THE world’s favourite little blue tank engine has returned to the Watercress Line to provide a summer treat for youngsters.

And he brought with him The Fat Controller and entertainer Rusty to join in the fun.

Running for nine days at the beginning of August, it is one of the undoubted highlights of the Mid Hants Railway’s entertainment calendar - and it was made all the more exciting by the addition of vintage funfair rides and tasty refreshments.

Visitors could enjoy unlimited trips behind famous engines throughout the day, including Thomas and Toad the Brake Van, and they had the opportunity to shake hands with The Fat Controller and get involved with a host of Thomas-themed activities at the Imagination Studios.

The fun-filled experience continued at Ropley station, with unlimited rides on the miniature railway and vintage fairground rides such as Dobbies and chair-o-planes. There was also magic and storytelling.

Visitors were also tempted by a variety of local delicacies with a unique twist, including the Cookie Bar Bus, a vintage bus serving speciality teas, coffee, cookies, cakes and snacks.

And Alresford station’s West Country Buffet also hosted a new range for foodies.

A Watercress Line spokesman said it had been one of the most successful Thomas events to date, with figures up by 10 per cent against last year with people “loving travelling on the trains” as well as enjoying visiting the stations.