If your child is nuts for all things Thomas The Tank Engine, earn the “Parent of the Year” award (or even century, for that matter) by spending a few hours at a “Day Out With Thomas: The Go Go Thomas Tour” where your kids will climb on board and take a train ride on their beloved hero. The smiley blue train pulls into the Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) in Perris for five days in November. Go for a ride, take your photo with Thomas, and enjoy the many activities on your day out. Here’s our guide on how to make the most of your trip.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - Photo 1

The Mainline
Obviously, the main event draw for all Thomas fans is the actual train ride, and it takes some advance planning for this event to pull this off without a hitch.  (“Well, bust my buffers!”)  First, to avoid Thomas fan disappointment, purchase your tickets in advance since the event has sold out in the past.  When purchasing your tickets on Ticketweb, you will choose your actual Thomas train departure time.  So, be sure to give yourself plenty of travel time in order to arrive “Right On Time!” in Perris, California.

We recommend that you arrive at least an hour before your scheduled train departure to park and get your bearings at the Orange Empire Railway Museum.  Bring the stroller as there is a lot of walking from the parking lot and throughout the railway park which is flat. There’s even a stroller parking area prior to boarding the Thomas train.  Train passengers are asked to begin lining up a half hour before their scheduled departure.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS photo 2

The Thomas train ride is 25 minutes long with large windows and plenty of comfortable seating.  It should be noted that the ride does not follow a route.  Rather, the Really Useful Engine goes down the track and then reverses, returning you to where you originally boarded.  But happy train passengers are, for the most part, none the wiser as there is also plenty to observe inside the Thomas train, with an in-character train conductor, eagerly punching tickets and apprising you of Sir Topham Hatt’s latest instructions.  We recommend that you ride the No. 1 Blue Engine first and then enjoy the rest of the activities as outlined below.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - Photo 3

Say “Chugga Chugga, Choo Choo”!
After disembarking Thomas, it’s time peer into his googly eyes and say “Hello Thomas” up-close.  At the very front of the engine, there is, yes (“Cinders and Ashes!”), another line for families to stand in for a photo with the Thomas train in the background.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 4

Yet, rest assured parents–the professional photographers know how to keep the line moving and line-up families for the best shots in only a matter of a few minutes.DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 5

Then, get ready for more smiles and hopefully the shortest and quickest line (“Oh Bumpers!”) for a photo op with Sir Topham Hatt, the Controller of the Railway on the Island of Sodor.  DAY OUT WITH THOMAS -photo 6

After posing, find a photo kiosk where you can quickly view the professional shots with your family, Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt and decide on which photo digital and print packages suit you best.

Dining and Lounge Area:
While a dining car is not on board the Thomas train (“Fizzling Fireboxes!”), there is a food truck row with a variety of food to choose from, which mostly includes fast food options so we suggest bringing your own lunch if you’d prefer not to indulge in the hamburger, ice cream variety. A large shaded picnic table area is located at the end of the food truck row to enjoy your meal with a mother’s tent with changing tables and indoor bathrooms nearby.

Imagination Station
Peep, Peep!   All Thomas aficionados receive a “passport” upon admission that your kids can use to obtain stamps at different stations.  Once all stamps are collected head on over to the Imagination Station to receive a goody bag.

Inside the large tented “station”, kids can freely play at activity train tables, build with Thomas Mega Bloks, color Thomas coloring pages, and create other hands-on Thomas-themed arts & crafts.  You’ll also receive Thomas & Friends stickers and temporary tattoos.  With plenty of chair seating for adults, this is a great place for parents to take a load off and watch their kids explore.

Nearby, there are bounce houses and face-painting in addition to a kid-friendly hay maze and petting zoo.  Plus, there is live-entertainment, including story-telling and bands such as Jules Music for Kids.

The (Extra) Siding:
While on your Day Out with Thomas, your admission ticket includes a self-guided tour of the Orange Empire Railway Museum which is a massive collection of Southern California’s railroad history. Highlights include the three-foot gauge Grizzly Flats locomotive on display and an operating model railway train collection with over 100 O-scale electric model trains to view.

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 7

Unlike the one-time, Thomas train ride, you can enjoy unlimited rides on OREM’s operating trains, including a city street car (trolley) on the half-mile dual-gauge Loop Line, and another train operating on the 1.5 mile standard gauge Mainline.  A picnic area is located near the main entrance featuring an interactive railroad “signal garden.”DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 8

Freight Train (aka the “Goods Train”):
Before leaving, don’t forget to load up at the Thomas The Train Gift Shop and take some “extra cargo” home.  It has absolutely everything imaginable with the Thomas the Train logo (every Thomas train available, clothing, DVDs, puzzles, games and toys, imaginable!) and the perfect place for birthday and holiday shopping for your favorite Thomas fans.  As they say, if you can’t find your Thomas train novelty item here, you probably won’t be able to find it anywhere.

The Manifest
Parents should plan to spend at least three hours at the outdoor event which will occur rain or shine.  Guests of all ages are welcome to attend this event with tickets costing $19 per person.  Kids aged two years and above require a ticket for a seat and those under two will need to ride on a lap.

Day Out With Thomas runs on the following five dates in November: 9, 10, 11, 16, and 17, 2013.  Get tickets early for preferred seating preference times, usually in the mornings.DAY OUT WITH THOMAS - photo 9

Orange Empire Railway Museum
2201 S. “A” Street
Perris, Ca  92570
Online: oerm.org/day-out-thomas
Event tickets: ticketweb.com

Have you been to a Day Out with Thomas event?  Which one did you attend and what was your child’s favorite part?

Written and photographed by:  Christina Q. Cross