Thomas the Train pulls into Calera

Thomas the Train recently visited the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. From left,  Seymour Johnson, Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum President Jim Garnett,  Seymour Barton, Summer Rose Johnson and Serenity Johnson. (Photo by Linda Long.)

Thomas the Train recently visited the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. From left, Seymour Johnson, Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum President Jim Garnett, Seymour Barton, Summer Rose Johnson and Serenity Johnson. (Photo by Linda Long.)

By LINDA LONG/For the Reporter

CALERA – Thomas the Train came to town over the weekend and thousands of kids showed up to greet him.

This celebration takes place every year at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera, and was scheduled for April 12-14 and 20-21 this year.

“We expect about 11,000 people to show up over the two weekends Thomas is here, “ Museum President Jim Garnett said. “Kids love Thomas because kids love trains.”

One little guy who was dancing up and down on the platform as Thomas came rolling down the track, tooting his horn and blowing smoke through his smokestack, proved that point. Decked out in overalls and an engineer’s cap, he said, with a bit of incredulity that anyone would even ask that question, “Why am I here? “Because “I love him. I love Thomas.”

That seemed to be the sentiment throughout the grounds as moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas joined the kids to wait for their turn on the tracks.

There was plenty to do while they waited. Machines blew bubbles in the air, while kids played in a sandbox. Surrounded by train bells and whistles, folks lined up for everything from funnel cakes to hot dogs as vendors filled the museum parking lot.

“This is one of the most fun things we do all year,” train conductor George Williams said. “The kids love it and we love to watch the kids. I don’t think there’s been an empty spot in that sandbox all day”

Williams explained that Thomas has actually been around since 1911 when he first appeared in a series of railway books. With the help of television and video Thomas has now become a phenomenon with children of all ages. He has been visiting the Heart of Dixie railroad museum for the past 12 years.

“This is definitely one of our biggest fund raisers of the year,” Garnett said. “Kids come here to see Thomas, but this is also the place to learn the history of trains and their importance to our country. It’s up to us adults to make sure we keep the trains alive so kids will continue to love them.”

Thomas will be back at the Heart of Dixie Railroad April 20 and 21. Rides will begin at 9:45 a.m. and guests are asked to arrive one hour before departure. Tickets are $19 per person and may be purchased online at Hodrrm.org.