My Festival of Thrift Cardboard Train

The Festival of Thrift is a national celebration of all things thrifty and aims to show people how reusing, recycling and upcycling can be fun. The Festival of Thrift is the UK’s national celebration of sustainable living. After winning the Arts and Culture category of the Observer Ethical Awards 2015, it will return to its founding host site Lingfield Point in Darlington on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September 2015.

This year Festival organisers are poised to bring together nationally known scrimpers, leading and emerging artists, musicians amongst special installations, demonstrations, debates, workshops and stalls offering upcycled, recycled, sustainable and of course thrifty goods in Darlington to help communities towards a happier, more sustainable way of living.


To celebrate the launch of this year’s Festival, which coincides with the 190th anniversary of the world’s first passenger steam train that travelled between Stockton and Darlington, the Festival challenged a selection of bloggers including me to get crafty with cardboard in the name of being thrifty.

The only thing I had to do was make something rail related using a cardboard box I had round the house, for me the decision on what to make was simple, my by loves trains so I wanted to make something he could play with and using only things I had about the house. Now my craft stash is probably more well stocked then most and I get a lot of deliveries so boxes aren’t an issue but I tried to use things that most people would have in the house.

Safe in the knowledge that I’m very unlikely to win anything I got crafting with the boy, as otherwise for me there’s little point, created a basic but rather cool train and got very messy in the process.

My hope is with this simple ‘how to’ guide anyone can turn what would otherwise be rubbish into something fun with their kids, for their kids!

First Steps for your Cardboard Train

You’ll need;

  • Two Cardboard boxes of different sizes, a smaller square box for the top of the train and a larger longer one to form the base.
  • One sheet of black card
  • DuckTape
  • Paint
  • Four Paper Plates
  • Tin Foil
  • Tape
  • Glue

Completing your Cardboard Train


Start by taking the smaller box and cutting off the top flaps and one of the sides, this will be the back of your train for the kids to enter the train.

On the opposite side of the box that you cut the ‘entrance’ into, draw round a plate to create a large circle and cut this out. Pop the box to one side.

With the larger box again cut off the flaps and one of the sides to complete the open back of the train.

Place the smaller box onto the large base box and draw a line where the box goes to, so you can cut this amount out of the base box allowing your child to enter the ‘cabin’.

Now all the cutting is complete, use tape to join the two boxes together to form the main shell of your train. It doesn’t have to be firm at this point, you will properly joining everything together once it has been painted.

Paint your train, if you’re lucky and it’s sunny get outside and get messy, if you’re inside my top tip is to use a cheap shower curtain or one of those plastic party table cloths as a floor covering so you don’t have to worry about paint splashes.

Take four paper plates, these will be wheels, paint these too.Finished Cardboard Train

Whilst you are waiting for everything to dry you can make your funnel using a piece of black card made into a tube and secured with tape or glue. I decorated the top of our funnel with a strip of Duck Tape.

When everything is dry, use the Duck Tape to go over all the joins, this not only gives a strong, firm and easy bond, but works as part of your train’s decoration. I used purple tape, but you can get all kinds of patterns and colours.

Attach your paper plate wheels and card funnel using tape or glue.

I used strips of Duck Tape to add a square to the front of my train to which I attached my tin foil light, well circle of foil.

At this stage your train is complete and ready to be played with but you can go all out with the decorating if you want, as my little one is not even two yet, there’s not much point as he will destroy his new toy fairly promptly, but as it has cost me exactly zero pence, having only used things that had lying about I really don’t mind.

With thanks to


Comments are closed.

Festival of Thrift
Sign up to get updates
Photo Gallery
Be a Partner


Arts Council England
Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
Tees Valley Combined Authority

with support from:

Web Development Cumbria by Colourmedia TM