Hundreds of families had gathered to take part in a day of Thomas the Tank Engine fun on the Watercress Line.
The most captivated of course were the scores of little children, all dressed in various Thomas-themed clothing, waving Thomas flags and clutching sought-after toys.
A cloud of smoke, a hiss of steam, a few shouts, and a whistle – and he was off, chugging his way out of Ropley station.
The day was most enjoyed by my four-year old son, whose eyes lit up as he saw Thomas in real life.
Thomas was magnificent, brightly coloured, fresh faced, and staffed by a team that made the whole experience special.
The Day Out With Thomas event returned to Hampshire s steam railway for the half-term and as well as the sun shining for what feels like the first time this year, this weekend marked the return of activities on the railway after months of downtime due to Covid-19 restrictions
We booked on to the 12.20pm Thomas ride and after a slight mishap with our ticket numbers, we were swiftly upgraded to first class. A great treat for our family of four.
The Thomas ride was just long enough to keep the small ones occupied – 20 minutes up the track and back.
Also included in our ticket price was a ride on the other track – heading up to Alton and back – making the day out great for train enthusiasts or families with older children too.
Once back at Ropley there was a host of activities to enjoy, all included in the ticket price.
We went on the miniature railway and ate our picnic in the picnic area (bring a blanket), also relishing a hot dog and cold drink from the station vendor (although the queue for ice-cream was very long, so we swerved that in favour of ice lollies from the station shop).
My son went on the vintage fairground rides – a swing ride and a carousel – and then played in the train-themed park, before watching the entertainment, a show featuring Rusty & Dusty and The Fat Controller.
There was plenty of viewing room for us all to watch the action, as the trains shunted up and down the track.
The highlight though was Thomas, who broke away from his carriages to get a drink, something that will be talked about for a long time in our house.
Our certificate is now proudly coloured in and hanging in the kitchen for all to admire, a suitable memory from a wonderful family-friendly day out.
The Days Out with Thomas continue all week until Sunday, June 6.
Tickets start from £35 for two, and £65 for four people.
Thomas & Friends will also be returning during the summer from Saturday, August 7 to Sunday, August 15.
Go to watercressline.co.uk