Thomas the Tank Engine called into service at Bo’ness
Since 1945, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son Christopher have enthralled young readers with their Railway Series books.
Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends have never waned in popularity, helped in no small measure by the TV series, which first aired back in October 1984.
So the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, which operates Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, was delighted when it secured visits from Thomas three weekends a year – thanks to brand owner Mattel.
The local railway is one of only a handful in the country where youngsters, and the young at heart alike, can have their pictures taken with the loveable engine.
But this year, SRPS volunteers will be making even more dreams come true during their Day Out With Thomas weekends.
Amanda Kilburn, business development director, explained: “For the first time ever this year, the carriages will be pulled by Thomas, the Number One engine!
“For many years, people have asked why we can’t get Thomas to pull the train.
“Working with Mattel, we’ll be able to make those wishes come true this year.
“Tickets are on sale now but are being snapped up fast, particularly for the first weekend on May 16 and 17.
“We’d advise to book soon to avoid disappointment.”
Volunteers at the railway work hard in the run up to each Thomas weekend – it’s the equivalent of a royal visit, after all!
Amanda explained: “It’s a case of all hands on deck to get the bunting out along the platform and get the engines and carriages ready.
“As Thomas will be pulling the carriages this year, it will be even more exciting for us as well.
“We can’t wait to see the kids’ (and big kids’) faces when they realise their train is actually being pulled by the Number One engine.
“It’s amazing how much the children know about Thomas and his friends and seeing their faces light up when they see him.
“So we know how excited they’ll be to discover, due to popular demand, Thomas is pulling the train.
“It will be lovely to see him coming in and out of the station – we can’t wait!”
It won’t just be Thomas who’ll be visiting Bo’ness – the Fat Controller and Rusty and Dusty from the Isle of Sodor are also popping in.
And a whole programme of events have been lined up for the Day Out With Thomas weekends on May 16 and 17, July 25 and 26 and September 5 and 6.
Amanda said: “All sorts have been lined up, including a marquee with puppet and magic shows, fairground rides and a table-top toy sale with lots of Thomas goodies.
“Rusty and Dusty will also be on hand to meet and greet our visitors and ensure the station is running smoothly.”
As well as a steam train ride with Thomas, the £15 ticket price includes entry to the Scottish Railway Museum so families can make a day of it.
Amanda added: “It is events like this that allow us to run and maintain the railway and continue to preserve its heritage.
“We just hope there won’t be too many tears when the wee ones have to say goodbye to Thomas. Many of them won’t want to leave!”
While Thomas is arguably the biggest attraction for children, the SRPS has also lined up a host of events for all ages to enjoy this year.
The packed diary will kick off next month when Platform Reels returns as part of HippFest on Saturday, March 21.
A sensational triple bill of railroad heroines has been lined up, featuring screen legend Gloria Swanson, queen of the serials Ruth Roland, and the Biograph Blonde Blanche Sweet.
With food served from 6.30pm, visitors then curl up under blankets on the platform to watch movies on a screen propped up on the running shed wall.
Tickets are available, priced £19.50 (£17 conc), at www.hippodromecinema.co.uk but be warned, this event is always a sell-out.
The Easter Egg Specials will return from Friday, April 10, to Monday, April 13.
Friday, April 10, will herald the first of the Fish and Chip evening trains, particularly popular with locals, with bookings also being taken for June 12, August 28 and October 30.
Bookings are also open now for afternoon tea rides, taking place most Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays from April to October.
Dads aren’t forgotten either with a special event on Father’s Day on June 21, when vintage vehicles will also be on display.
Amanda added: “We’ve got a busy year lined up with bookings being taken now for all events. We’d love to see lots of locals coming along.”
To find out more or to book, visit the website at www.bkrailway.co.uk.