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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 June, 2005, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Thomas the Tank party 'a letdown'
Thomas the Tank Engine
15,000 visitors attended the event at Hatfield House
Visitors to a Thomas the Tank Engine party billed as a chance to "meet" the famous blue engine have criticised the event - after Thomas failed to show.

The event at Hatfield House, Herts, run by Thomas brand owner Hit Entertainment was a 15,000 sell-out, with some 10 tickets fetching 20 times their value.

But Tony Goose, 34, of Southend, Essex, said it was a letdown: "I can only describe it as a funfair with queues."

No one from Hit Entertainment could be contacted to comment on Sunday.

A spokesman for Hatfield House said Hit Entertainment had leased the grounds for the event. Visitors director Michael Pickard said: "We are devastated. It reflects on us at Hatfield.

Thomas the steam train was nowhere to be seen - in fact none of the engines were there. I can only describe it as a funfair with lengthy queues
Tony Goose

"With the best will in the world we cannot guarantee these events. We met with Hit Entertainment, we had assurances that there was enough going on the site for that number of people."

He said they had had a risk assessment meeting with the company and the local authority in anticipation a land train would be on the site.

London-based Hit Entertainment's leaflets promoted the party as "an opportunity to climb aboard for hours of fun and the chance to the meet everyone's favourite Number 1 Blue Engine".

'Like church fete'

Some visitors said what was on offer was a funfair, three activity tents, a stage with train cut-outs, Thomas the Tank balloons and stalls selling merchandise.

Trevor Fountaine, of King's Lynn, Norfolk, travelled 90 miles to take his two small grandchildren to the event.

"We thought we were taking them to see Thomas the Tank Engine. He was not there. It was like a church garden fete. Children were saying where is Thomas the Tank?"

Mr Fountaine said they had to queue with hundreds of other cars for an hour before they were allowed to leave and some frustrated drivers took off across the fields to get away.

Tony Goose, who went with his girlfriend and her family, said: "The Rev W Awdry (author of the Thomas the Tank Engine books) will no doubt be turning in his grave.

"Thomas the steam train was nowhere to be seen - in fact none of the engines were there."

Road works on the A414 also caused problems with tailbacks from junction 4 on the A1(M) which caused gridlock.

Thomas the Tank party a sell-out
04 Jun 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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