DAY TRIP: Tanks for the memories

April 12, 2019

The latest visitor to Discovery Center Museum is pretty steamed up – but don’t worry, he’s not mad. In fact, this little chugger is pretty darn chipper. 

His name is Thomas the Tank Engine and he’s stationed at the Discovery Center Museum for a while, where he and his friends welcome families to hop aboard and visit with the popular blue engine. 

“Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails” is an interactive exhibit that gives kids ages 2 through 7 a chance to learn about science, technology, engineering and math with their families in a fun environment.

Arriving at the exhibit, it will be as if visitors were on the Island of Sodor, where they’ll find the Knapford Station as well as Sodor Steamworks. Children can help Thomas and his friends solve challenges and get an encouraging smile from characters of the cute little engine’s world, such as Percy, Victor and even Thomas himself.

I don’t know about the kids, but I’m ready get my hands on the gears. Museum visitors will climb aboard Thomas’ cab and check out how it works. Movable parts trigger noises – whistles, steam and braking – and guests can flip levers and check things out thoroughly.

Oh dear, poor Percy has a wobbly wheel. No problem. Visitors can remove it and replace it to find how to combine the wheels, bolts and rods that will fix Percy. If they’d rather load up on fun, they can get luggage, freight and livestock into the train cars.

But first, perhaps they should find out more about the island’s destinations: Tidmouth Sheds, the Sodor Search & Rescue Station, and Brendam Docks.

Guests also can make sure Percy has plenty of steam by loading coal and putting water into his tank. And help is needed to help passengers get all aboard. Visitors can dress up as a conductor and take on the job of selling train tickets to other guests.

The exhibit is in both English and Spanish.

Special Thomas events also are planned. Although my singing voice might not be in tune, other visitors may not be as shy about helping Thomas carry a tune as they join in the songs during “Sing Along With Thomas,” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 27. Sing-along times are 10:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. This event is included in the Thomas & Friends admission. It’s free or discounted for anyone sharing a name with Thomas or one of his friends.

During this event, visitors can make a Thomas train to take home before they head off down the tracks.

To bid farewell to Thomas & Friends, “Here Comes the Caboose!” will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 12 on the last day of the exhibit. This, too, is included in the Thomas & Friends admission, and is free or discounted if you have the name Thomas or that of any of his friends.

Let’s chug-chug-chug along our own tracks and make our way to the museum for some quality time with this childhood favorite.

Also this weekend

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check out the Future Nurse Academy at the Discovery Center Museum, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. This 1-day event will teach kids all about the world of nursing. Visitors will use a stethoscope, check X-rays, take vital signs and work their way through a digestion obstacle course.

After completing a nursing chart, the future nurses just need to bring their badge to get pinned.

The price for this event is included in the regular admission cost, and is a nice additional event to add to your Thomas & Friends visit.


What: Discovery Center Museum, focus on “Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails”

When: Regular hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday

Where: 711 N. Main St., Rockford

Regular admission: $8 per person (add $3 for Thomas & Friends); free for ages 1 and younger

Distance: About 43 miles from Dixon

Accessibility: Accessible to wheelchairs

Information: discoverycentermuseum.org or 815-963-6769