The much-loved ride, which has run families around the zoo park in Alfriston for many years, will be replaced with a new attraction.
The owners of Drusillas say they appreciate there will be many disappointed youngsters and they have tried hard to keep the popular train. However, the contract which gives them the rights to use the Thomas and Friends brand are not being renewed.
Laurence and Christine Smith, owners of the park, said, “As you may be aware, 2016 is the last year Thomas will be at Drusillas and we want to give everyone some background information as well as some details about our plans going forward.
“Our contract with Gullane (Thomas) LLC which gives us the right to use the Thomas name on our Thomas and Friends attraction expires in March 2017.
“Mattel Inc, the US owners of the brand, informed us in October last year that they will not extend or renew our contract and it was made clear the decision was irreversible.
“Whilst initially we were disappointed, we made up our minds very quickly that we had to look forwards and not backwards and we decided to create a new area at Drusillas with a safari theme, which we are calling Go Safari.
“The plans are well under way and we are committed to the project and have signed contracts with the ride manufacturers.
“We expect it to open in April/May 2017 and it will consist of three rides - the train which will be called the Safari Express as well as two new rides, to be known as the Hippopotobus and Flying Cheetahs.
“This is a million pound investment for us, our biggest undertaking ever, and we think that once it’s in place it will be a great success and very popular.
“We tried hard to keep Thomas at Drusillas and we know only too well that there will be some disappointment from children who love Thomas – our own grandchildren included – but in Drusillas’ 90 year history the company has had to change and adapt, for a variety of reasons, and this is another case and another opportunity.
“We hope our visitors and members will continue to support us.”