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Ding-Ding Gate: a train crossing costume for Halloween

  • Tagged The crafts
  • Commenters Therese Collins

One of my very favorite features of our neighborhood is its quaint street-grade train crossing. Ezra adores watching the “ding-ding gate,” perks up whenever he hears its bells in the distance, and loves bringing his arm down slowly in front of his face in an interpretive dance portrayal of the gate’s journey.

So, as Halloween grew near, and other costume ideas fell by the wayside, the one that kept coming back to me was the gate. I found a few ideas online, here and here, and set out to make our very own train crossing costume.

This costume went through many versions and false starts, but eventually I was really happy with it. Here’s the lowdown, if you, too, would like to declare, as Ezra did while at City Hall protesting library budget cuts, “We are the 99% (of 2-year-olds obsessed with trains)!” (He didn’t say that.)


Materials: Black felt, 3/4” elastic, black craft foam sheet, clip-on bike tail light (like this, with the clip attachment), Railroad crossing sign (I used this, downloaded and stretched as big as I could print on a single sheet of paper), foam core board, exacto, double-sided tape, glue, hot glue.

  • Cut a 4-inch wide strip of the felt, fold it in half, and either sew or glue it shut, leaving about an inch open at either end to insert the elastic. Measure the kid’s head, cut the elastic, and attach it to the felt with a sewing machine or needle and thread to make a headband.
  • Cut a 1/2” wide slot in the middle of the felt, about 1/2” from the top, and slide the bike light clip into it. In my case, this left the bottom of the light flush with the bottom of the headband. I taped a piece of foam over the clip so it wouldn’t dig into Ezra’s forehead.
  • Measure the bike light’s sides + top (or about 3/4 of its circumference if it’s not square-ish), and cut a strip of craft foam that is that length and 2-2.5” deep. Round the corners of one long side. Use a strip of double-sided tape to tape the light visor over the sides and top of the bike light.
  • Print the RR Crossing sign and glue it to a piece of foam core. Use an exacto blade to cut around the edges.
  • Use a hot glue gun to attach the sign to the light visor in front and to the headband in back.

Crossing Gate, hand-held version

Materials: foam core, red duct tape, silver duct tape, black craft foam, glue, elastic and/or drawer knob.

  • Cut a rail from the foam core. Mine was 3” wide and 18” long. Use red duct tape to make stripes. (Hint for even striping: lay a placeholder strip of masking tape next to each strip of duct tape, then remove the masking tape when you’re done.)
  • Cut two hinge shapes from craft foam. Use silver tape to make bolts. Use glue to sandwich the rail between the hinges.
  • Use glue or duct tape to attach some kind of handle to the back. We used hot glue to attach a drawer knob.

Crossing Gate, sleeve version

Materials: Stiff white fabric (I used heavy stabilizing interfacing), red duct tape, sewing machine, shirt.

  • Using a tracing of the sleeve of the shirt, with an extra 1/2” added to the bottom for a seam allowance, cut the sleeve out of the white fabric on the fold. With the sleeve unfolded, use red duct tape to make stripes. If you are careful of your sewing machine (oops), you should trim these to stop 1/2” from the edges, so you won’t be sewing through tape.
  • Fold the sleeve, and sew the seam shut (I did this wrong sides together and just trimmed the seam for simplicity and because the interfacing doesn’t fray.) Slip it over the sleeve of the shirt and attach it with a safety pin, stitch, or piece of duct tape at the top of the shoulder.
  • Make one or two. I did two.

The pole
After realizing my kid had no clean, matching grey clothes, I decided to dress him in brown and make the pole out of duct tape. One version had the “pole” just running on one side of his body and one pant leg. Later, I made his whole front into the pole, and made both of his arms into gates. I didn’t like how this looked quite as much (it looked like a robot with candy cane arms to me)…but it was super practical for a two year old who might need to, say, hold a monkey with one of his arms.

Ding ding ding ding DING.

Ezra was Max (Notes on how to make it)
Ezra was Bubbles


Therese Collins

Nov 2 / 22:43
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