DIY Thomas the Train Costume

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This DIY Thomas the Train Costume you can make from a cardboard box is so adorable, your little train engineer will be thrilled!

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

When I asked O what he wanted to be for Halloween this year, and once I explained the concept (I don’t think he remembers last year), the answer was a resounding “TRAIN!” And if you have or have had a preschooler, I’m sure you know that it was not just any train, it HAD to be similar to a THOMAS the Train costume (otherwise known as Thomas the Tank Engine if you really want to be accurate). The kid looooves Thomas. I tried convincing him maybe we should think outside the box and go for Thomas’ trusty friend Percy maybe? Or Toby? But no, Thomas the Train is the fave. So a look alike DIY Thomas the Train costume it is!

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window


(PSST! Get the Train Engineer Costume with overalls, hat and kerchief HERE!)

I knew I wanted the DIY Thomas the Train costume to be 3D and I had some boxes sitting around so I figured that was the perfect place to start. I grabbed a few other things from Michaels, got a toy Thomas from the play basket for reference and got to work. I feel like I should say that of course, making vehicle costumes out of boxes is not my original idea. They’re all over the internet. Pinterest even has quite a few Thomas the Train costumes. But I wanted to share my method since I didn’t reference any other tutorials and just figured it out as I went along.

DIY Thomas the Train Costume Supply List

DIY Thomas the Train Costume Instructions

DIY Thomas the Train Costume supplies, cardboard boxes and wood pieces!I didn’t end up using those big wooden circles pictured above, instead a I used a couple 4 inch paper mache lidded boxes like the one in the middle.

My first step was a sketch to figure out the basic volume of my Thomas the Train inspired costume.

sketch of DIY Thomas the Train CostumeI pretty much approached this like building an architectural model, I drew it first and then tried to build it with the minimum possible number of seams and pieces. I cut out the bottom of the box and then measured and drew my cuts on the top flaps. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense in this picture.

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red WindowBut once you cut out the middle and fold up the side flaps…

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red WindowIt kinda starts to look like a train, right? Next I added Thomas’ roof.

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

Cheesy “helper” recommended but not required…

The start of the DIY Thomas the Train Costume made from a cardboard box.

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

After the roof, I added the piece across the front and started painting it.

DIY Thomas the Train Costume being painted blue.

Then I took that other boot box from the first picture and made the red platform that Thomas’ body sits on.

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

One thing I have learned over the years of painting furniture is that red paint is really frustrating. It takes many many coats to get even opaque coverage. A lot of Thomas’ markings are red lines and I could just see myself painting them over and over and over and still having blue show through. So I drew his markings in Illustrator and printed them out on cardstock instead. And then I carefully cut them out and glued them to his sides like decals. It worked out great and the lines are straight and even, much neater than I could have ever painted them!

DIY Thomas the Train Costume decals for the side


Then it was time to figure out Thomas’ face. When I googled Thomas the Train Costumes, I mostly saw flat faces. And they were plenty cute and that was what I was planning to do because it’s easy. But then about halfway through I had the crazy thought to try making a 3D face. I mean, the 3D face is kind of what Thomas and his friends are known for, right? So I ran my 3D face scheme past my husband. And he said, “I don’t know…that sounds kind of ambitious.” Which to my ears, actually sounded like a challenge.  And I can’t back down from a craft challenge. Plus I figured, if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to plan A!

So I started with one of these lidded paper mache boxes from the craft store. Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

I measured, marked and cut it to fit onto the front of Thomas’ body.

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red WindowThis last picture shows the lid of the box back on and that was going to be the base for Thomas’ face. After thinking for a bit, I decided paper mache sounded like my best bet. First I sketched Thomas’ face on the box lid, then I used crumpled and rolled paper covered in masking tape to sculpt his face. For most of these steps, he looks suuuuper creepy. Sorry! But, it’s Halloween so it’s cool, right? DIY Thomas the Train 3d face startingAt this point I was going off my memory of the last time I did paper mache which might possibly have been making pinatas in middle school spanish class. I mixed half white glue with half water, tore up some strips of the Onion and got to work.

DIY Thomas the train costume, paper mache faceOnce that dried, I tried painting it but it was way too bumpy and lumpy for my perfectionist tendencies. So that’s when I had my next crazy idea. I said to my husband, “What if I spackle him?” To which he replied, “I don’t know…” in a very skeptical tone of voice. If you haven’t noticed, when Aa thinks something sounds like it might be a crazy idea, I, of course, decide that it’s brilliant and it will work! We spackled all kinds of things in architecture school, I figured why not try it? Unfortunately, I only had half a little container of spackle that was about 80% dried out. Undeterred, I added some water and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. And hey! Guess what! You can reconstitute spackle! So Thomas got spackled…Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

Then I sanded and re-spackled and smoothed until he looked waaaaay better.

3d face for DIY Thomas the Train costume with spackle on it

After some paint, it turned out I was right, the 3D face was awesome! And Aa was sufficiently amazed.

The next thing I tackled was his wheels. I used two of those round paper mache boxes in a smaller size and made six wheels from the tops and bottoms. I painted them blue and then decided they needed a little detail. Having just had so much success with the decals I used to put the lines on Thomas’ body, I drew out a sunburst shape on some thick magazine paper and cut them out.

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red WindowThen I painted them black and glued them to the wheels!

Wheels for DIY Thomas the Train Costume

After that I attached the wheels, made a funnel out of a toilet paper tube, added the bumpers and fashioned some straps from the handles of a reusable shopping bag (does everyone else have approximately 7,000 of those?!)  And O’s DIY Thomas the Train costume was ready!

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window


Of course O is dressed as the train engineer who drives Thomas! He wore this once already and it was a huuuuge hit!  (And no I didn’t make the Engineer costume, I got it on Amazon. I’m not totally insane.  😉 And because I get asked, at 3 yrs old, O, who was pretty tall, fit comfortably into the 3T-4T size.

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window Super adorable DIY Thomas the Train Halloween Costume made from a cardboard box! from Little Red Window

Choo! Choo!

Tips and Tricks for making your own DIY Thomas the Train Costume…

  • Don’t worry about the exact dimension of the boxes I used, find one that fits your child and go from there.
  • Many people have recreated this Thomas the Train costume without the 3D face. I promise, it still turns out extremely cute, just find a picture of Thomas’ face and print it out at the right size!
  • If the weather forecast is questionable, you might want to give you Thomas the train costume a little spray with some poly or other clear protectant. Or have your little one wear a clear poncho on top!
  • One more time, HERE is the link for the train engineer costume. If you’re really daring, grab a train whistle for your little one too! Choo Choo!

If you liked this, you may also like some of my other posts…

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142 thoughts on “DIY Thomas the Train Costume

  1. Your design is clever but what I really love is the smiling, happy boy! He is so happy and so proud! Keep these pictures, someday the grown man will say, “Hey Mom, do you remember the train costume you made me? I wish my kids could see it.”

  2. Wow…this is an amazing costume! You did just a wonderful job. My daughter loves Thomas. This will be one of my features from the blog hop so much sure to grab you ‘featured’ button on Sunday. Thanks SO much for sharing at the Frugal Crafty Home Blog Hop!

  3. Hi I love love love your costume!!!! I and am going to make one this week for my thomas obsessed son! just wanted to ask about the red lines you did on illustrator and if you had the document you could share please???? also i assume you printed on a3?x

    1. Hi Belinda!
      I’m sorry, I don’t have a document. When I was making it I just drew it in illustrator real quick and then didn’t save it because I didn’t think I’d be needing it again. Wish I had thought ahead to this question! You could easily cut the same shapes out of construction paper though if you want to go that route! I’d love to see yours when it’s done!

  4. Hi, Thank you for your reply. I’ve nearly finished actually and cut the lines by hand with a ruler, they aren’t as neat as I wanted but still it’s all looking good. He’s wearing it tomorrow so I will definitely send a picture on…not sure who’s more excited me or him!

  5. This is amazing! Can I buy it from you? My son wants to be Thomas and your costume looks professional! I’m not sure I have the time to do this and make it look as good.


  6. Thank you for posting such detailed instructions! My 3 year old daughter is a Thomas fanatic, and I do not like the costumes available for purchase. This will definitely be a challenge, but between myself and my engineer husband, I think we can pull it off! (I hope it doesn’t rain this Halloween, lol) I have this bookmarked and I am so grateful that we can use your model! I hope ours ends up half as nice as yours, though I am not holding my breath, lol. Your son is absolutely adorable!! GREAT job with this costume!!

      1. ACK on the rain! I’m working on this now. So far so good, but I am worried about the number and side details! And the paper mache! We will muddle through. I will definitely take a picture. And hopefully mine won’t be one of those Pinterest “nailed it!” pics, lol!

    1. Hi Judy,
      I just used regular acrylic craft paint, and no, I did not prime the cardboard. Although if your cardboard has a lot of markings that you want to cover up, it probably wouldn’t hurt. 🙂

  7. This by far the most creative costume tutorial I’ve ever read and I enjoyed your sense of humor. I too have that design challenge twitch… tell me it’s not possible and I’ll have to prove you wrong! Love it! I can’t wait to try this when my lo is older. There’s just something about those trains that have those boys hooked! 🙂

  8. Love this costume! Where did you find the adorable cap and overalls??!! Such a cutie! Thanks for posting great ideas!
    Sarah 🙂

  9. I plan on making the Thomas for my 3yr old son. I understand all but the platform how did you do it the boot box looks smaller then the other

  10. Good Morning, I love this Thomas Train, I will be making it for my 3year old son for a school project. However I agree with Theresa the base box looks smaller than the body box, how did you get that to work?

    Many thanks

  11. this was a great idea, thank you for sharing! im making this now for my son. what glue did you use for attaching the boxes used for the wheels and face? hotglue?

  12. I am almost done wit but was wondering if you remembered what font you used for the number. I’m having a heck of a time finding one that is similar.
    Thanks for everything! My nephew is going to love this!!!

  13. What did you use for the eyes? Is it some sort of foam pieces? I figured out everything else but that part. Thank you!

  14. what did you use the shoebox for? is it for the roof? that is the only part i am having difficulty figuring out.

    thank you so much for posting this.. if it works out my son will love it

  15. This looks so awesome! My son is also excited to be Thomas for Halloween. I think you said that you cut off the flaps from the bottom, I’m just wonder how you attached the platform/boot lid? Did you just glue around the bottom edge and stick it on?

  16. Hi Cassie,
    Love, love, love, this, & my boys will too. I’ve always been a crafty kind of person, (although I think that your train goes above & beyond crafty !). Probably more overachiever!! I don’t think I will have any trouble with it. I was wondering if you had any more designs for cardboard box costumes. I have three grandsons. Thanks so much.
    Debra Myers

  17. How many coats of acrylic paint did you have to use. I’ve done two coats, and the cardboard is still showing through. My son is sure excited! Thanks for the ideas!

    1. I want to say I did two coats. But I’ve found that it really depends on the brand of paint. If your box has a lot of markings on it, sometimes it helps to put a coat of dark gray or black under the blue just to even things out. 🙂

  18. Thanks so much! I made one for my son for this Halloween. We already went to a costume party this weekend and it was a HUGE hit! THanks for your tutorial!

  19. I will be attempting to make this over the weekend for my sons Halloween school parade. If I get it together I will look like a supermom!!

  20. Hi,
    Great costume! You are very talented and creative.

    I was wondering how your son got in and out of the costume if the straps were hot glued onto the box. Does the whole thing lift onto him and off of him over the top? I just worry about not getting the straps stable enough for my 4 year old to make it through trick or treating. And how to make it fit him right.



  21. I love the costume and I have a few questions for you in regards to your costume? If you could reply on here or email me please, thank you!!!!!

  22. Thank you for your super helpful guide, i made one for my son! I am in no way artistic so was extremely pleased with my effort and my son loved it

  23. WOW you did an amazing job! I made my son a Kristoff costume last year, which was fairly simple( along with a sled over our red wagon), but this is great. We are going to disney for Halloween though and i think it would be a feat to get this to Orlando otherwise i would try it, becuase you gave fabuloud instructions!! Keep it up girl!!

  24. Awesome! Thank you for your creative mind and sharing! I am struggling with the arch piece that is part of the roof. I was wondering if you created this freehand or used a tool or template? Thanks!

  25. I used your directions to make a Henry costume for my son last year and he is INSISTING I make him a Thomas costume just like it for this Halloween. Thanks so much for your directions! Everyone loved it last year, so I’m sure they will again this year.

  26. Luckily, I am an architect and can follow your great directions/pics. I may not go as far as you did on the 3D face, the mom said that was ok. I have an idea of getting a color photo of Thomas’s face blown up at the print/copy store if the price is rt and image clear and glue it to the round bx. I also found some very large plastic eyes w/ the moving black pupil at Walmart I’d like to use on the face. I do have 2 questions: to get the proportions rt.. “what was the size of the Rd bx you used for the face?” … 8″ diameter or 10″ ? and …it looks like you just used the lid of the boot bx for the base? …or did you cut dwn the bx part to a depth of ? 3″ ? Thanks in advance.

  27. Amazing work, Cassie! Quick question if I may: did you paint Thomas’ face in grey? I see eyes are white, but just wondering how to make the face grey: paint? Thanks very much, Eliane

  28. Thank you so much, Cassie. And what about the eyes – is that foam? I hope my Thomas looks a tiny bit like yours 🙂

  29. I’m making this for my son’s costume this year and I’m almost done. Two quick questions: What did you use for straps and where did you hot glue them in the back? Thank you!

    1. Hi Rachel, I just used some black grosgrain ribbon that I had on hand. It’s probably an inch wide. I hot glued it down on that vertical surface (inside) just behind where the kid stands. Does that make sense? 🙂

  30. This is a great tutorial – thanks for sharing! I am using it to make a black locomotive for a store Christmas window display (à la Selfridges London) – minus the Thomas face and the opening for the costume-wearer – and wondered how you adhered the various pieces to the box, such as the roof, the front panel, etc. Did you just use hot glue for that? Thanks!

  31. What did you use to join the cardboard together where necessary? Such as when you added the roof supports and then the roof?

  32. I tried this last year for my then, 3 year old. It was perfect! Your instructions were great. I chose to use home made paper mache and found a light sheet rock paste that worked perfect to form the face. I too, pay attention to the details. It turned out great. I wish I could post a photo to show you how it turned out. Now with them getting bigger, we’ve kept it, but should probably sell it since some may not have the time or want to take the time to make one by hand. Either way, it was a great idea.

  33. This is amazing. My son LOVES Thomas!!! I am thinking I might make an attempt to recreate this.. I know you said a few years ago that your son loved it and you were not willing to sell it then. Is that still the case? Because I would love to buy it from you if it were available.

    Thanks 🙂

      1. Awesome! Aside from the paper mache face, how long would you say this took you? Thinking about trying to tackle it this weekend!

        1. It’s been a while since I made this, but I’m going to say it depends on how crafty you are. I’m pretty quick and I did it over a weekend stop and start. It wasn’t that bad. Plus you’ve got instructions! Ha!

  34. hi,its is beauty,you can show me which spackle do you use for the face,please!!! I want to buy the spackle correct please!!!!

        1. Hi!
          I made this so long ago that I don’t remember what brand I used, I’m sorry! I think any one will be fine. I guess I’d just avoid the kind that changes color as it dries. 🙂

  35. Thank you SO MUCH for this. My son is obsessed with Thomas and this literally made his dream come true. I love to paint and create things but building a replica of something so beloved is daunting. This was the push I needed. I only really changed a few things: I put a bit of batting in the “toot”, I nixed the extra box on the bottom and used a strip of red paper (my box as already too wide), and I moved my wheels all the way up onto the box because they kept popping off. OH and I covered the whole thing in a few coats of Glossy Mod Podge which REALLY brought it to life.



  36. I’m 20 and attending art school and this design will help me create my own adult version of this for my schools Halloween contest. 2017, I know right that was a long time ago. Small artistic adjustments but the same idea. Thank you. I’ll be sure to update this when it happens.

  37. I am making this for my son for this year. I was just thinking how you made this 4 years ago and how your little guy must be all grown out of Thomas now! Anyway, thanks for this. I hope it turns out as good as yours!

  38. Hi, I know this is a super old post but I have a question for you–what did you do with the entire bottom of the box? Did you cut out the flaps? My Thomas structure is about 99% done, but I just realized my son won’t be able to stand in it unless there’s a hole there. Thanks!

  39. Thank you so much for the tutorial! I made my son one for Halloween this past year and it was a hit! My 3d Thomas face didn’t work out well though so it had to be flat lol

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