EVERYONE’S favourite engine found a new home earlier this year when Thomas Town opened at Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania, US.
The park’s latest addition opened at the end of July and is set on a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River and the historic Edgar Thomson Steel Works in nearby Braddock. Thomas Town is one of the largest single-year additions in Kennywood’s 120-year history, adding five new family rides, plus the re-theming of The Olde Kennywood Rail Road into a Thomas & Friends story. The area also includes an indoor play zone, birthday room, a retail store featuring a section to ‘Pick Your Own MINIS’ custom collection and an entertainment show featuring Sir Topham Hatt, Percy, James, Emily and Gordon. All the attractions are placed in and around the existing footprint of the park’s train ride, which has operated at Kennywood with various themes since 1945.
Thomas Town is a little less than one acre in size, including the train station parts of the track (though not the whole span, since it runs along the back of Kennywood). The track is about half a mile in length, making for an approximately eight minute ride.
Thomas Town is nestled into the back part of Kennywood, between some classic attractions – the Thunderbolt roller coaster and Raging Rapids ride on one side, the longstanding Auto Race car ride and 14-ride Kiddieland on the other.
It is the second largest permanent Thomas & Friends attraction in North America and the newest ride additions were all supplied by Italian manufacturer Zamperla, who also did the theming. Garner Holt was the supplier for the engine characters fans know and love from Thomas & Friends – Thomas, Percy, James, Emily and Gordon.
The rides and attractions feature beloved characters such as Thomas, Diesel, Cranky the Crane, Harold the Helicopter and more favourites and guests can visit familiar destinations around the Island of Sodor like Tidmouth Sheds and Knapford Station. Sir Topham Hatt, controller of the railway on the Island of Sodor, is available on site to greet and take photos with guests.
The attractions include Journey with Thomas, a train ride that leaves from Kennywood Station and takes guests of all ages on a journey featuring views of the Monongahela River and the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, the oldest steel mill in the Steel City. Also in the new area is Cranky’s Drop Tower, Harold’s Helicopter Tour, Flynn’s Fire Training and Diesel Drivers, while the Steel City Adventures Live Show at Tidmouth Sheds features Percy, James, Emily, Gordon and Sir Topham Hatt.
For a limited time, guests also had the opportunity to watch the 4D adventure Thomas & Friends: Bubbling Boilers at the Kennywood 4D theatre in celebration of Thomas Town’s opening.
“We’re so excited to welcome Thomas & Friends to Kennywood,” said general manager Jerome Gibas prior to the opening of the new area. “Thomas Town presents a huge addition that expands our family offerings while introducing the park to Thomas & Friends fans from around the globe. We couldn’t ask for a better gift for Kennywood and our guests to help celebrate our 120th anniversary season in 2018.”
Of the choice of Thomas & Friends as the theme for a new area, director of public relations and social media Nick Paradise told InterPark: “There were a few different reasons we decided to go with Thomas & Friends. First and foremost is that Thomas & Friends is a great, family-friendly brand, one of the most popular children’s brands in the world with an incredible ability to withstand the test of time, having been created more than 70 years ago and still incredibly popular despite the many changes in our world since the first book was written. Coincidentally, our train attraction, The Olde Kennywood Railroad, was ready for a creative refresh, so collaborating with Thomas & Friends on a Thomas the Tank Engine-themed version of the attraction made a great fit for us.”
And the guests’ reaction has, not surprisingly, been very favourable, Paradise commenting: “Guests have been very excited and welcoming of the new area. Working with our partners at Mattel, we took great pains to recreate everything from the characters to the iconic buildings of Thomas & Friends as faithfully as possible. We’ve seen plenty of people coming from long distances to experience the characters they love, which is exactly what we were hoping for.
“We’re very pleased with the end result and can’t wait to see how guests respond to a full year of Thomas Town at Kennywood. The area will be a big part of drawing people in not only for our summer season but also our family-friendly Halloween and Christmas time events.”