Our grandson loves all the Thomas the Train characters but he loves the big red engine named James. We found a Thomas costume on your website and used the instructions as a starting point for our version.
The James the Red Engine Costume is made from two cardboard boxes connected with nuts, bolts, and washers. The wheels are cardboard, attached the same way. We used an oatmeal container for the smokestack and polyester fiberfill for the smoke.
The bell is a plastic cup spray painted gold and attached with a glue gun. The rounded top of the engine is made from half a pizza box attached by cutting tabs on the cardboard and slits in the top of the base box. We found red duct tape at the craft store and used it to secure the seams.
We used acrylic paint from the craft store with disposable foam paintbrushes. The numbers are adhesive mailbox numbers from the hardware store, outlined with a gold paint pen. The detail work is done with a black Sharpie.
We found the face online at a site called percyengine.com, even though the face is James (each engine really does have a slightly different face and every kid knows which is which!). We printed it on glossy photo paper and glued it on with hot glue. It held up just fine!!
The shoulder straps are red grosgrain ribbons. We cut slits in the edges of the box, passed the ribbons through, and secured them to dowel sticks under the box flaps. That made it possible to adjust the straps to fit. We also made a ribbon loop with velcro fastener that we used to hold the ribbons together behind my grandson's back. It kept the straps on his shoulders.
The front-heavy problem was alleviated by taping a small plastic bag of stones (like the ones you would use in a fish tank or potted plant) as a counter-weight under the back box flap using duct tape.
We attached two old cabinet handles, one on each side, so our grandson could more easily navigate obstacles and corners.
The James the Red Engine Costume was fairly inexpensive, Grandpa had a ball putting it together, and Ryan absolutely loved it!!!