WATERMAN - For many local families, the Christmas season isn’t complete without a trip on the Holiday Lights Train in Waterman.
“It’s a family tradition,” said Jason Pearson of Genoa, who was making his fourth annual family trip early Saturday evening. “It’s for the kids.” For 19 years Peter and Charleen Robinson have conducted free holiday train rides on weekends in December. Beginning at dusk, the brightly-colored Waterman & Western Railroad, a 1/3-scale model F-3 electro-motive miniature train, gently rumbles past 400 lighted figures and 250,000 lights strung out on a one-mile track throughout Lions Community Park in Waterman. Some of the displays, such as the drummer boy, were just put up last weekend.
The rides, Pete Robinson said, are the Robinsons’ “gift to the world.”
It’s also a thank-you of sorts to those who take paid train rides the rest of the year.
With one weekend to go, Pete Robinson estimates they’ve already gone through 5,000 candy canes, 1,200 pounds of popcorn and 30 cases of hot chocolate - all of which are also free.
“It’s very rewarding,” he said about seeing so many people enjoying themselves.
Karen Sherman has enjoyed it so much, she’s driven out from Lombard every year for 11 years to see it.
“It’s a long drive, but it’s fun,” she said.
“It’s great and it’s fun,” her son, Zane, 8, said.
Of all the sights, the thing 15-year-old Olivia Froegner likes the best is the lighted snowflake arch on the far side of the track.
For the Ben Morris family of Rochelle, making their fifth trip, their first with 18-month-old Benjamin, memories may be their favorite part of the train rides. Particularly, Ben remembers the time he and some others had to get out of the train and help push it through the snow.
“It’s a good time,” he said.
The train rides, which end Dec. 30, run from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.