Sometimes when you ask your almost-four year old what kind of birthday party he wants, he says “Goats!” and you panic. And sometimes when you ask again he says “Choo choo trains!” and you’re super happy about it because you can DO trains. Trains are awesome. You also happen to have a massive collection of electric trains in your basement from both your childhood and your husband’s childhood, so a theme is born. BOOM. Vintage train birthday party it is!
I will do this mostly in pictures, since that’s the best part. HUGE post, apologies, feel free to skip if you hate parties, etc etc etc. I’m going to put a truly insane number of photos on Facebook and Flikr too.
I printed banners and food labels on brown cardstock and cut pennants out of scrapbook paper (some new, some leftover from previous party supplies). The vintage stuff lying around (suitcases, globes, lanterns, etc) is from my own supply of
junk collectibles or borrowed from my parents. All the train and sign clip art I made using a free fonts from dafont.com – Eisenbahn is the vintage train; old seals tfb and PostageStamps are on the water bottle labels; wmroadsigns, wmthe50s and wmtransport1 are the rest (for the record, the old fashiondy font on almost everything is CM Old Western Shadow, also from dafont.com).
My dad made the railroad crossing sign out of scrap wood in my basement and I painted the letters using a stencil I bought at A.C. Moore. Dad also built the wood table to set up the electric trains. Evan and E painted the Melissa & Doug wooden train on the food table together. The tablecloths are a collection of sheets/fabric I keep in a box just for occasions like this.
I made the Arrivals/Departures board out of just a piece of composite board painted with chalkboard paint. I made up trains and times based on family names and dates.
I made train cars with disposable aluminum trays and black cardstock to serve the food, including a coal car, veggie car, and a berry boxcar. I served lemonade in glass “milk” jars (actually Target frappuchino bottles I used for Caroline’s last two birthdays) with fancy straws, old fashioned root beer in bottles, “Chugga Chugga” water bottles and juice in Take’n'Toss cups for the kids.
Here’s my train inspired menu -
Steam Puffs – coconut macaroons
Coal – Krispie treats make with Cocoa Puffs
Train shaped cookies
Train shaped cucumber sandwiches
Rails – black licorice (courtesy of the American Licorice Company! Happy National Licorice Day!)
Railroad ties – vanilla sandwich wafers
Switch Cheese Sandwiches – grilled ham and swiss on wheat bread
Cheddar-nooga Choo Choo Sandwiches – grilled cheddar cheese on pumpernickel-rye swirl bread
Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Southwest Dip – Heluva Good black bean queso dip (REALLY delicious)
Berry Boxcar – Fruit
Conductor Cubes – cheese cubes
Stoplight Kabobs – watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon
Short Line Shortcake – mini cups of pound cake, strawberries and whipped topping
Golden Spike(d) Lemonade – I left the spiking up to my guests so no one accidentally got their kid drunk
And the cake is a good old-fashioned super sweet grocery store cake from Big Y. It was a Thomas cake until I took Thomas and Percy off and put a little Amtrak train on it. Boom! Custom vintage train cake.
I made the child-sized trains out of cardboard boxes I’ve been collecting for a few weeks. I covered the boxes in plain paper (the kind you buy at Ikea to go on their art easel) and cut out construction paper shapes to make them look sort of like trains. The tracks all over my house are electrical tape purchased at Home Depot. We used approximated 8 60-foot rolls (they come in packs of 10) and E free-handed all the tracks.
As a craft, I bought cheap paint, brushes and wooden cars at the craft store and let the kids decorate their own wooden trains.
My dad worked really hard to set up both model train sets so the kids could run them. That was all stuff we/he already owned but the Tyco HO gauge electric trains are really inexpensive on Ebay. The kids also played with the Thomas/Ikea/Brio wooden tracks and trains.
The kids took home their painted trains, conductor hats and train whistles as favors.
Sources & Supplies (if I missed something you’re looking for just ask!)
Vintage travel posters (plus a calendar I dismantled) – AllPosters.com
Train whistles – Oriental Trading Co.
Conductor hats – Oriental Trading Co.
Wood trains for painting – A.C. Moore
Train lollipops – Oriental Trading Co.
Train car serving dishes – ShopRite
Train shaped cookie cutter – A.C. Moore
Train shaped sandwich cutter – gift, available on Amazon
Sisal twine – Home Depot
Tiny clothes pins – Amazon.com
Photo book & prints – Shutterfly.com
Brown burlap – Home Depot
Orange burlap & fabric – Joann’s
Whew! That was exhausting but super fun. Now please come over and eat all this leftover cake before I do.
So so many thanks to my parents for their help and to Kim for letting me borrow some of her photos!