Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Lights Project - Trainville

Day #9 and we are wrapping up the Lights Project!

No Science lesson - I've nothing more to share that you might need - so we're just playing today.




There's the station with the stoplight;

the train,

with its engine

and little cars

loading up at the station.

All aboard -

and ready to go!

Two years, it took me. Not because it was hard, but because I had to stop and go shopping for parts, and find times in the day/night to finish it in secret. And I got distracted by, I dunno, sewing. It went through so many mental revisions and finally, for the sake of actually finishing it, I just kept the train, the two stations and the tunnel. 

I threw out (mentally) the rails, the motor and gears (for making the train run on its own), the rotating train house, the ginormous fold-up playscape, the roads, the turnarounds, the cardboard trees and houses, the little barricades, the lighted street lamps ..... it would never end, all those details.

We have a modest little wooden train set, which the girls sometimes play with. But nobody can actually ride in the little Thomas/Ikea/Imaginarium trains, you know? And my girls, with their clans of prettyrellas and peg dolls and playmobil and Little People, like loading them up in vehicles and zooming them off on adventures. We made Carville a long time ago, in response to that. I'd wanted to make Trainville then, too. Well, I'm not working on it anymore- it's done. And my girls are two entire years older since I first designed it for them. How did that happen?

Here's the tunnel, which is the very last project in our experiments with those Ikea STRALA lights. It's just cardboard, hot glued together.

It's hollow

so the lights can be installed

and lit.

Why didn't I install lights in the train, too? Ah, because I made the train two years go, friends. At the time, I didn't even know you could buy battery-operated light sets like the STRALA ones. If I'd made them this month, for the Lights Project, they would most definitely have had lights.

And that playscape - instead of building it all for them (as I would have had to, two years ago when they were teeny), I gave the kids the blank canvas to design their landscape. 

There are the train tracks I saw in my mind - I knew they'd turn up one way or the other!

The girls have just started, so it's still very bare. I'm hoping that eventually it will take on a decent character like the Carville playscape.

No, I'm sorry but I'm not doing a tutorial for the train. It was so long ago that I don't even remember how I made it. If you look at the photos, you'll probably get some ideas. All I know is there are toilet rolls and paper towel rolls involved, and some bent wire to hook-and-release the train cars. I hope you try it, though. I also hope you remember to put lights in it. May you finish yours sooner than I did!

And -would you believe it - it's Christmas Eve! Did you enjoy experimenting with circuits and lights with us? My guests and I had a lot of fun with our projects, and we hope we've given you some ideas on what to do when your kids get to that age when - like mine - finger-painting and popsicle-stick crafts and scented homemade playdoh no longer excite them. We're always cardboarding and (when the mood strikes) circuit-ing around here, but I don't often step out and share it on this blog. I mean, it's so very different from sewing that sometimes I wonder if you think I've gone loony when I start frothing like a rabid dog in my excitement over Science and stuff. Also, I initially considered doing this series in January or February when all is bland and unfestive. But I wanted to catch you before you unthinkingly threw out all those shipping boxes that were sent to your door by the Cardboard Fairies. And perhaps Target - or IKEA - will have a post-Christmas sale at which you can snag light strings for pittance. One hopes. 

And on this note, I bid you a glorious Christmas! I hope you get to play a lot with the kids (if yours are still small enough to play goofy games with, I mean) this weekend! 


  1. I can't believe that train is still intact! It must be very well constructed!

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!!!

  2. I love the train. This whole series has been cool, and reminds me of back when my dad let me play with LEDs and circuits. I think a trip to Radio Shack and your tutorials could make our second week of christmas break a lot more entertaining. Thanks!

  3. I absolutely LOVE love love your lights project! I think this is one of the nicest projects I have seen online in quite a while - it's different and witty and beautiful.
    Hopefully I'll get around to trying out some of your ideas soon, my daughter and son will love this.

    Thank you for a the thought you and the others have put into it.

  4. Glorious Christmas to you LiEr and your family. I have loved this series and stopped in on Christmas Eve just to peak at the train in all its glory. I am the child of a physicist who (sadly) not one of his 3 daughters pursued physics - probably because he could explain optics as well as you. Happy Christmas!

  5. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Lier! Thank you for all of the inspiration that you have given to me this year! You inspire me to be better! I think I am getting a sewing machine this year (because I saw it on the front step) -don't tell! I am interested in making reusable lunch bags and snack sacks and sandwich bags and produce bags for shopping at the farmer's markets, and pretty much everything on your blog! Have you made any of those things? It is so nice to know that I am not the only one like likes nutella as much as you! A FABULOUS new year to you.

  6. I've loved the Lights Project - it's never occurred to me to try putting lights into my creations, and now I'm itching to start! I was wondering if anyone knows where I could find LEDs and switches etc in the UK?
    I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and look forward to reading more in the New Year.

  7. AWESOME! Santa gave our 3-1/2-year-old a train set today but yours is infinitely more creative and inspiring.

  8. Your project are so wonderful. I love everyone. Merry Christmas from Italy

  9. I found your blog a week ago and I think I've already read all your posts, I love it, I love your creations with cardboard, where I live it will be like heaven to you! hundreds of boxes are thrown away every day, beautiful boxes, so last Monday I picked up one notebook box and some other things and made this to my daugther
    she loved it, now she wants a bedroom!!!

  10. Mrs T! Merry Christmas to you and family... I hope everyone is doing well! Love your train set. It's wonderful! My wife got me started in a lightbox project for the kids ( now I have 2 since we last spoke) and I need to think up of electrical design before buying the supplies. Reading your blog reminds me of your physics class again and inspiration to provide fun and educational tools for the kids minus the burning a hole in the wallet. -rizal-

  11. Rizal! So good to hear from you! Two kids! Congratulations! Ah, you're a qualified, experienced engineer now, so I should be consulting you. BTW, one of my Christmas gifts (from husband) was a breadboard and box of jumper wires so I can keep playing circuits with the kids. Except I'd forgotten how to connect up the ground plate - it's been YEARS since I used one of those. So - my question for you is, "How to you connect that aluminum ground plate?"

  12. You inspired me to make a flying saucer for my 4yr old. You can see it at:

  13. I know this is a really old post, so I hope you'll see this comment. I was shopping on for my son and saw this that made me think of you: I thought it would be a great way to combine cardboard and circuits!

  14. Ich sehe das ist schon 10 Jahre her, aber ich bin begeistert. Werde das wahrscheinlich für mein Fenster 2021 mit Lichter nachbauen. Vielen Dank für die Inspiration. Grüße aus Berlin


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