Sunday, October 31, 2010

DIY Thomas the Tank Engine & Sir Topham Hatt Halloween Costume

There are a lot of cheesy store bought Thomas costumes out there that try to make the kid look like Thomas.  But, since my husband pulls our 2 yr old around in the wagon when he trick-or-treats, I thought it made more sense to dress him as a person (Sir Topham Hatt) and dress the WAGON as Thomas.  Here's how I did it!

Making Sir Topham Hatt

The Sir Topham Hatt costume was really just a matter of finding the right color pieces.  I pulled together a white dress shirt, a black velvet suit coat, and gray dress pants from garage sales and thrift stores for about $7 for everything.  The top hat I found at a Michael's craft store for $4.  Finding a bright yellow vest was the tricky part.  I was planning to find some yellow piece of clothing at a thrift store and use one of his current suit vests as a "template" to make one. 

 I ended up buying a sleeveless women's button-down blouse and altering it. I turned it inside out and put it on Sammy, and pinned in the sides and the shoulders to make it fit.  Then I just chopped off the collar, ironed and sewed seams on the neckline and waist, and boom...vest.  I cut off the buttons and sewed on giant black ones, with some iron-on velcro underneath.  So, the velcro actually holds the thing shut, so I didn't have to make new button holes.
I did have to shorten the pants a little, because I couldn't find gray ones in his size, but that was a quick and easy fix.  I found a black men's tie for $2 and a pair of black leather penny loafers for $3 to complete the costume.  (I shortened the tie as well...just with scissors and glue)

I think it turned out pretty good for only $16.00, and what mother doesn't want to see her little boy dressed up in a suit and top hat?!!  He was a dashing young fellow if I may say so myself.

Making Thomas the Tank Engine

Since Sammy was going to ride around in a wagon anyway, I figured, why not turn it into Thomas?  It would be way more fun to RIDE Thomas than dress like him.  I wanted this thing to really look like Thomas, but then be easily removed when we want it to go back to a wagon.  I'm afraid he may want this wagon to stay dressed as Thomas forever though...

 I used a mix of cardboard boxes in the garage, of which we have plenty since we're packing to move.  I used my x-acto knife, school glue and mailing tape to build a back and sides.  I tried not to intrude on the inside of the wagon too much, to ensure there would be enough room for little Sir Topham Hatt to get in and out.  The two sides are glued to a flap on the back box, so they can flex and spread apart, and the whole thing can slide back off of the wagon in one piece.

There is a cutout in the back box, so it slides over the back of the wagon just a little bit and sits on the wagon's sides.  The side "wings" are then held against the sides of the wagon with simple rubber bands (above).

Next, I made a front piece that slides over the top of the front, with cutouts that fit like a puzzle.

This piece stays on purely by friction and gravity, holds the sides against the wagon, and covers the rubber bands.

 Next I made the third piece of the puzzle...the rounded face.  The cutout fits over the front box, holding it into place against the wagon, and the cardboard that tucks inside the wagon then has a 90 degree bend, where it slips in between the wood side rungs of the wagon, locking the entire thing into place.  No glue or fasteners required to put it together and take it apart! After this photo I taped an old food canister on top of the round part for the smoke stack.  ( or "smoke stash" as Sammy calls it)

 Next I cooked up some homemade paper mache paste, (just flour and water on the stove top) and layered some brown packing paper over all of the seams and on top of all the mailing tape.  I didn't want the paint job to be chipping off of the smooth, shiny tape.  This way the entire surface is paper/cardboard, so the paint will look consistent.

I popped off the front circle and decided to make a 3-dimensional Thomas face to glue back on later.  To do the eyes, I cut a Styrofoam ball in half.  The nose, cheeks, and chin are crumpled up paper, taped into the shapes I wanted.

 Next I made some paper mache paste from flour and water and covered everything.  After this point, my dogs got into the garage when I wasn't there, ate all the paste and shredded the face.  So, this photo above is the 2nd time around!

Back to the face... I didn't like that the cheeks and chin were still so flexible, and didn't want paint chipping off if it got squished.  So, I took some plaster cloth that I had on hand from previous projects and put a layer of that over the whole face, which dried nice and hard.

 I used some gray paint left-over from painting a wall in our kitchen, and some white for the eyes and mouth.

 The black paint really made it look like Thomas!

The next time my husband went to Home Depot, I sent one of Sammy's toy Thomas trains with him so he could pick out a matching swatch of blue and get me a little can of "Thomas blue" paint.  I used that to cover the body, and had some really dark gray from a previous project to paint the roof and the front end.

The other colored accents were what really made it "Thomas!"  I added some red stripes, the #1, windows and whistles.

And, finally, I attached the face to the front, added little Sir Topham Hatt, and it was a match made in heaven!  Sammy was pretty thrilled when he stepped outside and saw his very own Thomas in the front yard.  I have a feeling we'll have to keep the wagon dressed up as Thomas for a while now...
Of course I had to go online and find a few contests for homemade Halloween costumes to enter him here is my shameless plug for votes from one contest!

I hope you and your kids have a fun, safe, and happy Halloween! 


  1. This is awesome! My son would have freaked out! I whipped up a last minute James the train costume (didn't have enough blue fleece left in my stash to do Thomas) during naptime after he refused to wear a handmedown monkey outfit... James was a bit rough around the edges but made the little guy happy- Am saving your post for inspiration for next year!!

  2. That is awesome! My Mom did something similar about 6 years ago for my oldest nephew but your Sir Topham Hatt costume is amazing! You really nailed it. I cannot wait to show it to my Mom. Take care, Kerri

  3. Thanks!! The only thing I wish I had done after the fact, is add a little white trim around the edge of the coat collar, like the cartoon character. I think it's done in white just so you can see the outline on a black coat in the cartoon, however, that would have been a great place to add some reflective material too! ;-)

    1. Hi Gretchen I added lights to the top of my train so it will be seen on Halloween for sure and also glow sticks if the lights go out Batteries don't last will send you a pic of my results once it's all complete if you like. Thanks for your idea I love to do crafts and always looking for something new to do.

  4. WOW!!! My son would go NUTS for this!! Love, love, love it!

  5. I Love your sons sir toppem hat outfit and the wagon! Are you by chance wanting to sell either of them? If so please contact me.

  6. Thanks!! I'm not sure I'm ready to sell it just yet...I'd like to hang on to it one more year just in case my younger son ends up being a Thomas fan. But feel free to ask me again next year if it isn't too late! ;-)

  7. I just wanted to thank you so much for posting this. I was searching for Sir Topham Hatt costumes and came across your blog. I got the outfit in pieces from random thrift stores and found a yellow, woman's blouse, size small and altered it the same way you described. He looked so sharp and we got many compliments on it!

  8. Shoot! I was hoping my profile pic would come up. It's of me and my son in his outfit. I thought you would like to see it. Maybe this one will work. :)

  9. "EthansMommy," I'm SO glad you found my post helpful! Your photo is awesome...great job!!! :-)

  10. wow! I admire your commitment. Looks amazing.

  11. Hi Well I am doing my own version of the train and I have already made the Sit Topham Hatt costume for myself that I used at my great nephews party just Sunday passed, it was a total success. I made the head out of a huge balloon tissue paper glue then pop the balloon once it is all dry. I also did up a Pinyata with a trap door so i can reuse it. I am now working on the train for my great nephew and I to go out and do the Halloween thing a favour to his gramma. I have always been the crafty one in the family so they all call on me to make things. I amaze myself even. Thanks for your ideas this has turned out to be the best one yet for me. Sincerely Michelle Lavelle Mississauga Ontario

  12. Hi it Michelle again well I got my train all done just a bit of last minute touch ups and it's ready for my Great Nephew for this Halloween. I will post a pic if i can to let you see, I did not copy at all just took your ideas and made it my own. Thanks for sharing and the idea it will be the hit of Landon's community for sure.

  13. I am in the process of making my little engineer a Thomas wagon to use for this Halloween. Thank you so much for this great tutorial. I hope to make this a fun memory for my little guy.
    One of my most favorite things my parents ever did for me was by helping me become something or someone else each Halloween. Not just a store bought last second idea.



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