Kian was always my resident Thomas fan in the family and I have fond memories of taking him to see Thomas and friends at the Day Out with Thomas event at Swanage Railway when he was younger.
He was obsessed with all the characters and we built up quite a collection of Thomas toys which went up into the loft when he grew out of them. We always hoped that Isaac would enjoy them, but he favoured Fireman Sam but luckily Sebastian followed in Kian’s footsteps and once again, all the Thomas toys are back out and being played with again.
Although I was disappointed that Thomas no longer visits us at Swanage, we discovered that he was due at the Mid-Hants Railway Watercress Line over the Easter holidays, from 30th March – 8th April.
Although the main activities are at Ropley Station, there are things to do at each stop along the line, so we started at Alfresford Station at the top of the line.
We were greeted by Trevor the steam roller and Bulgy the bus outside the station before heading inside to buy our old-fashioned tickets. All the staff were friendly and welcoming and even showed the kids how to clip their tickets as we entered.
Once on the platform it was a half an hour wait for the next train to arrive, but they were offering rides in a diesel shunter, Harry.
The driver was brilliant with the kids, explaining how the train worked and what the various levers did as we chugged up and down the line in the cab, whilst answering any questions they had.
As we pulled up to the platform the driver was radioed to say another train was coming and to move into the sidings, so we hopped off and headed for the bridge to see it arrive.
At each station the kids got the opportunity to take part in other free Thomas-themed activities, including colouring, making train sets and temporary tattoos in the Imagination Stations.
We had also been given passports to fill in, so once we boarded the train, we got them out and started to fill them in and play the games inside.
Our next stop was Ropley Station, which is home to most of the days activities and is around 15 minutes from Alresford.
There is something about riding on a steam train that is very special and the kids loved watching the world go by out of the windows.
It was a lot busier at Ropley station, but all the activities were nicely spaced out so you didn’t feel over-crowded and we got our first glimpse of Thomas himself.
At the station, they offered free unlimited trips up and down the railway line behind Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends, including Toad the Brake Van and Diesel.
Sebastian was more excited by up close to Thomas rather than riding in a carriage behind him as he couldn’t see Thomas pulling the train and this was a very popular activity, so there was a short queue to hop onboard.
Also at Ropley were vintage fairground rides including Chair ‘O’ Planes and Swing Boats.
The swing boats were a real hit, especially with Isaac and Eliza as they had several goes throughout the day.
Train mad Sebby was happy watching the trains go up and down the track but also enjoyed a ride on the miniature railway too.
Also at Ropley was the chance to meet the Fat Controller, story time and Rusty’s Magic show.
The best place for food is also at Ropley as there is a large picnic area and lots of locally sourced food stalls to try, but there are refreshments available at all stations along the route.
Once the kids had exhausted all the activities we decided to head up the line towards the next station, Medstead and Four Marks.
The activities here were more suited to toddlers, so we decided to continue up the track to Alton, where they got to take part in a treasure hunt before catching the last train of the day back to Alresford.
A Day out with Thomas is a fantastic day out for all the family and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend getting their early and making the most of a full day of fun.
A family ticket for a Day out with Thomas costs £54 and all the activities are included in the price, so the only spending money you need is for food, drink and treats. They run events all over the country throughout the year, so do check the events page to see if there is one near you.
Thomas will be back to the Mid-Hants Watercress Line from 4th-12th August 2018.