08/30/12 — Nearly 2 million riders ... and still counting

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Nearly 2 million riders ... and still counting

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 30, 2012 1:46 PM

Generations of Wayne County area children have been thrilled, and maybe a little frightened, as the Goldsboro Kiwanis Club's miniature train clickety-clacked over the "Grand Canyon" trestle or as they yelled at the top of their lungs to drive away the animals and critters that supposedly hide in the "tunnel" at Herman Park.

Now, nearly 50 years after that first train ride, the club is expecting its 2 millionth rider this weekend, probably sometime Sunday afternoon, club member David Quick said this week.

The lucky rider will receive gifts provided by area businesses, including lunch for four at Lane Tree Golf Club, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and other prizes that are still being made final, Quick said.

The 2 millionth rider had been expected earlier in the season, but recent rains have kept attendance low, he said.

The train hosted its one millionth rider late in the 1985 season. The child, part of the second generation to ride the train, was honored with prizes.

"Now, 27 years later, we are seeing third and fourth generation young riders that are just as excited as our first trainload," Quick said. "It is such a thrill and pleasure to see the look on the faces of these children. We have quite a reputation. One young man, who is learning impaired and lives at a home in New Bern, they bring him every Saturday and it makes his week.

"Another father brings his son from Little Washington every week. There are a lot of memories."

In the early 1950s, 14 members of the Kiwanis Club of Goldsboro signed a bank note to purchase a miniature train, complete with tracks. It was, members say, the fulfillment of a dream to benefit the children in the area.

The Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Department agreed to allow the train to be located in Herman Park, with the club operating it as a fundraiser to benefit its children's charities.

The train was completed in 1955. At that time, and for years after, the tracks included a trestle over the large ditch in that part of the park that became known as the "Grand Canyon."

The storage building for the train quickly became known as the "tunnel" and the tradition became for riders to scream and yell while riding through it.

The custom started when someone started the speculation that "bears and other critters" slipped into the "tunnel" when the train was out. The screaming and yelling were supposed to scare the animals away.

The train is powered by a four-cylinder Wisconsin V-4 engine that has been overhauled four times.

The wheels are steel, but seem to wear out in no time, Quick said.

A decade ago, Hurricane Floyd downed trees across the tracks in several locations, requiring that sections of the track be replaced. However, the problem was the lack of track available in the right size. The club used what was available, and at the end of the 2010 season all new track was installed. The railroad bed was also was reworked and new cross ties put down.

Club members serve faithfully every weekend during the summer as engineers, safety officers and ticket sellers.

"As a club we are so fortunate to have members that maintain our treasure so well as a labor of love," Quick said.

The public is invited to the park this weekend to be a part of the big celebration, he said.

The train operates from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $1 each.

For more information, visit the train's website at http://goldsborotrain.webs.com.