIY train costume.

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7 thoughts on “DIY Train Costume”

  1. When I was younger my dad made me a phone. I was the actual old fashioned wooden box phone and my brother was the telephone repair man. One of the only costumes I remember.

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