Thomas arrives to give fun and joy to families
A CHILDREN'S book character popular for more than 60 years spread joy in the hearts of families across the weekend.
Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends took over the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, at Winchcombe station, during two days of fun and games.
Little ones squealed with delight as a real-life Thomas engine, Henry Daisy and other steam engines pulled up at the station, to take them to and from Toddington and to and from Cheltenham Racecourse.
The GWSR operates heritage train services on a 12-mile route between Cheltenham Racecourse and Laverton.
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Colin Fewell, commercial director, said: "The children love Thomas.
"It introduces youngsters to trains and hopefully provides us with the volunteers of the future.
"It's great that the children are actually able to ride in the carriages behind Thomas."
Rachel and Kevin Selby, from Hatherley, Cheltenham brought their two-year-old grandson, Jacob to meet Thomas.
"He's been very excited about meeting Thomas," said Rachel.
"We've been for a ride on board Neville already and now we're having a tea break before we go on Thomas.
"He got into the stories from watching the TV show."
Nicola Freeman-Taylor, 17, from Gloucester, is one of the 700 volunteers who pitch in to keep the steam railway running and is training to be a driver's assistant.
The Stroud College student said: "My dad used to work on the railway and he started to volunteer here since the place he used to work closed down. I've been coming with him for the past three years. I hope to work on the railway."
Volunteer of five years, Mike Parsons, a retired teacher, was acting as the station announcer for the day.
He said: "I organise the volunteer rota a swell. We need 50 volunteers just to run this event.
"I've loved trains ever since I was a child and when I retired it was always my ambition to volunteer for a steam railway." Abi and Chris Evans, from Glynneath, brought their sons Rhys, one, Evan, two and Ioan, three weeks, to Winchcombe station.
Abi said: "Evan has all the Thomas books.
"He can recognise which engine is which from their silhouettes.
"They've picked this love of trains up from their dad.
"At least it has some literary merit."
Families were also treated to slap up tea and cake, face painting, a Punch and Judy and lots of games as well as a model railway.
■ The weekend of entertainment comes as the railway launches a share offer to raise £500,000 towards the cost of repairing five bridges, to start constructing the final two miles of line to Broadway, see page 16.