Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails Exhibit



On Saturday, June 17th 2017, I went to the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum at San Jose, California, USA. I went there with my dad while my sister, mum and brother in law went to some shops down town. The Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails exhibition was created by the Minnesota Children's Museum in 2014 and it's an interactive and STEM exhibition for young children.

The activities include climbing on Thomas and pulling his whistle, fix Percy's 'wobbly wheels' at the Steamworks, be a ticket collector and plenty of other things. The highlight for me though was 'The Evolution of Thomas' exhibit that showcases the history of Thomas from the Railway Series books to the multi-million pound brand that it is today.

One of the biggest attractions to see, if you had grown up with the models that were used in the show before the CGI switch, was the Thomas and Emily models that were used on the show in their respective display cases although with a bit of wear and tear, although not as bad as Drayton Manor's treatment. But despite that they were kept in the best of their condition and it was amazing to see them up close and personal after seeing them on the screen for so many years.

Other things in the exhibits they had were clips from the model era with episodes from 'Thomas & Gordon' or 'Thomas Gets Tricked' as known in the United States, 'Henry and the Elephant' and 'Emily and the Rubbish' which is also known as 'Emily and the Garbage' in the US. They even played clips from the CGI episodes which are the Brenner and McCue era episodes such as 'Not So Slow Coaches' and 'Thomas' Shortcut' and they even played a clip from 'Shining Time Station' the show that started Thomas' success in the USA with Ringo Starr as Mr. Conductor. Other videos include Mattel creating toys for Thomas & Friends, which was for the revamped Trackmaster line, this exhibition was created in 2014 so it's not all updated to the recent years. It also has a small audio story narrated by Keith Wickham, although it was quite hard to hear due to the crowd.

The exhibition had other little things for kids to play with, such as the large wooden railway play table and a little play area for younger kids. There was even one part of the exhibition that I played with for a bit, which was this little play table and you release a wooden railway toy down this small roller coaster thing. I thought it was fun as it reminded me of exhibits at another place like this I use to go to back in my home country, Australia. It's called 'Questacon' which is a science and technology centre which is also in the same guise as this museum that I went to. The place is centred in Australia's capital Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T) and it's still running to this day. 

They also have a small Knapford station and one of them have small posters that were used for promotions for the show in the style of British Railway posters. There was even one for a weekend getaway to Misty Island, now who wants that? *crickets chirp*, no surprise.

It's a small exhibition, but just right for any young child. After the exhibition, we take a look around the museum and I thought it was quite fun even for an adult who is young at heart. One of my favourites was this air suction tube, you place a little soft felt ball and you see it being sucked around the tubes and fall into a basket. That thing had also reminded me of things that were at another museum that I go to in Sydney, my home city, called the Powerhouse Museum. In the 90's there were many fun things to play there as a kid and I still have fond memories ever since. 

After an hours worth at the museum, we stopped by the shop. The shop has things aimed what they have at the museum and they even have Thomas merchandise such as DVDs, Wooden Railways, Books etc. I manage to buy quite a lot in the end. One thing to make your visit interesting is that there is an exclusive Wooden Railway toy that you can only get at the museums that hold the exhibition and that is called 'The Sodor Mint Car'. 

It's a small wagon with plastic coins inside with the exhibition logo on the side and you can switch it around as it was shown on the box. I ended up getting two, one for display and one to open. I also bought two books which are 'Trains, Cranes and Troublesome Trucks' and 'Goodnight Thomas' both published by Random House and a 'Day Out With Thomas' cap for my little nephew and I bought the DVD 'Tales on the Rails'. 

In the end, the exhibition and the museum are great to visit. If you have children or young at heart, I recommend going to the museum it's great fun for everyone. The Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails Exhibition will be at the San Jose Children Discovery Museum until September 10th and will be travelling around the United States as far as 2021 according to the schedule provided by HIT Entertainment. Check it out to see if there's one heading to a museum near you.