Making your own BRIO/ELC compatible trains?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by TraveledSome posted 10-04-2012 02:18 AM 17630 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View TraveledSome's profile


30 posts in 3065 days

10-04-2012 02:18 AM

My son has just discovered wooden trains already at 18 months, and loves them so after seeing real trains at our train museum he’d rather sleep with a wooden train then his stuffed animals.

One thing has bugged me is how commercialized and character branded these have become. There is a guy who was a woodworker who started to make more realistic trains but simple and wooden. They’re the Whittle Shortline toys. This really got me thinking that I would like to make my own trains for Sigis, and to base them on trains he’s seen here at our local TN Valley Railroad etc. My biggest issue is finding the hardware. This may have been posted in the past but I can’t find any really good topics explaining what is needed.

To give you a quick idea a german woden train company Eichhorn makes a repair kits that ha most of what you need.

Eichhorn 4890 repair kit

From other posts I have read the first trick is to get upholestry nails that are domed and 1/2” ceramic donut magnets or couplings, in a perfect world I’d like them coated too. probably some basic Chrome or similar plated upholestry nails to keep magnets fastened, and because you need curved surface for coupling to work right. Not sure yet where to get these but would like to buy some bulk….as I plan on making quite a few trains….not really for buisiness, though I like the idea of using for limited trains for fundraisers, maybe for our rail museum even. (it costs a lot to restore a steam train) I really have no plans to turn this into a buisiness like Whittle, though I highly recommend those trains…..just a hobby… I love trains. And no one else would make the historic trains I have in mind, would like to make some rare ones.

The part I am most confused with is where to get little plastic disks for wheels….plastic really is superior to wood for this. I know some people have used wooden wheels but they don’t hold up to the abuse usually and plastic simply rolls better. The hardest part is the axils….most are similar to above a tiny steel hollow rod with ends often domed like the upholesty nails either screwed or locked into the ends. This allows both axle to roll, and wheels to roll on axle….for these trains you want as little friction as possible so they roll free…..where on earth to get these?

The above Eichhorn kit would be perfect except it’s expensive and not even available in the United States.

Also I can get non toxic paints from hobby store, but I am wondering on what clearcoat I could use, I might want to use some decals as well under it. should be able to take abuse and be non toxic, child safe etc….any ideas?

Like I say I’d like to order in bulk.

I need 1/2” small doughnut hole cermaic magnets pref with a coating or I can just dip them in something myself. (to protect kids from chewing or getting at magnets and ingesting.)

I need some domed upholstry nails slightly smaller then magnets so 3/8 shiney and able to be magnetized.

I need plastic wheels….no idea on this…..

I need the axles… Some sort of hollow rods that I can screw or fasten in sides….will have to measure to see size…not even sure what this piece of hardware would be called….but see above picture. If someone can even name the hardware I’m looking for it would be helpful.

Not in a rush I’m in the planning stages only. Pick up any Thomas, Maxim, BRIO, IMAGANRIUM etc wooden train and you will get the idea as to what I need.

-- "People are eternally trying to walk out of difficulties, instead of trying to work out of them."

5 replies so far

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 3275 days

#1 posted 10-05-2012 07:53 PM

I agree the toysareus stuff is pretty cheesy looking. You will get a huge boost of self confidence to your woodworking skills after trying out Les Neufields book, Toys that teach, check out my train on my projects and tell me what you think.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 3540 days

#2 posted 10-05-2012 09:21 PM,42363,42348&ap=2
Ring Rare Earth Magnets.

-- See pictures on Flickr -[email protected]/ And visit my Facebook page -

View gepatino's profile


217 posts in 2972 days

#3 posted 07-29-2015 03:06 PM

I’m playing with the idea of making a set of trains like the Brio or Thomas, at this pace I think I will end up making these for my grandkids… but anyway….

I’ve found a lot of detailed information about the tracks gauge system, and lengths, but nothing about the standard size of the wagons.
Of course the length seems to be whatever you want that wagon to be, but I guess there’s a standard maximum height and width, otherwise some wagons could get stuck in tunnels or crash with bridges.

Does anyone know about the maximun height and width for the wagons? Anyone has a tunnel or bridge to measure it? (I don’t own any yet)



View Papatim's profile


2 posts in 628 days

#4 posted 01-01-2019 01:37 PM

Amazon has the upholstery nails in 7/16 dia. If that is too large perhaps you can put them in a hand drill and run them against a file to reduce size. Let us know if that works. With the magnets from Lee Valley listed above, they look just like the Brio train connection to me.

The wheels and axel can be bought here.

Let us know how you make out. I have not used these products but will at some point.

View Papatim's profile


2 posts in 628 days

#5 posted 01-13-2019 06:34 PM,42363,42348&ap=2
Ring Rare Earth Magnets.

- mtenterprises

Mike, Upon further research I don’t think these rare earth magnets are a good choice for toy application. They are too strong. If a child should remove and swallow two of them they can pass through the digestive tract and pinch off the intestines. This site has a strong warning that does not appear on the Lee Valley site.


Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics