A Day Out with Thomas
A Day Out With Thomas, Llangollen Railway (North Wales)
The first day of March is Arthur, our smallest Small’s, birthday and this year he turned three. Somewhere between his last birthday and this one, his love for Thomas the Tank Engine has gone from passing interest to borderline obsession so when it came to planning his birthday we had decided we wanted to treat him to a proper steam train ride.
That led to me trawling the internet for a steam railway running on or around his birthday within reasonable driving distance for a day trip. One of the first places I looked up was Llangollen Heritage Railway in Denbighshire, a place I have visited numerous times in my life both to visit/see/ride the trains and also to go walking in the surrounding countryside, visit the bookshops, eat ice cream and, once, to stroke a real, living and breathing wolf (but that’s a story for another time).
Imagine my delight when inspecting their timetable I discovered that on the weekend before Arthur’s birthday Llangollen Railway was hosting a Day Out With Thomas event! Perfect! I had practically booked us in before reading the ‘what’s on’ page – it didn’t matter what was on, it involved Thomas therefore it would be awesome.
We decided not to tell the Smalls what was happening so on the day we just got them dressed – Arthur in a Thomas shirt with his new brown suit over the top (like a Fan-Boy Fat Controller!) – put them in the car and said we were going out. They decided along the way that we were going to a new park and we just grinned at each other and let them babble away.
Once we had parked up in Llangollen, we walked through town and over the beautiful bridge across the river to the station. The entry-way was lined with banners and flags bearing that familiar face sparking utter glee in Tori and totally overwhelming poor Arthur. He went from ecstatic to terrified in about ten paces and flatly refused to let the poor gate-lady to put his wristband and sticker on. We put them both on his Thomas rucksack instead in the end and went on in through the gates onto the platform.
Arthur perked up the second he spotted real-life Thomas sitting on the opposite platform, billowing steam whilst the Fat Controller stood and invited us all to jump into one of his truck/carriages for a ride. We hopped onto Clarabel (I was most excited about this – she was always my favourite carriage as a kid) and after a few minutes we set off (backwards) down to the end of the (very long) station platform and back again. We did this twice and then it was all change (if you felt like it, you could ride as many times as you wanted all day) so we decided to go for a wander round the station.
Upstairs we discovered the Imagination Station which was full of Thomas & Friends themed activities for the kids to try – all included in your entry fee so no rummaging around for change. There were quiz sheets, jigsaw puzzles, colouring pages, bunting flags that you could colour in then peg up on the walls with the actual bunting, modelling clay, face painting and a balloon modeller making trains, flower bracelets and helicopters amongst other things. Along with, of course, a fine selection of Thomas trains and track to play with and a DVD playing Thomas in the corner for some quiet time.
After a while we decided it was time for the main event – the 7.5mile train trip along the Dee Valley to Carrog. There were two trains running at the station Goliath the Steamy and Daisy the Diesel, we timed it so that we could make the journey to Carrog on Goliath and the journey back on Daisy.
The train journey was lovely and the kids enjoyed watching the countryside roll by outside and the bouncy chug-chug-chug-chugging motion of the train.
At Carrog there was a marquee set up and we settled down for a puppet show with Sammy the Sealion and his friend John. They were hilarious, I think we enjoyed it as much as the kids! Then we had a look in the station shop which was situated in a converted old train carriage, it took a while to peel Arthur away from the display of Thomas trains and he wasn’t best impressed that I told him he couldn’t have any because it was his birthday the following weekend and he had to wait and see what he got then.
Then we had lunch in the station tea rooms sat next to a proper coal fire. Grumpy Arthur had a doze and Tori coloured in about forty more bunting flags before Daisy arrived to take us back to Llangollen.
When we got back, the Smalls announced that they wanted another ride on Thomas, this time on Rickerty the truck. On we got and just as we took our places, Diesel oiled up beside us and the Fat Controller announced that they were going to have a race! This was ridiculously exciting considering it was just up the platform and back but I haven’t laughed so much in ages. Thomas won our first race but on the second one he cheated by not going all the way to the end so the Fat Controller disqualified him!
We got off and sat on a station bench to watch the next round of races. This was Arthur’s highlight of the day I think, he loves Diesel almost as much as Thomas.
It was a delight to be part of it all because it was obvious that all the train drivers, firemen, guards and the Fat Controller were having a whale of a time too and it made for an almost party atmosphere.
It was a brilliant day out for us as well as the Smalls and I highly recommend it to anyone with a Thomas or train fanatic in the family.
The Day Out With Thomas crew tour the UK so you won’t necessarily have to travel to North Wales to experience it. Just check out the website to see where they are headed next – it is well worth the money you pay (We paid £44 for a Family ticket – 2 adults & 2 children and under 3s go free).
Llangollen Railway is running a weekend timetable from Llangollen to Carrog (there are other stops on the line) through February and March then a fuller timetable through the summer of both Steam hauled trains and heritage restored diesel engines. There are also all sorts of events through the year that you can go to including driver experiences and they are even licensed for weddings and civil ceremonies!