“ Address: Oxfordshire / England / OX11 7NJ / Telephone: 44 (0) 1235-817200 „
I been going to Didcot Railway centre for the best part of 20yrs, from a first going at the age of 5 with my father, to now taking my three childern there.
The ticket prices are very high when trains are running, but they even charge an entry fee when no trains are running!. Which is only a thing they have introduced in the last 5 yrs.
Overall the people who 'work' there arnt very helpful, they see the paying visitor as a pain, and not someone who keeps the place going. The sign in the shop states: NO PRAMS ALLOWED.
Fine then i wont spend my money in your shop on your overpriced Thomes the tank engine toys!
Access to the centre is via a steep stair case, which with a pram isnt ideal at all. The food in the cafe is greasy and of poor quality.
It really isnt worth the entry fee which will set up back around 30 GBP for a family of 4.
Please note: This review is for Day Out With Thomas: SANTA SPECIAL
My 21 month old son Harry loves Thomas the Tank Engine. He has Thomas Posters, Toys, Bags, Bowls, Books and many other Thomas bits covering our house at the moment. So when we found out that there is a real life Thomas the Tank that you can go and ride a few miles down the road from us, we just knew that we had to go and see, as it would just make Harry's day. So we had a look online, booked our tickets, and on Christmas Eve we set off in the car to meet Thomas himself...as well as Father Christmas!
The place we went to see Thomas was Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire, just down the road from us in Berkshire. As it was the festive season, we actually went to "Thomas Santa Special" which takes place through selected days in December, so if you want to go and see Santa as well as Thomas, you've got a bit of a wait I'm afraid! Okay, the Railway Centre itself can be reached from the M4 (Junction 13) and the A34, or off the M40. First Great Western Trains also stop directly at the centre, and you can also catch buses from Oxford to get there, so it is pretty easy to find.
We found from the website that we had to pre-book tickets to go and see Thomas and Santa, I guess because of such popular demand. Our outing was £9.50 each, which included the entrance fee, the ride on Thomas, a mince pie and drink, and for Harry a small present from Father Christmas. I think we also had to pay an administration charge of a few pounds as the total price we paid was just over £30 in total. You do also have to pay for a car park just across the road from the Centre, which I think was £4 for an all-day charge, so make sure you have some change on you!
When we arrived, you have to collect your tickets from the box office just inside the gates of the centre. I think if you pre-book well in advance your tickets are sent through the post, but as it was so near Christmas we had to collect ours when we arrived. You then have to walk down a disused railway track, with signs pointing left to see Thomas. On your way down the walk, there are several sheds which house disused trains which you are allowed to walk in and look at, as well as a few other Thomas characters trains sitting on the tracks. Please be aware though that the walk down to Thomas is incredibly oily and dirty, Harry's jeans were covered in grease and oil on the way home so it might be wise to take a change of clothes for the car, and to take off your shoes before you get in your car also!
Okay, so when you get to the bottom, you are greeted by the Fat Controller, who explains to you what will happen, then sends you off in the right direction. You then go and queue up in a small gated area alongside the platform to wait your turn to board. They didn't seem to be letting too many people on the train at once, so if it's particularly busy you may have a bit of a wait. When it is your turn, hand over your ticket to the station officer and they will direct you as to where to sit on the carriage. They are really old fashioned carriages with beautiful upholstery, big seats and look magnificent. Thomas himself is the end carriage, so you can see him as he approaches the station and again when you exit the train. The train ride itself is only about 5 minutes, but with a fidgety toddler, that was plenty for us!
Upon exiting the train, you then go through to the waiting carriage, where everyone who was on board with you sits to be called through to see Santa. You go through one family at a time, which makes it a bit more personal. When it was our turn, Harry screamed his head off the minute we saw Santa so we apologised profusely to the poor man, took his present and ran. It must have taken my partner 5 minutes to calm Harry down outside, poor thing! After receiving your present, you can then go to the next carriage which is where you will receive your mince pie (1 per adult) and a drink. Outside this carriage, there was an old fashioned puppet/music box and Harry adored it, he stood mesmerised for ages watching it!
When you have finished with Santa, it is then time to wait for the Thomas train to come back and then you can board. When Thomas pulls into the station, there is the opportunity for a few minutes to take some pictures of yourself with Thomas the Tank before he drives off, so I would take this opportunity if I were you! We did and we got a few lovely pictures. You then board the train and take the 5 minute journey up to the other platform. When you leave, again there are some opportunities to take pictures but this is a lot busier and we found it hard to get a decent picture of us all.
As you leave, there is a small restaurant which provides hot food and snacks, as well as drinks on the right of the walk back to the exit. We didn't go in so I cannot tell you the prices but it is handy to know there are facilities available! Also, there is a small gift shop, where you can purchase lots of Thomas goodies from books to DVD's to clothes! As Harry has so much already, we just got him a flag for 60 pence and he was thrilled with it, waving it all the way home! There are also toilets before the exit too.
One thing I must mention is buggies. We didn't take ours for Harry, as the car park itself is the other side of a large bridge. The bridge has about 40 steep steps either end, so my partner found it easier just to carry Harry rather than worrying about a buggy, and then we let Harry walk the rest of the way. However, if you choose to take your buggy, you have to leave it at the "buggy area" just before you queue up to get on the train as you aren't allowed to take it with you. This might be worth extra consideration, particularly if you are taking a small baby along, perhaps taking a sling or similar might be easier than your pushchair.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day out, and got about 3 hours of fun for our £30 which was pretty good value for money. Harry's face just lit up when he saw the big Thomas train, and it was worth going for that alone. It was freezing cold when we went, but it added to the festive-ness of it, and made us feel all the more cosy when we arrived home! The place itself was easy to get to, and I liked the fact you could explore the different engine sheds as you wanted to without being restricted too much! The staff are all volunteers and love what they do, and they really pass on their enthusiasm to the children, and adults too! I would definitely recommend it as a day out for Thomas fans, as it will make their day to see him "in the flesh" as it were!
For more information on the Thomas Days Out, and what they offer all year round, see their website which is www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk. It is worth checking the website regularly as I think Thomas only comes a few times a year, so keep an eye out!
Thank you for reading :)
Travel on 'Thomas the Tank Engine', a small steam engine!