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Easter Bunny makes visit to train in Waterman

Myric Moore, 3, of Cortland gives the Easter Bunny a high five Saturday at the Waterman & Western Railroad.
Myric Moore, 3, of Cortland gives the Easter Bunny a high five Saturday at the Waterman & Western Railroad.

Pete Robinson says Walt Disney is his idol, and he's worked to emulate him by offering families a chance to enjoy free, fun activities.

Robinson, who built and runs a half-mile train track in Waterman, offered free train rides to the public all day Saturday.

People also had a chance to take pictures with the Easter Bunny.

Waterman & Western Railroad is one of the only places in DeKalb County where people can enjoy recreational train rides. The nearest one that's the same size is in Aurora, Robinson said.

Robinson's wife Charleen, owner of Waterman & Western Railroad, said they offer free rides only for Easter and Christmas.

“I don't want anybody's little kid not to experience something like this because their parents don't have a dollar,” Robinson said.

It took Robinson and other workers 35 days to build the tracks in Waterman, giving new meaning to the song “I've Been Working on the Railroad.”

Pete also built a handicap accessible ramp last year, which helped 8-year-old Joey Marino of Hinckley, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

“They treated him like a king here,” father Ken Marino said about Joey. “[Pete's] feeling blessed about it, but he's blessing others.”

Marino was among dozens of people who showed up for the free train ride the day before Easter Sunday.

The Robinsons and the Easter Bunny helped pass out 1,000 plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and chocolate.

Two trains ran simultaneously throughout the day. Each train traveled in a big circle, passing through a castle-like tunnel.

One trip around the track lasts seven minutes, Robinson said.

During the ride, the chilly wind bit at Erik Wold of Sheridan when he was on the train with his two sons. However, it still was warmer than when he rode the trains with his sons on Christmas.

Wold said his sons love trains.

“It was hard to get them off [the train ride],” he said. “We might have to ride it one more time.”

That's exactly the kind of experience Robinson wants everyone to have. Robinson was 5 years old when his parents first took him to Kiddieland. That's when he first fell in love with trains.

Train-riding also is an activity generations of families can do together.

Charleen Robinson said that when they first built the handicap ramp, an elderly woman was the first to hop on.

“She just sat there and cried because she finally got to sit there with her grandkids,” Charleen Robinson said.

Norm Busch of DeKalb rode the train with his two nephews, Brock and Heath.

“I go where the family goes,” Busch said while holding one of his nephews in his arms. “It's considerably cheaper [coming here] than buying [a train] ... maybe if I make it filthy stinkin' rich, I'll buy one.”

The trains can go as fast as 40 miles per hour, said engineer Shawn Batka. However, the conductor is only allowed to travel up to 13 mph.

No matter how fast the train was going, Pete Robinson made sure to talk to people between rides. He mostly talked to the Marino family.

Joey Marino was the fourth rider when Pete Robinson built the handicap ramp, his mother Sally said. It was their third time at the Waterman & Western Railroad.

Pete Robinson said his favorite part is helping those like Joey because he realizes how special it is to them.

Joey Marino rode the train twice that day, and he was smiling almost the entire time.

“Everybody's got a hobby,” Pete Robinson said. “Some people have boats, some have cottages in Wisconsin. We have a train, and we share it with the world.”

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