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DIY Electromagnetic Train Breakdown

Physics Girl

If you haven't seen the video yet, there is no excuse because here it is:

I'm going to break down exactly where you can get these supplies and the best way to go about making the train so everyone can truly try this at home. Let's get to it!


Any cylindrical battery works best. Batteries come in all shapes and sizes, but since we are coiling the copper wire, cylindrical batteries are preferred. If you want to try those PP3 rectangular ones and somehow create a square cross sectional copper train track I beg of you to film it and send it our way. Also, the magnets will be opposing each other on the ends of the battery, so the battery has to be long enough to keep them from pushing each other off the end.

Neodymium Magnets

Neodymium magnets are classified as a "rare earth magnet" composed of neodymium, iron, and boron that were manufactured by Sunitomo Special Metals and General Motors (also known as the only time an American car company got along with a company related to Japanese cars). They've only been around since the early 1980s!

Despite their fancy name, you can easily purchase these magnets here, where a ten count costs around $6-$7.



You can try cylindrical magnets and spherical magnets. Cylindrical magnets tend to caught on the coil "tracks," but spherical magnets have their problems too...

The magnets must be wider than the battery, since they'll be in contact with the wire to create current. When you put the magnets onto the battery make sure they are facing with like-poles inwards. If your train won't go, try flipping the magnets around. The magnetic fields from the permanent neodymium magnet push against the magnetic field created by current flowing from the battery through the magnets and the coil, propelling the train forward.

20 Gauge Copper Wire

Amazon is always your best friend. There is wire that is 15 yards long which is a decent amount for some good simple fun. For our long track, we wrapped 65 yards! Just remember that if you're attempting to build a very long train the distance of your wire will be shortened considerably depending on how small the radius of your battery is.

Keep in mind it must be PURE copper wire, not any of that Michaels stuff.

To create the shape of the coil, experiment with different sized pens and markers depending on the battery you are using.

Try experimenting with different radii of dowells to get the desired effect. Dianna and Dan Walsh worked together to form the ultimate copper coil track forming machine

 This guy from taped a dowell to a drill and let that do the work for him.



And that's it! Pretty insanely simple. If you make your very own awesome electromagnetic train, please film your contraption in action and tweet it to @thePhysicsGirl or @AshtroWarner, we'd love to see you put this to use!

Happy Physicsing!


authored by Ashley Warner