And so it came to pass that The Boy turned three years old and developed, as so many little boys before him, a fascination with a certain blue steam engine. Thomas the Tank Engine became a regular fixture in the household and the entire family could often be heard to sing, "They're 2, they're 4, they'r 6, they're 8; shunting trucks and hauling freight" amongst cries of, "Mummy, you got the words wrong again!"
Does that describe anyone else's house?
The Boy loves Thomas. There's something about the gentle stories, narrator's voice and animation (yes he prefers the newer version) that really gels with him.
Which is why I had to take him to see Thomas the Tank Engine when it recently came to Dean Forest Railway near Lydney, in the Forest of Dean.
We didn't tell him where we were going, but the minute we drove into the car park and he saw the sign for Thomas, he was jumping up and down in his car seat. The Dean Forest Railway is set in the middle of a wooded valley and it's quite sheltered from the wind with many trees around the area. It all adds to the vintage feel of the engines and carriages sat on the sidings, all hinting to a bygone era. In the reception courtyard there is a vintage ride-on merry-go-round, a small steam engine run by a group of enthusiasts from nearby Newport, and a view of the sidings. This leads onto a really comprehensive gift shop with everything you could ever want to buy branded with Thomas the Tank Engine (of varying prices) and a quiet room with puzzles, DVDs playing, Thomas construction, etc.
Crossing through this area onto the lower platform meant that we got to see Thomas chug in and excite many little boys and girls, before having an engineer's certificate from the Fat Controller himself, Sir Topham Hatt. We then had an hour or so in which to explore the rest of the platform, have faces painted, enjoy the cafe (in an old train!) or read the Thomas book that we'd been given.
There were two journeys that we could have gone on, one leading down to Lydney Junction or one up to Park End. We went on the one to Park End which actually started off by racing the steam train going to Lydney Junction. It got everyone excited and geared up for the ensuing journey which took forty minutes in total (round trip). I'd forgotten how hot it can get on the old trains!
Back at Norchard station we had the opportunity to go on a brake van pulled by Thomas, and watch Diesel and Thomas waiting in the station. It was a really good day and The Boy loved seeing the real Thomas, a must for every little fan.
There is currently a selection of dates left on the Thomas Days Out tour around Britain, prices vary depending upon the location. Dean Forest Railway have provisional dates for next year's tour in May and August 2013, it's possible to sign up for the newsletter to receive up-to-date information.
We received free entry into the event with complimentary tickets. My opinion is honest and unbiased.