Wagon Tracks Quilt Block

Another block from the Jacob's Ladder family

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Skill Level: Beginner

A Wagon Tracks quilt block is a snap to make. Just simple half square triangles and a bit of strip piecing.

Here we'll use a quick pieced half square triangle method to get the job done.

This block is also known as the Pacific Rail Road. Other Jacob's Ladder quilt blocks are shown at the bottom of this page with links to the instructions to make them.

Wagon, ho! It's time to make tracks!

Wagon Tracks quilt block tutorial

General Instructions

All seam allowances (SA) are 1/4".

Press units flat first to set the seam. Then open the patches and press again, being careful not to accidentally press a tuck in at the SA.

Take a minute to learn about our favorite technique to getting the flattest quilt blocks you'll ever see. Fast. Simple. Easy. Perfect every time!

Starching your fabric makes cutting and piecing much easier.

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Step 1: Cut the Wagon Tracks patches

Wagon Tracks patchwork designWagon Tracks design

Sample Size: 6" finished / 6½" unfinished

Grid: 6x6

Attribution: Ruby McKim

AKA: Pacific Rail Road (Nancy Cabot)

Design Type: Jacob's Ladder, Even 9-patch

All the four patches are set in the same direction (dark in the upper right and lower left squares) so that the units can be strip pieced with directional fabrics if you so choose.

I prefer to cut oversized #1 and #2 squares for the half square triangles, stitch and then trim to the exact size.

So for the 6" sample block, I've cut my #1 and #2 squares at 3-1/8"x3-1/8"—a 1/4" larger than the 2-7/8" listed. These patches are noted with **.

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Cutting Chart for a
Wagon Tracks Design Quilt Block

~ Traditional Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size
6” 9” 12”
1** A 2 2-7/8”sq 3-7/8”sq 4-7/8”sq
2** Background 2 2-7/8”sq 3-7/8”sq 4-7/8”sq
3 Background 1 1-1/2” x 16” 2” x 21” 2-1/2” x 26”
4 B 1 1-1/2” x 16” 2” x 21” 2-1/2” x 26”
Unfinished Block Size 6-1/2” 9-1/2” 12-1/2”
Grid Size 1” 1-1/2” 2”

Step 2: Assembling the Wagon Tracks units

Half Square Triangles (HST)

The Wagon Tracks quilt block - half square triangle units

Make 4

With a pencil, draw a diagonal line on the back of each of the #2s.

With right sides together (RST) layer these marked #2s with their unmarked #1 counterparts.

Stitch a 1/4" away from the line on both sides, on both pairs.

Stitch a quarter inch away from the line on both sides.

With your scissors, cut on the drawn line to create two HST from each pair.

SAs are pressed to the dark.

Cut the sewn pairs in half along the drawn line

Your HST should measure the size that corresponds to the Finished Block Size. Remove the dog ears. Trim if needed.

Block Size
Trim HST to...
6” 2-1/2”
9” 3-1/2”
12” 4-1/2”


The Wagon Tracks quilt block - 4-patch units

Make 4

With RST, sew the #3 and #4 strips together along the long edge.

Sew #3 and #4 together

Press the SA toward the darker fabric.

Straighten one short side by aligning a line on your ruler with the seamline of the strip set (white arrow). Trim away a sliver with your cutter.

Straighten a short side of the strip set with your rotary cutter

Now subcut this stripset into 10 units equal to the width indicated in the chart below.

Block Size
Width of Strip Set Subcut
6” 2 1/2" 1 1/2"
9” 3 1/2" 2 "
12” 4 1/2" 2 1/2"

After cutting...

Cut the strip set into 10 equal widths

Stitch the pairs together, RST. Pin if needed for a good match in the centers. Press with the SA either to one side, open or twirled.

The finished four patches

Step 3: Assembling the Wagon Tracks quilt block

Arrange your pieced units into the Wagon Tracks design shown below. All the four patches are laid out with a dark square in the upper right corner.

Pay particular attention to the direction of the dark side of the HST. It's easy to get them flipped around before piecing them together.

Arrange the patches into rows

With RST stitch the units in each row together, pressing with the SA toward the HST.

Press the SAs toward the HST

And finally, stitch the rows together. Pinning makes matching the points of the HSTs much more accurate, and especially on the first try!

Use pins if needed for a good match at the seams.

Give your Wagon Tracks quilt block one final press and it's ready for your quilt.

The finished Wagon Tracks quilt block.Wagon Tracks quilt block

Other Jacob's Ladder quilt blocks...

...are shown below. This design family is generally characterized by a combination of four patch units and HSTs. The designs are either 4- or 9-patch based.

For design inspiration, click here to check out the Jacob's Ladder quilt pattern page.

Share your work to inspire other Quilters!

If you use our tutorials to make your blocks and quilts, there are some easy ways to share your creations so other quilters (including me!) can enjoy the fruits of your labor:

  • On Instagram please tag your blocks and quilts with the hashtag #GenerationsQuiltPatterns.
  • Visit our Show n'Tell page on the website. Click here to share photos and tell your own story, just start typing at 'The name of your quilt is...'. If you'd prefer to submit more photos than the form allows, simply email them to me at julie@generations-quilt-patterns.com.

I love seeing your work!

Our readers do, too!

For even more blocks to make...

Click here to learn about my favorite quilt book resources that inspire my patchwork designs.

For you, are quilt block patterns like potato chips...

...you can't have just one?!!

Check the amazing resources I rely on for the majority of the quilt block designs you see on this website. 

To see if they're worthy of spot in YOUR quilting library, read about them HERE.

NOTE: All the attribution and alternate names shared in the Free Quilt Block Patterns Library came from these four resources.

This article was printed from Generations-Quilt-Patterns.com

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