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Kennywood debuts Thomas Town attraction

July 31, 2018 GMT

​Thomas and Friends officially are part of the Kennywood Park family.

Leaders of the West Mifflin amusement park celebrated the opening on Friday of the $8.5 million expansion that brings the popular franchise to life in the Mon Valley.

“This is a really big deal for Kennywood -- not just from the standpoint of adding new children’s attractions for the first time in 10 years, but this can really put us on the map for a lot of people who maybe didn’t know a lot about Kennywood,” park spokesman Nick Paradise said.

Nestled between the Raging Rapids​,​ Auto Race​ and the iconic Pagoda​, the addition is one of the largest in the park’s history, and includes a refreshed train ride named Journey with Thomas, plus four new rides, a birthday party center, and an indoor soft-play and activity area that features a jungle gym-like experience and let kids tinker with train and track pieces. Clips of “Thomas & Friends” also run inside.

New rides are Cranky’s Drop Tower, Harold’s Helicopter Tour, Flynn’s Fire Training, and Diesel Drivers.

The train, rethemed with Thomas as the​ lead​ engine, meanders along the same path it has for decades through a dense tree cover on the bluff overlooking the Monongahela River and the Edgar Thomson Steel Works that generations of parkgoers have enjoyed.

Season pass holder​ ​Annette Musta said she and her children, Aemilia, 13, and Aaron, 11, all of Venetia, visit the park weekly and are excited for the new addition.

They attended the Thomas Town opening and were among the first to ride some of the new attractions, including a ride on Cranky’s Drop Tower that carries riders up before a series of small drops.

“I liked it because it had a lot more drops than I expected,” Aaron ​Musta ​said as he waited in line for a second ride.

With Thomas Town and next year’s planned addition of Steelers Country -- a themed area that will include a record-breaking steel coaster and along with other attractions -- Annette Musta said she welcomed long-awaited upgrades to the park.

“I like the changes because I’ve seen so many,” she said. “There are things I still miss. I miss Laser Loop. I like (Phantom’s Revenge), but I love the Laser Loop.”

​Paradise said the park has received a high volume of calls and internet inquires about the Thomas addition, which he attributes to the longevity of the iconic franchise, which dates to “The Railway Series” story books of the 1940s. The premise of the story is based on the fictional Island of Sodor, and draws inspiration from the real Isle of Man -- a self-governing British Crown dependency near Great Britain.

Paradise has said the fictional Isle of Sodor looks similar to that of the iconic Mon Valley, with its industrial roots backed by scenic waterways and woodlands.

“To have these characters here that are known the whole world round, and have such legacy and staying power -- it’s great for Kennywood,” he said.