Thomas can’t stay trapped on the Island of Sodor forever. He needs to get out and see the world. Luckily for us in Chicago, he’s chugging our way and bringing along his friend Percy. The smiley blue train rolls up to Illinois Railway Museum July 8, 9, 15 and 16 for Day Out With Thomas: The Friendship Tour 2017. This event held in Union is still a while away, but it books fast.  Read on to get the details so you don’t miss the chance to ride on a larger-than-life Thomas locomotive.

thomas-at-station

Storytelling, Crafts & Other Adventures
Along with taking a 20-minute journey on Thomas the Train, the entire Illinois Railway Museum is open to explore and is packed with activities, from storytelling to live music. Steer the kids toward the Thomas & Friends Imagination Station, a lively area that’s especially appealing to kiddos five and under. It features stamps, temporary tattoos, arts and crafts, train tables and coloring activities. You can also meet Sir Topham Hatt, the dapper railway controller from the Thomas & Friends books and TV series. He’ll pose for photos and shake hands with fans. But don’t dawdle: There’s more in store.

sir-topham

Too-Cool Historic Trains 
There’s a lot to see at Illinois Railway Museum, which happens to be the largest railway museum in the U.S. The cultural gem showcases real steam engines from the Golden Age of Railroad, including those from the historic Milwaukee Road, Chicago, Burlington Northern and Union Pacific lines. Throughout the summer and at the Thomas event, some of its fleet is fully operational and you can go for a ride to feel what transportation was like in the old days. On the move are steam and diesel trains, plus a vintage street car that makes several stops around the museum.

railroad-museum

Go, Thomas, Go!
The main event, of course, is the ride on Thomas himself. And this year, you can ride on a big Percy train too. You purchase tickets for specific time slots, so overcrowding isn’t an issue. Grab your seat and enjoy the scenery, a rolling landscape of pretty forest and prairieland. If your little caboose enthusiast tires of looking out the window, he or she can eye up the colorful train decorations, including pictures of the Thomas & Friends characters.

Where Else Does Thomas Visit?
Because Day Out With Thomas is so special and only comes to town once a year, it usually sells out. As of press time, tickets are still available. If you don’t catch the event while it’s in town, the closest places to attend are Connersville, IN (Jun. 16-18 & 23-25) and Green Bay, WI (Jun. 21-25).

Check the calendar for other events at the Illinois Railway Museum this spring and summer. Chugga Chugga, everyone!

Day Out With Thomas: The Friendship Tour 2017
Held July 8, 9, 15 & 16
Rides depart every 30 minutes, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (tickets are purchased for an exact departure time)
Tickets are $21 for a ride on Thomas; $10 for a ride on Percy; kids under age 2 ride free
Tickets available online at ticketweb.com

Illinois Railway Museum
7000 Olson Rd.
Union, IL
Online: irm.org
For general information on Day Out With Thomas, go to thomasandfriends.com

Have you been to Day Out With Thomas? What did you think? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Maria Chambers & Kelly Aiglon