Mini Train "Fun" for Everyone, Leaves No One Behind

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MOBERLY - The rumble of a train mixes with the sounds of clanging bells as a special train pulls into the depot.

Adults fold their full-sized bodies into child-sized cars to ride what some call "The Magic City Line" in Moberly.

The shiny red engine gets ready to pull out of the station, as parents finish lifting their kids into the cars.

The train's high pitched whistle sounds, and soon the engine is pulling multi-colored cars along a one-mile stretch of track on the The Rothwell Park Railroad, which is a part of the Moberly Friends of the Park Foundation.

While many of the younger riders are nervous, having never ridden a train before, volunteers said the "clickety-clack" of the train along the track is soothing, and soon those same young riders quickly relax. Some fall asleep.

But not everybody can sleep through the ride. Many children are fumbling around in their seats, and are watching as they roll past the train depot and under the park's tunnel.

Smiles can be seen on the faces of riders of all ages, some as old as 102-years-old.

J.W. Ballinger, a volunteer, mentioned this when he said although the ride was originally intended to be a children's ride, "55 to 60 percent" of the riders are actually adults.

Adults like Linda Thrasher, who said, "There's still a lot of kid in me, so I enjoy it."

Soon another of the park's three trains comes to the station, and is announced by the conductor yelling, "All aboard!"

The Railroad also has a steam engine that is used on special occasions.

But the conductor will have to wait as volunteers frantically punch holes in tickets for the long line of riders waiting for their chance to ride the same rails that nearly 5,000 have been riding annually for the past 11 years.

While the riders will soon make it past the line, some will have to wait at the station for the next train, since the miniature trains can only hold between 15 and 25 people.

The staff for the railroad is a group of around 35 volunteers. Some of them, like Lloyd Deierling, have had careers in the railroad. He worked as a switch operator for 38 years. He said, "It's fun to watch the kids."

Ballinger agrees. He jokingly said, "None of us get paid except for the smiles that the kids give us."

Smiles like those on children's faces as the conductor allows them to come up and blow the train's horn.

Ballinger, a mini-train engineer, said he volunteers because he has, "always enjoyed trains and always been around them." He said he has lived in Moberly his whole life and, "If you lived in Moberly you were around the railroads."

As another full train rumbles by, a special car at the back reminds us of the work volunteers have put in to ensure that nobody is left at the station.

Ballinger said they have tried to make sure that the ride would, "accommodate everybody." That's why volunteers installed a handicapped car, for riders like six-year-old Collin Miller, who has spina bifida. Collin's mother, Suzanne Miller, said it means a lot, "to have something special for him."

A special car where Miller said her son can, "wave and smile at the people as he goes by."

Miller said it's nice to have a place where she can take her son and, "roll him on and he can enjoy his time on the train."

Time spent enjoying his favorite parts of the ride: the bridges and the tunnels.

The Millers have been to the railroad more than four times this year.

The railroad runs every Sunday from mid-April to the end of October from 1 to 4:30 in the afternoon. It costs $2.50 to ride, with all the proceeds going to upkeep of the track.