Where to find modular wheel assemblies for kids magnetic trains?
December 10, 2008 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Kid's magnetic train sets. Where do I get the wheel assemblies to make my own?

My son is a train fanatic. He has all the New York subway trains, many Thomas trains, etc. (the kind that attach magnetically and roll on wooden tracks). I noticed that all of these use modular wheel assemblies that screw right into the body of the train. If I could get that wheel assembly sold separately, we could easily make our own trains, maybe with a wooden dowel cut down to size and have the fun of decorating them. I've had no luck trying to find these parts on the internet. You'd make me a hero if you can give me the tip!
posted by tonci to Shopping (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I noticed in the catalog I just got in the mail that Rockler has some stuff-
Router bit to make tracks
Toy parts, including wheels, axles, etc.
magnet for coupling trains
posted by JMOZ at 7:38 PM on December 10, 2008

Cherry Tree Toys sells kits to make the magnetic type trains. They also sell the parts to make the trains. They have the screws to attach the wheels (listed in the parts kit), but all I see for wheels are the wood ones.

I have bought patterns and wood kits from them before and was always very pleased. They seem like very helpful people when I had questions, maybe they can help you with the wheels.
posted by JujuB at 7:46 PM on December 10, 2008

Why not just buy some generic versions of the wagons and decorate those? It hardly seems worth the trouble to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. The set we have for our boy was a generic set handed down from his aunt. Had I an inkling, cutting down one of those wagons to modify it would be the route I would choose for something custom.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:58 PM on December 10, 2008

Not exactly what you are looking for but: I feel like I am always pimpin' them but Lee Valley once again has something close to what you want. They sell the kits and the parts separately. Their customer service is amazing too. If you wanted to just have plain "Thomas" cars to paint they are pretty common here, we do them all the time at my local independent toy shop for free. Here are a couple of kits.
posted by saucysault at 8:07 PM on December 10, 2008

Interestingly I was pondering this very question recently. A member of my extended family who also has a train-loving youngster suggested that a train specialty store near my town (this one, to be exact, though very little of their actual inventory is on the website so don't bother looking for it) had very generic, unpainted "boxcar" type compatible cars - basically just a wood block or dowel on a wheel base. So such things exist and you might look for train-specialty shops near you and see what they have. I was told they were just a few dollars each.

The other thing I considered is that you can often find batches of generic knock-off cars for fairly cheap on eBay and such. Probably the cheapest way to get compatible wheelbases with a little DIY modification. This is all theoretical though, I haven't actually followed up and bought anything though. So far I have not found any new parts specifically advertised as compatible with Thomas (or as they are often billed, Brio-compatible) wooden trains.

A couple other notes - my son has a little generic wooden car - it looks like a homemade project - that has ordinary craft-type wooden wheels on it. The axle (measured from the outside edges of the wheels) looks to me to be 1 & 1/8th inch, and it fits well on the Thomas tracks. The wheels are a little over 1/8th inch thick and 3/4 inch diameter. This doesn't solve the coupling problem, I think those rare earth magnets JMOZ links would be way too strong for this application. For your further research, here is a pretty good discussion of many of the various compatible sets here, though it's not exhaustive - it leaves out (or hadn't yet caught up with) several compatible brands including Maxim Enterprise, KidKraft, and BigJigs Rail. On second thought maybe I should be advising you not to go down this rabbit hole...
posted by nanojath at 9:01 PM on December 10, 2008

A couple more links since you put this damn bug in my ear again and I started digging around - there's an earnest if haphazardly edited Wikipedia page, wherein I found (the only working link of two DIY links in the references) this guy, who's specs on DIY trains seem pretty exhaustive - he makes them basically from scratch (check the impressive gallery of handmade cars!) Honestly after all the digging I've done I feel pretty confident that a compatible prefabricated wheelbase with magnetic couplings just doesn't exist.
posted by nanojath at 9:27 PM on December 10, 2008

nanojath: To be honest, I was a bit concerned about the RE magnets as well (pinched finger risk?), but the picture from Rockler shows them being used for toy trains, so I would guess they might be reasonable. You could certainly imagine putting something over to increase the distance between the magnets if the are too strong.
posted by JMOZ at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2008

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