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Thomas draws many visitors from outside the area to Medina

Posted 10 May 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Sue Cook – Zoe Wheeland, 2, poses with her mom Lori on their day out with Thomas. They traveled from Fairport because Zoe is a fan of the TV show. Lori encouraged Zoe to look out the window during the train ride by asking her to look for bunnies.

Photos by Sue Cook – Zoe Wheeland, 2, poses with her mom Lori on their day out with Thomas. They traveled from Fairport because Zoe is a fan of the TV show. Lori encouraged Zoe to look out the window during the train ride by asking her to look for bunnies.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

MEDINA – Thomas the Tank Engine is stopping in Medina for a six-day visit this weekend and next, and the attraction already is bringing people to Medina from outside the state and some even from outside of North America.

Martin Phelps, the Medina Railroad Museum founder and director, said that the museum is excited to have Thomas back for another year.

Fisher-Price owns the rights to Thomas through HIT Entertainment. Phelps said he reached out to the company to ask that Medina be chosen again as the solo New York state stop for Thomas. The event raises between $30,000 and $40,000 for the museum’s upkeep and operation.

Near the museum’s entrance, a bubble machine fills the air. Brothers Logan and Tyler Brown play in the bubbles with their grandfather Joe Baldoni.

“Thomas is very particular where he goes to,” explained Phelps. “One of reasons he chose us is because of the Erie Canal, the old-fashioned look of the town, and we are the longest railroad freight house museum in the United States and Canada. We are one foot longer than a football field. The building was New York Central Railroad freight house built in 1905. We acquired the building in 1992 and made the museum out of it.”

Phelps said that on the first day of the event there were people who came to Medina specifically for the Thomas event from London, England; Australia; Japan; Nova Scotia; Montreal, Canada; Dominican Republic and Albany. Many visitors are coming from Rochester and Buffalo. The event is mostly seeing guests from New York state, Pennsylvania, and Canada. Other volunteers said they met people from many other states as well.

“We probably did about 12,000 tickets as an average,” Phelps said of the six-day run. “This brings in a good impact on Genesee County, Orleans County, and Niagara County. So everyone does very well. It’s a great event. Thomas the Tank Engine is a great thing for kids. This is a major fundraiser for the museum.”

Marty  Phelps, the conductor, holds 1-year-old Connie Hoffman and her brother Jeffrey, 4. Their mother, Melissa, brought them from Buffalo for the event.

“Thomas is my favorite,” said 4-year-old Jeffrey Hoffman of Buffalo. “I liked riding the train.”

He is a big fan of the TV show and was very excited to come on Friday. He even said the drive from Buffalo didn’t feel very far.

Abbagail Hamilton was hired by JED Photography to take photographs of children with Thomas. She came from Orchard Park and found Medina very aesthetically pleasing.

“I let myself get a little bit lost this morning,” she said.

Lockport resident Richard Faery is the driver for Thomas. He said that the term ‘driver’ is used in England, where Thomas is from. If Thomas were from America, then Faery would be called the engineer. He became the driver in 2006. He said that to get the position, he went to Phelps and asked, “Marty, can I dress up as the driver?” Phelps had responded to him, “Do you want to be the driver?” and since then it has been Faery’s volunteer position.

Medina resident Sherry Tuohey volunteered and was asked to operate a platform. She helped people on and off the train. She was excited to see people from outside the area coming to Thomas and exploring Medina.

“Please support the local organizations,” she said, making note that in the food court was prepared by local businesses and service clubs.

Volunteering beside her was Torby Barker of Tonawanda, who sometimes stays in the area. “We make it like a historical package,” he said of the village of Medina. “If you come here two or three days, you won’t run out of the things to do.”

Timothy Zhu, 2, of Farmington, helps Roger the Balloon Guy make a hat. Besides the train and museum, children can also do crafts, dance, see magic, color, get temporary tattoos, watch videos and more. Sir Topham Hatt also has shows throughout the day.

Ticket purchases include admission to the museum and the 25-minute train ride. Tickets can be purchased at the museum or online by clicking here.

These boys rode the train together and waved out the window. When asked if they were having fun, they shouted back, “Yes!”