Squirrel Tracks Wooden Trains

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Ordering Info

Please note: all products Squirrel Tracks Wooden Trains sells are for children (and grownups) ages 3 and up.

Everything we sell is compatible and interchangeable with the
BRIO® and Thomas & Friends™ brands of wooden trains and accessories.

Our “Information and Ideas” Pages:
The Basics, Layout Ideas, Layout Examples, Free Train Table Plans, Books about Trains, Famous Squirrels

New Item!  From the creative minds at Squirrel Tracks
The Busy Little Engine DVD Front Cover
click to enlarge
*Parenting Magazine’s “Best DVD” (July, 2006). Click here to see more reviews.

“The Busy Little Engine™” DVD
"It's a very busy day in Dinkytown...." A little wooden train is pretending to be a real train, but he doesn't know much about what real trains do - he's only ever seen them at crossing gates. With some help from the Narrator and lots of imagination, the Busy Little Engine and his friend, Pig, have a lot of fun learning about what trains do all day!

Running Time: Approximately 34 minutes, plus extras
Recommended Ages: 2-6 years old


See fun movie clips, screenshots, hear song clips and more on Busy Little Engine’s own website!
(The shopping carts on this site and that one are shared, so you may pick items from either site and pay just one shipping charge)

Layout Ideas



Overview

Rule #1 is that there are no rules for making train layouts! If you’ve seen train table setups in toy stores, you might think you need to come up with the perfect layout and glue everything down. Toy stores do that so they won’t have to rebuild the layout after each kid plays with it. While you could do the same, most kids seem to enjoy changing things around.

So how do you come up with layout ideas? Examples on a train set box are great starting points, but sometimes half the fun of playing with trains is just hooking up track any old way - it’s a great way for a child to learn and discover! Try out all kinds of things. Sometimes your kid may want you to set up a layout, sometimes he or she may want to do it alone, and sometimes it’s fun to come up with a layout together.
Train Table and Set

Every piece of track is either straight or curved. Some track pieces, like a curved switch, are combinations of straight track and curved track. The most complex layout you can imagine is simply a combination of these basic parts.

On this page, we discuss concepts and ideas for train layouts whether you are starting out slowly or adding to your railroad empire. We’ll also give you our thoughts on what you can do with an inexpensive set, how to make things fit in complex layouts (see the nifty little demonstration graphic), adding track and accessories for creative play, and more!

Be sure to check out our Layout Examples page for pictures and detailed explanations of some layout examples that can be put together with common track pieces.

If you have any questions or comments about trains, train layouts, how kids play with trains, or anything else, please call or write us. We love to chat by phone or email!

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Start out slowly...or add to your growing railroad empire!

Express Train
That’s part of the beauty of wooden trains; you don’t need much to have fun, and if you like, you can always add-on later as your budget allows or your child’s interest dictates.
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If your child has never played with trains, start with a basic set and see how he or she likes it.

Simple Train Set

Most kids get a big kick out of wooden trains. But every kid is different, so if you're not sure then don’t make a big investment, just buy an inexpensive, basic set. A basic set usually comes with a locomotive and a couple of train cars, some track and a few scenery pieces like houses and trees.

Our Maxim® “Classic Figure Eight” set ($25.95) comes with a locomotive and three train cars, cute buildings, animals, and trees. It comes with a bridge and enough curve and straight tracks to make a figure eight. The Maxim® “Over and Under” set ($47.95) is similar but has more track, risers, and buildings. It includes two switch tracks allowing for great flexibility in making different layouts.

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Add track, switches and bridges for more complex layouts.

Switch Track

For more layout combinations and possibilities, we recommend adding-on switch tracks and additional straight and curved tracks. Adding track to a basic train set is a very economical way to maximize your child's play possibilties.

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How the flexibility of the Vario-System helps make great layouts.

Vario-System
The Vario-System for track connectors, as used by the BRIO®, Thomas & Friends™ and Eichhorn® and Maxim® brands is very forgiving when making complex layouts. As John Mechalas says in his web pages about 3D computer modelling of wooden trains (http://www.aracnet.com/~seagull/brioray/background.html), “[Vario-System] track is intentionally designed with a little bit of ‘play’, meaning that you can wiggle the pieces around in the joints to make the track fit together at slight angles and even pull it slightly apart. This is necessary because the curved tracks create 45º angles, and basic geometry tells you that a 45º angle leads to distances that are multiples of the square root of two. It would therefore be extremely difficult to manufacture properly sized tracks that fit together perfectly in even a moderately complex layout. Through the use of this ‘wiggle room’, tracks can instead be pulled around enough to make a decent fit that would otherwise be impossible.”

rearrange the order of
the tracks for a better fit
track fit
We have found that the flexibility of the Vario-System design takes care of most of the fit issues you may encounter in assembling complex layouts. Sometimes, if you find yourself stuck with a gap of a couple of inches that you just cannot pull together, rearranging the order of the curve and straight tracks leading up to your gap may fix your problem. (Move your mouse back-and-forth over the picture at the left for a demonstration!) If you really want flexibility, though, you might like to have our adapter tracks around. The “Male-Male” and “Female-Female” pieces are perfect for when things just won’t otherwise fit!

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Expand the possibilities for more creative play.

Big Train Roundhouse

We believe that Accessories and Buildings (and special track pieces like the switches or bridges) are the heart and soul of any train set. They are the launching points for endless adventures and exploration. Your child will come up with all kinds of stories and scenarios based around them and in the process will learn about, and experiment with, everything from social interactions to “city planning” to logistics.

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