Review of Day Out With Thomas at East Anglian Railway Museum, Essex

A visit to East Anglian Railway Museum (EARM) will appeal to all train enthusiasts, but if your little one likes Thomas the Tank Engine then I highly recommend heading to one of the Day Out With Thomas events. Taking place for a few days at Easter, in the summer, October Half Term and December (with optional Father Christmas visit) it is worth looking out for the event and booking tickets. Check the East Anglian Railway Museum website to see the upcoming dates. The official Thomas & Friends Day Out With Thomas events also takes place at locations across the UK throughout the year, but the set up and engines (other than Thomas) vary. I think the EARM has one of the best ranges of engines to see for Thomas & Friends fans.  

Review: Thomas & Friends: Day Out With Thomas

Thomas the tank engine at day out with thomas at the east anglian railway museum in essex
I visited the Day Out With Thomas with my 3 and 6 year old

Arriving at Day Out With Thomas at the East Anglian Railway Museum 

If you aren’t familiar with the EARM then the first thing to be aware of, especially when visiting with young children, is it is at a real train station.  Chappel & Wakes Colne station is on the Gainsborough line which runs between Sudbury and Marks Tey in Essex (near Colchester). There are regular trains passing through the station so don’t get on any trains on Platform 1 during your visit or you will end up somewhere else completely!

When you arrive at the station follow the signposts to the event entrance where you are given a wristband each and children receive a small paper bag with some activity sheets, stickers and crayons. Head along platform 1 and over the bridge to see the trains.

Thomas the tank engine being refueled at Chappel and Wakes Colne station
East Anglian Railway Museum is located at a real station with trains going to Suffolk and Colchester

Daisy the diesel engine and percy the steam engine at east anglian railway museum
You can see and ride on lots of the Thomas & Friends engines

Which Thomas & Friends Trains Are There at the Day Out With Thomas?

The trains are advertised as running from 10.10 to 4.30pm (last trains expected to leave around 4.15pm), although you have to book on to a morning or afternoon session. The engines available vary on location and at the East Anglian Railway Museum event you get “unlimited rides with Thomas, Percy and Daisy as well as to meet Toby and Henrietta”. 

When we visited at Easter 2022 there was:

  • Thomas the Tank Engine pulling a number of carriages (leaving from Platform 2). The first class carriages with the individual compartments were our favourite (very Harry Potter). When busy you might have to be waiting on the platform before Thomas arrives to ensure you get a seat and then you will be waiting on board until it is ready to go. This can be a bit boring for younger children, but luckily the activity pack you get given on entry provides some entertainment.
  • Percy and the Troublesome Trucks left from inside the Goods Shed. The trucks are open air which was fun, however they don’t promise to run at all the Day Out With Thomas events.
  • Daisy the Diesel. If you walk round the Goods Shed the diesel track starts in front of you. This more modern train is an interesting contrast to the steam engines.
  • Henrietta and Toby were located on Platform 2. They would have been easy to miss, but you can find them if you walk down the end of the platform beyond the dining carriage. We were able to go on short journeys on these, but the current description suggests that isn't always the case.

The journeys aren't very long and you just go up and down a short bit of the track. The website says the Thomas journey is about 10 minutes, which is probably long enough for most children, but due to having to travel one direction and wait for signals to change before going back you spend a lot of the time not moving. 

Close up of Percy a green steam engine at day out with thomas
On our visit to Day Out With Thomas Percy was pulling the Troublesome Trucks

Toby from Thomas & Friends
You can also see Toby and Henrietta

What Is There To Do At Day Out With Thomas at The East Anglian Railway Museum?

You can spend your visit riding on carriages behind the popular engines of Sodor, but there are plenty more activities too:

  • See re-enactments of classic Thomas stories by Sir Topham Hatt and Rusty & Dusty. We saw a show with Percy and the Troublesome Trucks and children got to join in by passing buckets of water to go into the engine.
  • Watch Rusty & Dusty who are wandering around in character the whole time and will chat with you.
  • Listen to stories (and maybe a song or two) in the Goods Shed at Sir Topham Hatt’s storytelling sessions.
  • Swing, climb and adventure in the train themed playground.
  • Enjoy a ride on the miniature train. The miniature train track is behind the Thompson Building, you can find it by walking round the far side of the playground. The track is currently pretty short and in a straight line, but there are plans are to extend the route when funding is available.
  • Watch the model railway displays. There are a few model railways you can look at with small trains going round although these held very limited appeal for my children. On event days Braintree and Halstead Model Railway Club open their clubrooms to show additional displays so if you like model trains you will be in good company. 
  • Play with Thomas & Friends toys in the Imagination station play zone. This area inside the Thompson Building has colouring sheets and lots of Thomas & Friends train sets to play with as well as the Thomas & Friends programme playing on repeat in the corner. This was really quiet when we visited as it was a warm day (I would guess a lot more people investigate inside when it’s cold or wet) and my son would have stayed in there the whole time if we let him. We coaxed him out with the offer of ice cream.
  • Find out about railways of the past in the museum exhibits. We didn’t have time to explore these at all during our visit and they generally looked tired from what I did see, however as we didn’t really look at them this might be an unfair view.
  • Buy Thomas branded products in the shop. We managed to distract our children and avoid going in the shop which sells things to appeal to Thomas and trains fans.
  • Platform Two Cafe is a small cafe which sells a range of food including: homemade cakes, drinks and children’s lunchboxes. It has a small amount of outside seating as well as the option to eat in an old train carriage. There was also an ice cream van and another food concession open when we visited.

A group of children and adults in chairs watching Sir Topham Hatt, Rusty and Dusty at a Day Out With Thomas Event
Hear stories and sing songs with Rusty, Dusty and Sir Topham Hatt

View of part of the train themed play area at the Essex railway museum
The train themed play area at Essex's East Anglian Railway Museum

Lots of Thomas themed toys, colouring and Thomas & Friends on repeat in the Imagination Station Play Zone

A preschooler looking at a model train set up
Model railway

What You Should Know Before Visiting

Why You Should Visit the Day Out With Thomas Event at East Anglian Railway

  • There is a great selection of Thomas & Friends trains to see.
  • All the staff are really friendly and enthusiastic.
  • Seeing the children all excited at the trains is lovely.
  • All the train rides are unlimited, or rather the only limit is the available time and queues. 
  • Just beyond the station (and the trains don’t go this far) the track goes over the amazing Chappel viaduct. Make sure you check it out after your visit by either driving to the south of the station (towards the A1124) or by taking a short walk down Station Road towards Wakes Colne. If the viaduct holds little appeal to your children then there is a playground next to it, behind the popular The Swan Inn pub which might sweeten the deal a little.  Chappel viaduct has 32 arches and is 23m high. It is the longest bridge in East Anglia and is the second-largest brick-built structure in England after Battersea Power Station in London.

There were a few parts which weren't so good though:

  • It would have been good to have the whole day available so we could have a more leisurely visit. We did most things, but could have easily spent another hour or more there.
  • The trains don’t go far. Unlike somewhere like Epping Ongar Railway where you are getting a good length train ride, these journeys are short relays and you will spend more time sitting on the trains stationary than moving. This didn’t seem to bother my children though.
  • In cold or wet weather there isn’t a lot of shelter and you will need to wrap up warm. 
  • There are toilets in numerous locations (of varying quality) so try to avoid the ones on platform 2 which we found were very busy and they got messy quickly.
  • The trains and EARM generally aren’t suitable for pushchairs so manage without if possible. If you bring one you will have to carry it up and down stairs and may not be able to take it on trains (even folded).
Miniature railway at East Anglian Railway Museum
Take a ride on the Miniature train pulled by one of two engines

5 Thomas & Friends colouring and activity sheets at Day OUt with Thomas
Colouring and activities in the warm at the Day Out With Thomas event at EARM

Booking Your Tickets for Days Out With Thomas at EARM

Prebooking is required and you need to choose either the morning or the afternoon session (10am to 1pm or 1pm to 4pm). We booked on to the morning session and found that they were giving people wristbands and letting them in before the advertised start time (they ask you not to arrive more than 30 minutes early). There is no gap between the end of the morning session and beginning of the afternoon one so there is a cross over between morning people who haven’t left yet and afternoon people who have arrived. It’s great we weren’t rushed out, but please be considerate and don’t over stay as it will lead to longer waits for those booked into the afternoon session.

Parking at East Anglian Railway Museum

Parking is free and there is a small car park on the road leading to the station. On event days the fields in front of the station are opened up for additional parking, these might get muddy during the October and December events. Another option would be to go by train.  


Station Road, Wakes Colne, Near Colchester, Essex, CO6 2DS

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