Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
Today (18 August 2019) we were fortunate enough to review the Kirklees Light Railway “Day out with Thomas”.
The railway have a range of events on their calendar, such as Santa Specials, Pizza and Prosecco Sunset Service and the Halloween Ghost Train to name a few, as well as standard day tickets. The family based Thomas the Tank Engine event that I reviewed runs several times a year and I cannot recommend it enough as a value for money, fun day out.
We booked onto the 10am train as this was the only train of the day to be pulled by Thomas himself- but don’t worry, he gives platform rides throughout the day as well! I would highly recommend booking beforehand as the morning trains all appeared to be quite full.
I went along with my husband, and three children who are aged 7, 4 and 1.
There is a huge free car park beside the station, clean toilets and a cafe within the station itself. I was delighted to see that, as well as some more expensive Thomas items to buy, they had good quality Thomas flags on sale for £1.50. Judging by the amount being waved around throughout the day, other parents agreed with me. My kids were more than happy with just that and didn’t ask for any other toys.
We arrived at 9.45am which was just in time to watch the Fat Controller, Thomas, Dusty and Rusty open the day. It was really pretty cute and the kids were so excited to cheer Thomas along. Admittedly, so was I!
Seats on the train are pre-allocated on the outbound journey to Shelley which prevents any panic and “fighting” for seats. I was so impressed with the staff; the train guard saw that I’d folded my pram down beside my legs and offered to take it to the buggy carriage for me. Fantastic customer service; the staff looked so happy to be there and waved you off from the platform. There was such a fun vibe to the day.
The journey is around 25 minutes with lovely scenery, and at one stage passes through a fairly long dark tunnel (cue ghost noises!) but there are small lights within the train.
The speaker wasn’t especially clear on the train, so it was difficult to hear the announcement of activities available at Shelley Station but staff were on hand to ask. I was also slightly disappointed that Thomas was taken away from the front of our train pretty sharpish so we didn’t manage to take a photo with him. However, we did rectify this during the platform rides later on and got our photo! I imagine the trains need to be kept to a tight schedule.
At Shelley station there was a small cafe, barbecue food outdoors, a bouncy castle, large sandpit, Thomas the Tank storyteller and an outdoor play area. In one of the tents my children were given a free Thomas themed tattoo, did some colouring activities and completed a special passport. There were toy trains to play with, which went down well with my 4-year-old. We spent maybe 90 minutes at Shelley and thought that was it for the day, and to be honest we had a nice time so we were pretty happy.
However, after catching a train back to Clayton West pulled by Sian, we were met with a range of fun activities; we actually commented several times throughout the day how much “free” stuff we were getting included in the ticket price.
What was more surprising was that despite the large number of train rides throughout the day it didn’t feel over-crowded, we managed to do everything and we didn’t really queue for very long.
After our lunch in the picnic area we headed for face-painting. This was the longest wait of the day, perhaps 10-15 minutes, but honestly this did not feel like an inconvenience. We were inside an old train carriage with Thomas books to read, and the quality of the (yet again free) face-paining was worth it. My daughter had a random unicorn, but my son had Thomas painted onto his face which was amazing.
Then onto the free miniature railway. No wait for this as we timed it well, so we went on twice! Yet another bouncy castle and fantastic castle-themed play area… free, free, free! My children particularly adored the donkey rides which were a very welcome surprise.
There were also short platform rides on Thomas and two other engines with maybe 5 minutes wait, a tug of war competition and a treasure hunt with Dusty and Rusty (worth doing as the kids all win a prize at the end).
Dusty, Rusty and the Fat Controller for very much present and in-character throughout the day. They had chats and photos with the kids, and just helped to make this a really special day for any Thomas fan, or any family looking for a fun day out.
I am a stay at home mum, and this summer I have had so many days out with the kids. I’m always looking for a bargain, or at least a day out that feels good value for money. As parents you feel continually “ripped off”, but I did not feel that today. The cost of today’s family ticket was £46 (my 1 year old was free), and when you consider what we got for that money it really is amazing. We spent 6 hours there and had to drag the kids away.
On another note the engines themselves looked just sparkling and fantastic! The train drivers were great with the kids and got in on some of the silly sketches with the Fat Controller.
My advice would be, regardless of what time your train ride is booked, get there early as there’s so much to do. It is a full day out. Just keep your tickets with you as staff will check them before allowing you on any of the rides and activities (and rightly so!). I could not believe how much there was to do, and that it was all included in the price. The only things that we paid for were drinks and ice-creams in the cafe, and the flags. Some of the activities were weather dependant and today the weather was very kind to us, so bear this in mind.
I will without doubt attend this event again, and we are going to have a look at the other themed events for the children to book onto.
This day out scores 5 stars out of 5 from both my point of view and my children’s; what amazing value and what a fun-packed day out. Lots of “Best Mummy Ever” points scored for me today!
Day tickets cost from £5.50pp (Special events have a different pricing).
For more information or to book online for the cheapest price visit www.kirkleeslightrailway.com.
Kirklees Light Railway. Park Mill Way, Clayton West, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, HD8 9XJ