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Japan is a country that loves its trains. For many rail enthusiasts, there’s nothing better than a getaway to one of the rural parts of the country to ride on and snap pictures of unique trains running through beautiful countryside scenery.

Some localities even drum up tourism by keeping old-fashioned steam locomotives in service, which are always a big draw. This summer, though, Shizuoka Prefecture’s Oigawa Line is going a step further by dressing up one of its trains as Thomas the Tank Engine.

Just as promised back in January, the world’s most beloved train with a face is set to spend the summer in Japan, where his numerous fans are sure to be excited about seeing Thomas in action. As a matter of fact, the friendly-faced locomotive has already been spotted scurrying about the rails.

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Thomas has started making test runs around Shizuoka, greeting onlookers with his ever-present smile and billowing plumes of white smoke.

Or, more accurately, his billowing plumes of usually white, occasionally black smoke.

▼ You feeling OK, Thomas?

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▼ Headed for the bathroom?

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Since these are still practice runs, you have to expect a few problems to rear their heads, and hopefully the Thomas support team can have everything running smoothly before schools let for summer vacation. In the meantime, though, Thomas’ smokestack troubles don’t seem to have dampened the mood of his adoring fanbase any, though.

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The special locomotive has also been attracting plenty of attention on the Internet in Japan, with commentators offering the following opinions on the bright blue visitor.

“Kids are going to love this. In some ways it’s as well thought-out as the Shinkansen.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it started talking.”
“Hey designers, can you make his eyes move too?”

Not everyone is quite so taken with Thomas, though, with a least one person describing him as flat-out “scary.”

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We agree that seeing Thomas in full scale and three dimensions is a little on the surreal side. We’re not sure if we’d call him frightening, though. We’re reserving that label for the creepy “naked bald man hiding inside Thomas” T-shirts being sold in the U.K.

Images: YouTube
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