Tiny Tots and Thomas the Tank Engine

A multi-generation family excursion on the Essex Steam Train

By Christianna Silva

“Chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a choo-choo” my 3-year-old, Christy sang as we drove down the road in the backseat of my parents’ minivan.

Christy was sitting in front of me, wrapped up in her Thomas the Tank Engine blanket. She knew we were going to see a train, but was unaware that we had decided to take a day trip for a Day Out With Thomas for some extended family bonding time.

My husband, Ryan, sat next to Christy. Our 10-year-old son, Reece, sat in the far backseat with me. My dad drove. When we parked, free-of-charge, Ryan hopped out of the van and unbuckled Christy.

“Christy, we’re here!” he said.

Meeting the real life Thomas the Tank Engine

ApproachThe shuttle quickly came to pick us up and we got settled. Christy was shaking with excitement—she couldn’t believe she was going to see a real train. This was the stuff of her dreams. A couple seats ahead, my father was swift to make a few friends.

It’s really no surprise; dad starts conversations with strangers every trip we go on. This time, he started talking to a mother and son who were on their first trip to the Essex Steam Train.

“What are you here for?” the mom asked.

“This year, we’re attending the Day Out With Thomas event at Essex,” he whispered, so that Christy wouldn’t hear. “To be honest, I’m not sure who’s more excited: the kids, or the parents and grandparents!”

Real_ThomasWe unloaded off the shuttle and walked toward a gate outside the train tracks, with loads of other happy families. We heard Thomas turning the corner and I glanced down at Christy, eager to see her reaction when she recognized the train’s gray smiling face and blue body. My father picked Christy up on his back—sure thing, as soon as Thomas the Tank Engine rounded the corner her eyes lit up. She took her arms from around my father’s neck and spread them towards Thomas and yelled, “It’s Thomas! Thomas is real!”

We came to Connecticut specifically to visit my dad and give him some time with his two growing grandchildren. This was definitely becoming a trip to remember for all of us.

Christy BoardingChristy started jumping and my dad let her out of his arms. She rushed toward the gate with giddy excitement that increased with every bound. We followed her lead and were led to the train conductor, who was accepting tickets. My dad, who had been raving about how easy it was to get the tickets online, produced the printed pages and handed them over. The conductor collected them and let all three generations of my happy family board Thomas.

Christy held Ryan’s hand and happily skipped to our seats; my dad was the caboose of the group.

Carnival fun for the family

The ride lasted about 25 minutes—each second was filled with excitement as Thomas led us through Connecticut’s beautiful scenery.


It was noon by the time we hopped off our ride on Christy’s hero, and we were all ready for lunch—thankfully, the stop was prepared to accommodate each of our food preferences.

ImaginationAfter we all filled up, Ryan and my dad headed toward the free carnival rides with Reece in tow. Christy and I made a beeline to the coloring and creativity station. I have never seen my kiddo get so excited about crayons! Christy really let her creativity run wild, happily drawing her own interpretation of a train.

Next, we met up with the boys at a free magic show, and to our surprise, my dad, Ryan and Reese proudly showed up with tiger face paint gleaming off of their cheekbones. We took our seats for the magic show, and with every slight of hand and trick the magician graced us with, ahhhs and oooohs came from the audience. They were truly amazed.

The kids were getting tired as 2 p.m. approached. We decided the perfect way to end the day was with an episode of—you guessed it—Thomas the Tank Engine. But this time, we watched it in the special Thomas the Tank Engine video theatre. The show had all the kids’ attention, which gave the adults time to relax and reflect on a day to remember.

A day well spent

Carnival RideWe walked back to the car, satisfied with a day well spent, even though there were even more free activities available—Isle of Sodor Storytelling, Thomas the Tank Engine and Megablok play areas, and a Caboose the Clown balloon making station were all rocks left unturned. Ryan and I agreed that when Christy was a little older, she would be eager to visit every single activity.

My dad cradled Christy, whose eyelids were drooping, and Reece walked right next to them. As Ryan and I followed our children and my father to the minivan, I overheard my dad talking to another multi-generational family.

“Do we plan to return again? Absolutely,” he said. “I think next time we’ll make it a grown-up outing—have you heard about the dinner train? There’s a sunset cruise on the Connecticut River, too!”

At Essex Steam Train, it’s absolutely all aboard.

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