Making Your Own Magnetic Stream Train Toy

With magnetic coupling, you can make a moving steam train.

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If you enjoyed our recent video on making your own scale-model Empire State Building from magnets, then you might be looking for a new magnet-based project to spend your spare time on. 

How does building a rolling model stream train sound to you? Read on to find out how.  

magnet train complete
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

But first, as you might imagine, you'll need some stuff first.

Materials and gear needed

With all your tools and materials in hand, it is now time to get on with this awesome, build. 

Step 1: Build the carriages/trucks

The first step is to take your metal strips and wooden blocks. Bend the metal strips around the blocks to make c-shaped pieces around the tops of two of the block's top edges.

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Next, take one of the metal sheets, and sellotape it to each end of the block. 

magnetic train wooden blocks
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, cut two lengths of plastic straw to the same dimensions as the depth of the block. Glue these into place on the "underside" of the block at either end. Also, add a third one in the center of each carriage/truck/truck.

These will form the holders for the carriage/truck axles later on. Rinse and repeat to make a second carriage/truck to the same specifications.

magnetic trains axle holders
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, take some lengths of magnetic rods, and two large magnetic spheres, and build the wheels/dollies for the carriage/trucks. Thread the cylinders through the plastic straw holders, as needed, and attach the spheres on either side. 

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magnetic train wheels
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, take some magnetic blocks, and stick them to the endplates of each carriage/truck. You'll need one to the top and one to the bottom of one of each endplate and ensure the N pole is pointing forwards.  

For the other end plate, insert a single bar magnet in the middle of the plate with the S pole, again, pointing forwards.

magnetic train end plates
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

This setup should allow the carriage/trucks to attract to one another, yet have enough repulsion from opposite polarities to keep them at a fixed difference apart. This is called the magnets' balance point. 

magnetic train links to carraiges
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, take your small colored magnetic cubes and build the designs of the carriage/truck wall that you want. The design doesn't really matter so make it as realistic, or not, as you see fit.

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With one wall complete, stick it to the metal brackets on each wooden block. 

magnetic train carriage walls
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Rinse and repeat for the opposite wall and roof of each carriage/truck of the train. For the second carriage/truck/truck you can copy the same design, or make it unique. This is completely up to you. 

magnetic train carriage walls
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Step 2: Build the train

With the carriages or trucks now basically complete, we can now turn our attention to the actual train. 

To start, take a long strip of metal to the dimensions you want for the length of the train. Slightly incline one end of the metal strips, as shown in the image below. 

Then, take three metal cylinders, and glue these at points along the length of the strip. As with the carriages/trucks, these will hold the magnet axles and wheels. 

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magnetic train chassis
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, take your small magnetic spheres, and build up the base of the main train body. You can do this to whatever design you want, but try to add some aesthetic details. Ensure the layers are to the same dimensions as the base steel plate chassis. 

magnetic train train base
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Once happy, stick the base to the main chassis of the train. 

Next, take another color of spheres (in this case orange), and make a c-shape block to form the rear of the train cab. The dimensions of it can be entirely your design, or you can mimic the one shown faithfully. 

magnetic train train cabin
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Mount it to the rear of the train. Next, make a series of small columns, and mount these into place around the cab. 

With that done, make a roof for the cab, and mount it on top of the columns as needed. 

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magnetic train cab roof
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, is time to turn our attention to the train's boiler. Grab a string of magnetic spheres, and coil them into an open cylinder. Then, make a conical end cap (to represent the front of the smokebox) for the cylinder, and mount it to one of the open ends of the cylinder. 

magnet train boiler
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Mount the cylinder in front of the cab. Next, using another color of spheres, fashion a stylized funnel/chimney for the boiler. 

Mount this into place on the front half of the boiler. 

magnet train boiler funnel
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, add some other flourishes like a set of domes along the top of the boiler. 

Next, take some more spheres of the same color as the main base of the train. With them make a stylized front buffer plate for the train and mount it into position at the front of the train. 

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magnet train front buffer
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Next, take some larger magnetic cylinders slightly smaller than the axle mounting tubes you added under the train previously. Thread these through the holes.

As with the trucks/carriages, add large spherical magnets to the exposed ends to make the wheels of the train. With that done, test the movement of the wheels by gently pushing the train backward and forwards. 

These should rotate freely. If not, adjust accordingly. 

magnet train wheels
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, take another bar magnet, and place it to the rear of the train. As with the carriages/trucks, it should be the opposite polarity to those on the frontmost face of the carriages. 

For some added detail, build yourself a suitably styled LEGO figure and place them inside the cab to act as the train operator. You can design them as you see fit. 

magnet train lego driver
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

And with that, your magnet train is finally complete.

Step 3: Have fun!

Now you can test the magnetic coupling mechanism between the train and the carriages/trucks to ensure it is working properly. 

You can also add some thin plastic endplates to the coupling magnets to protect them from accidental impact damage. But, this is not necessary for casual use. 

Once happy, it is time to have some fun with your new magnetic train toy. Happy days!

If you enjoyed this amazing magnet-based project, you might enjoy making your own magnetic accelerators/railguns? We thought that might pique your interest. 

Interesting Engineering is a participant of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and various other affiliate programs, and as such there might be affiliate links to the products in this article. By clicking the links and shopping at partner sites, you do not only get the materials you need but also are supporting our website.

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