WATERMAN – For 18 years, Peter Robinson has been doing what he loves most: managing and operating Waterman’s Holiday Lights Train.
Since 1994, the number of lights at the park has increased. Then, Lions Community Park was decorated with 20,000 Christmas lights; now it’s 250,000.
“All of the figurines you see here ... are made here,” Robinson said. “We make all of our own decorations.” They include the archway through which people enter Lions Community Park and the 16-foot water tower outlined in lights.
The Holiday Lights Train is the winter program of Waterman & Western Railroad, which also operates in summer and fall.
Getting on the train, riders can see Robinson and company’s handiwork: villages, candy canes, churches, Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, all lined with Christmas lights. Holiday music seranades visitors as they make their way around the park. The only interruption is “train conductor” announcements, by Robinson or a volunteer.
The train ride, along with popcorn, hot chocolate and coffee, is free. Robinson said his wife, Charleen, who also has a significant role in the train’s management, described it as their Christmas gift to the world.
“It’s free because I don’t want anybody’s little guy to not be able to come here because their mom and dad don’t have a dollar,” Robinson said. “It’s not about money. It’s about happiness and children, and I’m talking about children from two days to 92 (years old).”
Robinson said 20,000 people visited the Holiday Lights Train last year and he hopes to have as many this season, but it depends on the weather.
He said they’ll operate the train in “up to 4 feet of snow.” It also depends on whether the train can get around the track.
Four recent visitors were Duane and Cindy Lackey, and their granddaughters Riley and Zoey. Cindy Lackey said Riley and Zoey both love trains and rode on the park’s Halloween-themed train earlier this year.
“We thought we’d come out and see the lights,” said Lackey, a first-time visitor.
IF YOU GO ...
• What: Waterman’s Holiday Lights Train
• When: Fridays and weekends through Dec. 30, weather permitting
• Train hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays; 4:30 to 9 p.m. Saturdays; 4:30 to 8 p.m. Sundays
• Santa’s hours: 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays and 5 to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
• Where: Lions Community Park, Waterman
• Cost: Free
• Information: Call 815-264-7753, email email@example.com or visit www.petestrain.com.