Ride the Rails with Thomas and Friends - My Family Travels

Last summer my family and I went to Great Britain’s countryside and took a tour on the Mid-hants Railway.  Farmers used to call it The Watercress Line because they used it to get their crops to the people of London.  But we didn’t care that much about how it all came about, we just wanted to see the Shining Time Station from the PBS show, based on Reverend W. Awdry’s Thomas the Tank Engine books.

My little brother couldn’t wait to see Thomas.  He kept bugging us for months take him on our upcoming vacation.  At first I didn’t want to go at all, but then I realized even older kids could enjoy a visit to the station and remember how much they loved Thomas when they were little, too.  The dining car was done over and is now used for special parties.  The railway is open to school groups and families visit all year-round.  I found a guide book at the station called “Children’s Guide to the Railway” and it showed me some neat stuff I would have missed out on otherwise.

If you can convince your parents to travel during Easter or the middle of August like we did, you’ll see the Friends of Thomas the Tank Engine  — it’s really exciting for the little kids to see Thomas, James, Diesel, Henry and D199 appear.  (Okay, I admit it, I was excited too.)   Even if the train isn’t running, there are always fun stations and old engines to check out.  But it’s not just for little kids, teens over 16 can actually ride right on an engine with a driver. It made my brother mad that he couldn’t go on it himself at first, but he was so busy exploring the station he hardly noticed when my Dad got on.  It was fun to see him riding around like a little kid! 

Overnight to Explore

After you’re tired out from riding the engine and hanging out at the station, you can stay at a B&B in Alresford just a few minutes’ walk away.  Since we usually stay in hotel chains in the US, it was fun to do something different and stay right in someone’s house.  The countryside is really pretty, but it can get a little boring. Broad Street has lots of fishstores, butchers, bakers (yum), and clothing boutiques where I bought a cool new shirt. 

There’s more to do in Winchester which is less than a 10 minute drive away.  It’s a much larger city with cool stuff to see. We visited the famous Cathedral and the Cathedral Close dating all the way back to the 11th century. There’s also Winchester College  and loads of Medieval sites including the remains of Wolvesey Castle.  I liked Wolvesey Castle the best and had a great time exploring and learning all about its history. My Dad is a military nut and was really into all the history and art museums.  His favorite was the Gurkha Museum that had stuff all about the Nepali troops who served the British Crown.  But us kids liked the pool and water slide the best.

The big event of our vacation was Thomas the Train, but we had fun doing other things in the area, too.  My brother still keeps in touch with Thomas and Friends, so if you want to get some information from them before your trip, you can write them here:

The Mid-hants Watercress Line
The Railway Station, Alresford
Hampshire. SO24 9JG. England
(44/1962/73 38 10) or go to www.watercressline.co.uk.

Susan Padrutt is a 17-year-old from Rochester, New York.

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