Making Tin Can Toys

by Edward Thatcher 1919

Toy Train

Tin Can Train Plate 16

The locomotive shown in Plate XV is made so that the connecting rods move back and forth as the locomotive is pulled along. The principal dimensions are given in Fig. 89. This locomotive is not much more difficult to make than the auto truck, but it should not be attempted until the auto truck is satisfactorily completed.


The frame of the locomotive should be made first, and it is made from a flat piece of tin 5 1/4 by 10 1/2 inches. Scribe a line 1/4 inch inside and along all edges, cut off the corners as shown in Fig. 89 and fold all four edges in. Cut into the corners of the frame on lines A, A, A, A. Turn down the two sides of the frame first, then turn down the two ends. The four pieces of the sides that project beyond the sides are turned in over the ends as shown in Fig. 89. The sides and ends of the frame may be turned over a square maple block. Solder the frame at the ends.

Steam Tractor and Gun Plate 17


The boiler is made of two small soup cans. One whole can is used and the bottom and part of the sides of another can of exactly the same size is soldered to the first can to make a long boiler. One long can, if obtainable, may be used for the boiler. When two or more cans are soldered together to make a long boiler the' two rolled rims of the cans soldered together give the appearance of a boiler strap as shown in Fig. 89.

Toy Train with Details Figure 89


The cab is made of a rectangular cocoa can. Most of one side is cut away leaving just enough to fold back against the sides of the cab. The cab is then placed on a wooden block and a chisel is used to cut the window openings. A large round punch may be used to cut out the front windows or a very small chisel made of a nail may be used to cut these circular windows. A top is made for the cab from a piece of tin 3 3/4 by 3 3/4 inches square. One-quarter inch is marked off and turned in all around this piece. Two opposite sides are folded down and the two other sides are left standing at right angles to the piece and these two opposite sides are left open just enough to slide over the top of box forming the cab where the top is soldered in place as shown in the drawing. The boiler should be soldered to the cab and then these two are soldered to the frame where they touch it at the front end of the boiler and the base of the cab.


The front wheels of the locomotive are made of the small sized evaporated milk cans exactly in the same way that the wheels of the auto truck are made. These wheels are 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 5/8 inch wide. The wire axle of the front wheels passes through two lugs that are soldered to the sides of the frame. The driving wheels are made from 3 1/2 inch rolled-rim cans. The axle for these wheels passes directly through holes in the sides of the frame. A piece of galvanized wire 1 1/4 inches in length is used for driving pins for the connecting rods on each driving wheel. Each piece of wire is placed through two holes in the driving wheel, these holes being directly opposite each other and exactly 1/2 inch from the center of each wheel. As these driving pins pass entirely through the wheel they should be soldered to each side of it in order to give added strength, as they would break away from the wheels very easily if they did not pass entirely through the wheel and were not supported by each side of it.

Cylinders and Connecting Rods

These cylinders are rolled up from frat pieces of tin each 2 1/4 by 3 1/4 inches. The tin is folded over on the two shortest sides of each piece before it is formed into a cylindrical shape, the folded sides of the tin forming each end of the cylinders. The connecting rods are made of two strips of tin, each 3/4 by 6 1/4 inches. Both sides of the strip are folded in, making a triple thickness of tin and a connecting rod about 5/16 inch wide and 6 1/4 inches long. A disk of tin is soldered to one end of each connecting rod. These disks should be somewhat smaller than the diameter of the cylinders so that they may slide easily back and forth inside the cylinders. The connecting rods have to be bent at the two angles shown in Fig. 89 so that each rod may be in line with the cylinder and with the driving wheel.

The Smokestack, Steam Dome and Whistle, Sand Box and Headlight

The smokestack is rolled up from a piece of tin 2 3/4 by 2 7/8 inches. This piece of tin is cut from the side of a can so as to leave the rolled rim at the top for the rim of the stack. The steam dome is made of the top part of a tooth powder can with the distributor top left on. This top is left open to form a whistle. That part of the tooth powder can which rests against the boiler must be fitted very carefully so as to conform to the curve of the boiler. The sand box may be made from a bottle cap and the headlight may be made from another bottle cap as shown in the drawing.

Cars Figure 90


A coal tender for the locomotive may be made from a small square box mounted on a frame or platform similar to the locomotive, only smaller. The car wheels may be made from the small evaporated milk cans or from any small cans obtainable. A freight car may be made from a long square box in a manner similar to the coal tender. Passenger cars may be made from long rectangular cans and the windows and doors may be cut or painted on the sides or ends. Be sure to place folded strips of tin over any raw edges left when cutting out windows and doors.

A Passenger Car and Some Others

A passenger car may be made from an olive or cooking oil can; that is, about half of one of the larger cans cut lengthwise. Select a can so that when it is cut lengthwise to dimension it will be in proportion to the locomotive which is to be used with it. No dimensions are given in the drawings as these cans vary in size, but it is not difficult to find a suitable rectangular can for a passenger car. When the can is cut open, draw two parallel lines along the sides for window openings. Do not try to cut each window separately, but cut one long opening for all the windows, bind the cut edges with folded strips and then solder folded pieces across the window openings at intervals for divisions between the windows. Cut a door in each end of the car and bind the edges with folded tin. The projecting hoods over the door at each end of the car roof may be made of part of the sides and bottom of a square can or from that part of the olive or cooking oil can that is cut away in making the body of the car.

A flat piece of tin may be used for the bottom of the car, this piece being formed in exactly the same way that the frame of the auto truck is formed. It is made long enough to allow for a platform at each end of the car, and the car body is soldered securely to it. Car wheels may be made from very small cans as any other tin can wheels are made. Two bottle caps may be soldered together for a wheel or several flat disks of tin may be cut and soldered together at the edges to form a wheel. The tin washers used with roofing nails make an excellent wheel when two are soldered together, back to back. Never try to use a single can lid, bottle cap or tin disk for a wheel that is to bear any weight. Any of these are too weak to stand up alone. The wheels are mounted in the manner shown in the drawings of the passenger car. Other cars may be made from cans as shown in Fig. 90, the construction being so simple as to need no further description. These cars may be made as simple or as elaborate as the skill of the maker permits.