Thomas the Tank Engine…the stuff that obsessions are made of. Well, actually not in our household. We have never been struck with the Thomas bug. It’s not that we don’t like him, there’s a certain fondness certainly – it’s just that he has never inspired the sort of all-consuming passion in my son that windmills, fire engines and bin lorries have. Adding to this slight ambivalence is a mild to moderate fear of very loud noises – station platforms have been known to send him into quite the frightened tailspin.
So you may think that it was with a certain sadism that I gleefully accepted the Watercress Line’s invitation to A Day Out With Thomas…
Ahem, actually it was deep-rooted parental wisdom my friends. I was sure a family-focused event such as this would get my son’s steam gene flickering. Wisdom, and the desire to force my enjoyment of something onto my children. You see I love steam, no, I adore steam – the smell, the sounds, the mechanics, the motion. I was taken to a steam fair for my hen do with my local friends, and – a life high – I actually got to drive a traction engine because it was my hen do.
So how did my experiment go? In a nutshell, terribly well. We had a fantastic day. But nutshells are not what blog posts are made of so let me set the scene:
First of all we did a little bit of preparatory PR with the 3 year old. OH MY GOODNESS HOW EXCITING, WE ARE GOING TO MEET THOMAS THIS EASTER! That sort of thing. I kept it up for two weeks. The day before I managed to divert my son’s Brio runway building into train track building and injected some more excitement by showing him pictures of the railway line, Thomas and…well, and then he wanted to watch youtube videos of windmills but I’d made an impact I was sure.
The day of our visit dawned (at dawn) and we were all a bit giddy to be honest…for some it was sleep deprivation for others it may have actually been the PR working. Anyway car packed, car journey completed, car parked and we were at at Ropley Station. The first steamy whistle could be heard in the distance and with bated breath we watched my son exit the perceived safety of the car… ‘IT’S THOMAS!’ he roared, and immediately turned himself into a sort-of inaccurate but energetic chugging train thing. After my initial panic that I had spurned some dormant Thomas-fanaticism and would only have myself to blame, I realised that it was more event day-enthusiasm than anything else and so I joined him – with a little bit more technical accuracy I’d like to point out.
The tone was set for the rest of the day – he threw himself into everything, I lost count of the times he greeted Thomas and Diesel (it wasn’t Diesel it was Toad, but my son doesn’t know who Toad is and thought he was Diesel so he’s Diesel) mumbled at the Fat Controller or stalked Rusty, the children’s entertainer. He slid down giant bouncy slides, spinned round on teacups, ate chips, watched a magic show, watched countless trains choo-chooing, rode on mini trains, big trains, Thomas trains…
The tickets included everything (except the food, and OUCH the chips were pricey, but yummy…I love chips…maybe a blog post for another day – ode to chips?). Anyway there was so much to do, we didn’t get round to all the activities and entertainment on offer. Tickets also included unlimited train travel on the Watercress Line which, again, we didn’t use to its full potential although we enjoyed a lovely short hop down the line to Alresford where more characterful vehicles were waiting to be greeted…
The welcoming, friendly atmosphere really made the day for us. There were great facilities for families – free parking, buggy park, nappy changing stations, stickers, waving conductors, waving engine drivers, comedic platform announcements… We had a memorable and fantastic full day out as a family and I imagine it would be a dream come true for a hardcore Thomas fan.
We were invited to the event by The Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line and I’m happy to share our day with you here, needless to say all opinions expressed in this masterpiece of the typed word are my own – and those I’ve decoded from the rest of the family.
A family ticket is £54 which includes two adults and two children. It’s not a budget day out as such, but then a fully working railway (that relies heavily on volunteers) is not cheap to run with or without the Thomas extravaganza… If you missed this Easter’s visit then fear not, Thomas and, you know, the rest of his friends, will be back at the Watercress Line in the Summer holidays, 5th – 13th August.