James drops in to boost family favourite Thomas Land

Crowds at the opening of the new James ride at Thomas Land.
Crowds at the opening of the new James ride at Thomas Land.

There can be few pre-schoolers on the planet who have not heard of Thomas the Tank Engine.


The little blue engine’s appeal is so widespread that he is the focus of Drayton Manor’s Thomas Land, a family attraction with 17 rides inspired by the well-known children’s stories as well as a soft play, an adventure playground and a model railway exhibition. Since Thomas Land first opened in 2008, it has kept on growing both in size and popularity.
And on Saturday, its latest ride – James and the Red Balloon – was unveiled to the public. 
Based on the children’s story of the same name, visitors sit in carriages designed to look like small hot air balloons which tilt, spin and fly through the air.
Whether you know your Terence from your Toby doesn’t really matter as the rides in Thomas Land are designed to thrill and delight young children, even if they don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Sodor and its vehicular inhabitants. 
They range from Engine Tours – a traditional train ride to another area of the theme park pulled by either Thomas himself or his sidekicks Rosie and Percy – to the slightly more extreme Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster.
Thomas Land is compact with lots of rides crammed into a small space. 
This can feel a little overwhelming, but the advantage to this is you can get around a lot of the attractions without wearing out little legs. 
And when they want a break from the rides, your little train fans can let off steam at Spencer’s Outdoor Adventure Play.
Although Thomas Land is a major reason families flock to Drayton Manor, near Tamworth, Staffordshire, there are plenty more things to do while you’re there. 
The theme park is also home to a 15-acre zoo, which contains more than 100 animals from monkeys to Sumatran tigers.
Close to the zoo is the Dino Trail, a short walk through fibre-glass sculptures of the prehistoric variety. Elsewhere in the park is a range of other rides, from traditional fairground-style fare like the big wheel and carousel, to the more extreme thrill rides, including G-Force.
The biggest challenge you are likely to face on a day trip to Drayton Manor is working out how to manage your time so you fit everything in.

Thomas Land, Drayton Manor, Staffs B78 3TW – Children’s TV favourite Thomas the Tank Engine’s own theme park featuring a number of rides as part of Drayton Manor.