A high five, a smile and a laugh a minute – these are just a few of the things that make driving Thomas the Tank Engine the ‘best job in the world.’
That’s according to Michael Middleton anyway – the lucky chap that gets to drive the little blue engine every day!
Over the past seven years Michael has worked on every ride in Drayton Manor Park’s Thomas Land™, but when asked which was his favourite, he said: “Thomas of course! I’m not only in charge of driving him, but also cleaning and polishing him and Knapford Station. I make sure it looks the best it can be as it’s the first thing people see when they walk into Thomas Land, it’s very important the station, turntables and of course the trains look their very best.”
Michael has chugged his way around the park, delighting an estimated 450,000 guests – that’s about 960 Virgin trains full of happy visitors!
When asked why driving Thomas was so special, Michael said: “The children get so excited and I love seeing their happy little faces! I give all of my passengers a high five and when the train is loaded up, I stop at every compartment to say hello. Interacting with people is what makes the job for me, even the mums and dads high five me!”
Michael has become somewhat of a local celebrity, with Drayton Manor’s social media regularly filling up with complimentary messages about him.
“I have lots of fun with the visitors and other staff,” he says. “We have lots of messages from guests saying how much they enjoyed their day out, and that’s what it’s all about for me, making people happy. I’m part of making that magical memory here at Drayton Manor Park and you cannot put a price on that.”
With so many faces coming and going every day, what really makes Michael’s job is when he can enhance someone’s day, spread some happiness and make sure they have the time of their lives. Michael recalls one particular family that had brought their Grandad to the park for his birthday. They had travelled from London and met another family en route, who were on their way home from the park. They told them to be sure to visit Michael, the Thomas train driver, as he’s fantastic! Michael’s reputation definitely precedes him!
Michael, from Tamworth, first worked at Drayton Manor Park in the arcades at the tender age of 14.
After a ‘brief’ hiatus in his Drayton Manor career, to spend 38 years working elsewhere, the lure of the park called again. At the age of 59, rather than retire, Michael discovered his part time position, uniting him with Thomas and his friends on the Island of Sodor.
Michael added: “I grew up at Drayton Manor really, having worked there as a youngster and visiting regularly.
“The variety of the job is great. There’s such a good mix of activity and so many different people to keep you stimulated. I am a real people person, I just love being in Thomas Land, it’s really good fun and you can’t help but enjoy being surrounded by happy people all day long.
“I want to stay working here as long as possible. The other staff and visitors are all fantastic and I just love being out in the open air, whether it’s raining and snowing during Magical Christmas or the sun is shining on the long summer days.
“I would definitely recommend for people of my age to consider making the change and having a fun and rewarding job.”
When asked what his favourite time of year is, Michael said: “Christmas is wonderful, with snow falling in Thomas Land and the singing and dancing; I love my job all year round, but Christmas is extra special.”
To book tickets, or for more information about the park, visit www.draytonmanor.co.uk or call 0844 472 1950.