Backyard Train

This is a backyard train designed and built by Robert Woolson, who works as a Chicago TV advertising man and makes toys in his spare time.

I have included a few of the illustrations from the article in the August 1965 edition of Popular Mechanics.

Illustration showing the parts and how they fit together. Each part is numbered, but in the original article, there is no reference to these numbers.

Illustration showing the unique solenoid propulsion system for the original toy train.

What makes this riding toy unique is its method of propulsion. Today we would expect a toy of this nature to be driven by a battery powered electric motor.

In fact, this riding toy train is propelled by magnetic power in the form of a pair of battery powered solenoid pistons. 

Just like a pair of steam powered pistons, but instead of using steam to drive the pistons, this engine uses electromagnets.  There is a detailed circuit diagram with the plans, if that is the way you would decide to go.

Personally, I would love to make one. If I decided to try the solenoid piston driving mechanism, I think it would be wise to make a scaled down prototype first to see how it would work: I have no doubt it would.

I have seen many a solenoid motor on YouTube, even one made from paper clips. They tend to run really fast for some reason that may be obvious, perhaps because they are not governed, if that’s the right world.

3D digital model that I started drawing in AutoCAD.

I have made a very basic model in Sketchup.

Scroll down to view this 3D model.

The journey so far. The tin can boiler is the best feature.

Already made a few mistakes with the cab, not that anyone would notice.

SketchUp Model

This is a very basic 3D SketchUp model of how the parts fit together. It was an interesting exercise for me to practice on.

No dimensions yet, I am only using the free version.

You can download the model and make your own dimensions. I have made the parts on separate layers.

Have fun.

Free Download Backyard Train

Download a copy of the article on how to build this toy train.

The original drawings are very basic, something I would call technical illustration.

I am also making a basic 3D construction to see how the pieces fit together. One day I hope to find the time and the money to make one myself.


Here is part 1 showing how the 14 foot backyard train toy was made.

Instead of using the propulsion system as described in the article, Keith Mills used a wheelchair motor instead, which strikes me as a far more practical choice.

backyard trainBackyard Toy Train by Iron Horse Railroad

Read the journal of this backyard toy train project.

More Toy Trains

More About Backyard Trains

If you decide to make one, there is some help in choosing the motor and calculating the gear reduction ratio.