Pumpkin train now boarding

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:14 PM

“It’s my first time. I love trains,” said the six-year-old with a shy grin.

He and his brother Zane, 4, gazed at some cows out the window as their mother, Michelle sat across from them with their younger brother, Connor.

Their grandparents, Ron and Teresa DuBois of Harbor Beach, smiled from across the isle of the vintage train car.

“I like the whistle,” said 3-year-old Audree VanVliet of Grand Rapids. She shook her head back and forth when asked if it bothered her ears.

Several other children on board covered their ears because the train whistle was so loud.

Their hands quickly came off as a cast of Halloween characters started singing and dancing their way through the passenger cars.

Gregg Sanford, the scarecrow led some songs and gave children tips about what to look at in the passing countryside.

Thomas and Jamie Case of Battle Creek brought their five children and a couple of grandparents on board.

“Thomas grew up in the Spring Lake area,” Jamie said. “The kids had never been on it, so we thought we would bring them up, that they would enjoy it.”

Conductor Andrew Kersting thanked the children for coming as they left the train and pointed them to a pumpkin patch.

There, all chaos broke loose as the children scrambled around the patch, looking for the best pumpkin.

Kersting, of Rockford and Colorado, has been conducting the train for three years.

He and the other volunteers who run the train undergo intensive training and are fully certified conductors, trainmen and brakemen.

Chris Stafford of Coopersville, has volunteered on the train for 12 years.

“My payment is looking at the kids faces,” he said. “As long as there’s a smile on their face, it’s payment to me.”

The Pumpkin Train operated by the Coopersville and Marne is just one of several theme trains run throughout the year.

The Pumpkin Train runs Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27, according to General Manager Jerry Ricard.

Times are 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1 and 3 p.m. on Sunday. The last two weekends the train will run at 11 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The cost is $15.50 for adults, $14.50 for senior citizens and $13.50 for children ages 2-12. Children under age 2 ride for free.

Regular Wednesday excursions will also run through the end of October. There is no Halloween show on the Wednesday train.

A Santa Train runs on Saturday and Sunday from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Ricard said he is excited about the future of the Coopersville and Marne Railroad Company as they recently accepted the donation of  the John Engler engine and storage canopy from a Grand Rapids company.

With city approval, the engine (which will be named after city founder Benjamin Cooper), will be located across the tracks from the ticket both at the corner of Eastmanville and Main streets, he said.

Next door, the company purchased the former Lemon car dealership building and will be transforming that into a new ticket office, gift shop, train museum, restrooms and offices.

Ricard said they hoped to have this done for next year’s 25th anniversary celebration.

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See the photo gallery at www.grandhaventribune.com/photos.


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