Wagon Tracks Quilt Block

Another block from the Jacob's Ladder family

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

Skill Level: Beginner

Grid: 6x6

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

Wagon Tracks quilt block tutorial

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!

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.

Step 1: Cut the Wagon Tracks patches

Wagon Tracks patchwork designWagon Tracks design

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 **.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

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”

These are some of the supplies I use to prepare and cut my fabric.

Step 2: Assembling the Wagon Tracks units

Half Square Triangles (HST)

Make 4

The Wagon Tracks quilt block - half square triangle units

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.

Buckeye Beauty quilt block tutorial Hovering Hawks quilt block tutorial
Jacob's Ladder quilt block tutorial Rocky Road to California quilt block tutorial

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

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

For even more blocks to make...

These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas. 

Can you see the library sticker on the spine of Jinny Beyer's book? Yep. I check this copy out of our local library every few months for research.

Maggie Malone's 5500 Quilt Block Designs is my all-time favorite quilt block resource!

Can you tell?

It's in color.

It's got a ton of blocks.

What's not to love?

Next on my 'must-have' list is Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

Unlike the Maggie Malone book, the blocks in this volume are hand-drawn and in black and white—no color—personally, I prefer colored drawings to work with.

This book is no longer in print.

If you can come by a copy expect it to be wickedly expensive. Once in awhile you can find it here on Amazon.com.

UPDATE: Electric Quilt, in cooperation with Barbara Brackman has announced they plan to republish the Encyclopedia sometime in 2020. 

However, all is not lost if you can't find a hard copy.

BlockBase is the computerized version of the Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

It contains designs for over 4300 blocks—pretty much every block published from the 1830's through the 1970's.

It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.

In fact, there are instructions included so that you can pull up the digital patterns within Electric Quilt (PC version for now) without having to open up BB program.

UPDATE: Electric Quilt has announced that they will be rereleasing the standalone BlockBase software for BOTH PC and MAC in 2020.

This is terrific news.

Finally there's The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer.

Lots of detail and in color, it is a beautiful volume. That said, I check it out of my local library on a regular basis instead of purchasing it—can you see the library sticker on it's spine. Yep, it's from the Plainfield Public Library.


Simply because I own the previous three references and find this the least user-friendly of the group.

And it does make a fabulous coffee table book!

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