The 6 Demandments of Train Track Design (With Sweet Plans!)

Image by flickr user woodleywonderworks, used under Creative Commons license.

Stretched before you is a 32″x48″ tabla rasa and a drawer of track pieces. The stakes are high. Success means hours of independent, uninterrupted, creative playtime, eventually resulting in your child’s acceptance to MIT. Failure to build is the surest path to your child’s career as a grocery bagger. It’s up to you!

But did you really take the Hulk’s words to heart and imagine that practice, prayers, eating your vitamins, and believing in yourself would see you through to the track of your dreams? Ha! As if, sucka. The only path to total track domination is by following the Six Demandments below:

I: Thou Shalt Not Leave Loose Ends

Duh. This should be obvious. But you never know, there are some seriously under-informed dads out there. Basically, if you leave loose ends you’ll be relegated to the innermost circle of the hell of a thousand crooked pool cues.

II: Thou Shalt Include At Least One Hill

Because a set-up without a hill would be lame, and by extension you would be lame, and your child would know it, and this negative father image would lead to grocery bagging and your do-not-pass-Go admittance to the hell of perpetual searching for Gruyere with two cranky kids in a crowded supermarket.

III: Thou Shalt Include An Unbroken Outer Loop

So the two-year-old can play as well as the four-year-old. In this geek’s experience, failure to build an easily navigable outer loop leads to toddler frustration and the quick, Godzilla-like destruction of your masterpiece.

IV: Thou Shalt Not Use Specialty Pieces To Save Your Sad Bacon

Especially that bendy snake piece that can bail out loose ends you can find no other way to connect. Shame on you for owning this piece. You’re going to the hell celibacy and the downstairs couch.

V: Thou Shalt Not Build Rickety Flights of Fancy

As tempting as is the triple-high hill with a branching turn at the top, this way lies heartbreak (see Godzilla-like destruction, above). Also, it’s too easy to go fancifully big. This bigger-crazier-is-better mindset is the same that creates battery powered flashing, beeping toys and Yo Gabba Gabba. Limit your pallet, grasshopper, and you will find enlightenment.

VI: All Else Equal, Thou Shalt Build Symmetrically and/or Reference Breasts

Because both are pretty and we like pretty things. Also, it’s funny.

Below are three track designs that precisely fit the standard 48″x32″ train table, follow the Demandments, and use nothing but basic track. (Though working a tunnel into the lower-center of the first design would highlight the reference.)

I’ll put high-res versions at garthsundem.com. Oh, and you can follow me on Twitter for near constant bombardment by geekery: @garthsundem. Oh II: if you have additional Demandments, I’d love to add them to the list.

This first design is an ode to what got you in this predicament in the first place

As if the Mouse didn't already rule all other aspects of our lives

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