Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Play. @ Day Out with Thomas

Emerald Town Station

Saturdays and Sundays Seasonally - 9.30 am, 10.30 am, 12 noon and 1.30 pm.
Check website for upcoming dates :

Adults and Children (4+): $22.50, Toddlers (1-3 years): $11.00, Infants (under 1 year): Free

Thomas and his Friends are undoubtedly THE most famous train engines in the world (Sorry to the Gang @ Chuggington's)  A massive franchise has risen from The Railway Series books written by Rev. W.V. Awdry (and subsequently his son Christopher) in 1945.  And what's not to like?  Thomas is a cute little blue engine who is essentially an analogy of every young child, albeit one who works at a place that will no doubt have WorkSafe and Slater & Gordon "all in a huff" over the number of work place related accidents, breakdowns, crashes and lost cargo.  And what about the career-ending, politically incorrect habit of calling the Boss "The Fat Controller"???!!! 

Here comes Thomas!

<On a side note, what is it about famous writers naming their kids "Christopher", who go on to not-so-famously follow their footsteps and write a bit more after Daddy stops???  Hello there A.A.Milne and J.R.R.Tolkien. (Yes, some more of my useless trivia.) >

Day Out with Thomas events are planned all over the world wherever steam engines are still running, and the crowds they draw have not diminished over the years.  Here in Victoria, they are run on the Puffing Billy in Emerald, and also down in the Bellarine Peninsula.  We've been a couple of times to the Emerald event and last visited in November 2010.  The highlights of the events are of course the steam engine ride pulled by Thomas, and the pantomine put on by the local theatre group.

While waiting for the train to pull up, the kiddies were all whipped into frenzied excitement by The Fat Controller walking up and down and chatting on the platform.  The train ride itself is a pretty enjoyable 20 minutes, and is a perfect length to keep littlies interested but not get too bored.  The view is scenic as Thomas, Emily, or whoever the engine of the day is, pulls the train in a small loop to and from Emerald Town Station. 

The pantomine involves Thomas being in a spot of trouble involving a tummy ache and the turn-table, which of course requires enthusiastic singing and yelling out at the appropriate times by the audience to make things right. (Sorry if I've given too much of the plot away ;P)  It's not the most exciting show, and to be honest it was better 3 years ago, but it will be entertaining to most < 3 years old and those without a TV.  Having said that even my 3 year old got a bit bored and required some "persuasion" to stay put.

Insert your face here ;)

Other activities at the station include an animal nursery (an absolute hit with my kids), a jumping castle, a photo opportunity with Thomas and Sir Topham Hat, a less exciting photo opportunity with a wood cut out of Thomas (see picture), face painting, a food stall, and a pop-up shop full of all the Thomas peraphernalia you can think of.  They would have made a few bucks judging by the number of helium Thomas the Tank balloons (at $10 a pop!) that bobbed by while we were there.

The Animal Nursery

Bulgy the Bus
A ride on Bulgy the Bus is also available.  The bus is acleaned up old bus from the ?60's with the old adverts and furnishings intact.  I've learnt that the only time you catch any sort of public transport for fun is when you've got kids and the only way you usually get around is in a big family car.  The bus ride is a spin around Emerald Township just like in any other bus, except yours has a face stuck to its fender.  It was pretty cute and offered a good opportunity to have a seat and rest given that we didn't take the pram (for easier access on and off the train) and had carried our baby all afternoon. 

The unexpected highlight of our last visit happened as we were walking to the carpark to leave for the day.  The engine driver waved us over and offered us a tour of the driver's cabin.  He then patiently told my kids about how coal is used to make the steam that makes the engine run, let them sit on the driver's seat, and (most fun of all) let them make the train whistle.

The Puffing Billy still runs during the Events
For those who still have plenty of energy, there's a park adjacent to the station that was packed full of families and kids.  Or for the hungry, Emerald Township has a few nice little cafes that is within walking distance, if you don't fancy pies and sausage rolls or packets of Smith's Chips sold at the Food stall.

Eat. Play. Shop. Recommends : For all big and little fans of Thomas!  Bring an extra layer of clothing as it's always colder up the mountain.
Give it a Miss : The show is OK but can get a bit boring.  Also remember it costs $4 for carparking, run by the local scouts.