Emily will join Thomas and Friends at Longwood

Photo by Chris Barber Longwood Gardens toy train conductor Paul Smith, right, shows the James train to Bradan Cahill, 4, of Kennett Square. Bradan requested to see James after he saw Thomas circling the tracks.

EAST MARLBOROUGH -- Any 4-year-old can tell you about Thomas the Train and his friends James and Percy. In fact, when kids go to the Longwood Gardens train display during holiday season, they actually educate the adults who are overseeing the setup about the Thomas fine points.

Soon, however, there will be another train added to the collection that sits in the world famous floral center. Her name is Emily, and she is the first large size female to ride the rails with her male counterparts.

Paul Smith, who greets the guests and keeps the rails running at Longwood, said Emily has been sent from places unknown and is expected to arrive soon. As far as he knows, Emily is due to be delivered at Longwood “sometime after Thanksgiving.”

He doesn’t know where she is in the shipping process, or when exactly the kids will be able to see her on Longwood’s tracks, but he’s hoping for the best.

“I have granddaughters who would love to see Emily,” he said.

Smith has several copies of the catalog that features Emily, and he’s eager to show visitors exactly what she looks like. “She’s green and trimmed in gold,” he said.

Thomas, the popular cartoon character that has scale models designed after him, is light blue with big eyes and a wide grin in front. His friend James is red, and his friend Percy is green.

They all talk and get involved in cartoon adventures that keep the pre-school set glued to their televisions and videos.

At Longwood between Thanksgiving and New Years, Thomas circles the tracks there and occasionally is joined by James.

Smith said the children often ask him to show them James, and he obliges by bringing it out from the protective tent and letting them hold the red engine.

On Sunday, Bradan Cahill of Kennett Square made that request, and Smith not only brought James out for the holding, but also gave Bradan a copy of the catalog that shows all the Thomas trains.

The Thomas trains are largely dominated by males, but recently, Emily has been added to the fleet to the pleasure of many women and little girls.

Michele Siegel of West Grove, who was also overseeing the operations of Thomas and the other trains at Longwood on Sunday, said the kids have more to tell the adults than she knows herself. Another group of people who know a lot about the trains and their legends is mothers and little girls, she said. “The women and girls know more about Thomas than the boys,” she said.

In fact, when Bradan was asked if any of the Thomas trains are bad, neither Siegel nor Smith could answer, but Bradan’s mother piped up with, “Yes. Spencer is the bad one.”

The designer of the annual Longwood toy train display is Ross Carson. The setup is a holiday extravaganza, with two sections: one for Thomas, and another for other traditional model trains. They are large G gauge. The gardens that they circle are complex with plants, buildings, hills, bridges and fences. Smith said Carson delights in making new designs every years and practically begins planning as soon as the former year is finished.

Smith said they can run in almost all kinds of weather at Longwood, including light rain.

Young Peyton Landis, 5, of Conestoga, was eager to talk about the trains. He said he does not yet have a model, but perhaps would like to. He added that Percy is Thomas’s best friend -- that knowledge apparently gained from watching a lot of Thomas programs.

The garden rail exhibit runs from Thanksgiving until New Years. To find them, walk on the main sidewalk past the conservancy and turn left just past the field that houses the fountains.

Join the Conversation