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Thrilling Tracks Await: Day Out With Thomas in Illinois!

Last revised: March 17, 2024

By: Adam Burns

There is one location in Illinois hosting Thomas the Tank Engine, the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. While every event is slightly different the typical theme is as follows.

As soon as you arrive at the train station, you'll be greeted by the smiling faces of Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. Kids will be delighted to see the trains and characters they love in real life, and parents will appreciate the photo opportunities.

Once it's time to board the train, you'll find a seat in one of the passenger cars, which are decorated with bright colors and Thomas-themed artwork. The train conductor will give some safety instructions before the train begins to move, and then you're off!

As the train chugs along the track, you'll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Many "Day Out With Thomas" train rides take place in scenic areas, so you can expect to see lush greenery, rolling hills, and other beautiful sights.

During the ride, there will be plenty of entertainment to keep both kids and adults engaged. Thomas and his friends will often make appearances in the passenger cars, greeting passengers and posing for photos. You might also see other characters from the Thomas universe, such as Percy, James, or even the mischievous Diesel.

In addition to the characters, you can expect to enjoy onboard entertainment like sing-alongs, storytelling, and even interactive games. The conductor and crew members may also share interesting facts about the train or the area you're traveling through.

Most "Day Out With Thomas" train rides last around 20-30 minutes, but some may be longer or shorter depending on the location and event. When the train returns to the station, there may be additional activities and entertainment to enjoy, such as arts and crafts, live music, or even a petting zoo.

Overall, a "Day Out With Thomas" train ride is a fun and exciting experience that combines the thrill of riding a real steam engine train with the magic of the Thomas universe. Whether you're a longtime fan or experiencing Thomas and his friends for the first time, it's an adventure that's sure to create lasting memories for the whole family.

Illinois Railway Museum

(Union):  The Illinois Railway Museum is one of the premier, and largest, railroad museums in the country.  The IRM, as it's also known, has an impressive collection of preserved and restored equipment at its amazing facility. They host "A Day Out With Thomas," featuring Percy, on these dates: 

  • July 13 - July 14
  • July 20 - July 21

Their events include the following:

  • 20-minute train ride with Thomas
  • 20-minute train ride with Percy (additional ticket required)

During the day the kids can also meet Sir Topham Hatt as well as enjoy magic shows, check out a garden railway display, storytelling, coloring, and more!

The Illinois Railway Museum is a living museum that celebrates the history and legacy of railroads in the United States. Founded in 1953, the museum has grown to become the largest railroad museum in America, with over 450 pieces of rolling stock and an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents. 

In fact, they boast one of the most impressive collections of fully restored diesel locomotives, and other rolling stock, throughout the nation.  Here's what you can expect to see and do at the Illinois Railway Museum:

Exhibits

The Illinois Railway Museum is home to an impressive collection of railcars, locomotives, and other rolling stock from throughout American history. Visitors can explore restored passenger cars and cabooses, as well as a variety of freight cars, engines, and streetcars. Many of the exhibits are housed in indoor display areas, which allow for up-close inspection and exploration of the intricate details of each piece.

Rides

In addition to the static exhibits, the Illinois Railway Museum offers a variety of train rides that allow visitors to experience the thrill of riding the rails for themselves. The museum operates a variety of different trains, including vintage electric streetcars, diesel locomotives, and even steam engines. Depending on the day and time of your visit, you may be able to ride on a scenic excursion train, a streetcar loop, or a special event train.

Demonstrations and Activities

The Illinois Railway Museum offers a range of demonstrations and interactive activities that provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the history and technology of railroads.

You can watch demonstrations of vintage signal systems, witness turntable operations, and learn about the maintenance and restoration of the museum's rolling stock. The museum also hosts special events throughout the year, such as "Diesel Days," "Trolley Pageant," and "Happy Holiday Railway."


Museum Store (Schroeder Mercantile Store)

No visit to the Illinois Railway Museum is complete without a stop at the Schroeder Mercantile Store, which opened on March 31, 2018.

Here, visitors can purchase a variety of train-related souvenirs and gifts, including books, videos, apparel, and model trains. The store is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers who can answer questions about the exhibits and the museum's history.

Conclusion

The Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois is a must-visit destination for train enthusiasts and history buffs. With an extensive collection of rolling stock, train rides, interactive activities, and a museum store, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Whether you're interested in the technology of locomotives, the stories of the people who built and operated them, or simply the excitement of a train ride, the Illinois Railway Museum offers a unique and fascinating experience that will transport you back in time to the golden age of railroading.


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