CALM festive with train/'Lights'
Warner Brooks, architect of the Central California Children's Railroad, lays out plans for its implementation at CALM during a Nov. 18 news conference.
An unusual sight greets visitors to the California Living Museum (CALM) in Bakersfield these days — a train festively decorated with holiday lights. It is the Central California Children's Railroad and was delivered to CALM on Nov. 18, just in time for the Nov. 26 opening of the annual "HolidayLights @ CALM designed by Josh Barnett's Lightasmic!"
As members of the local news media gathered around, Warner Brooks, retired educator and architect for the small scale railroad, answered questions about the unique display which will become a permanent attraction at CALM in the not too distant future. Brooks said, that when the project is complete, it will be part of a planned one third expansion of CALM, affording families an opportunity to view new animal habitats and scenic landscapes on the one-half mile railroad loop around the zoo. For now, the train portion of the project is prominently displayed in the middle of the grounds for all to see and becomes even more spectacular at night as part of the two million light display known as "HolidayLights @ CALM designed by Josh Barnett's Lightasmic!" from Nov. 26-Dec. 30.
"We started the train three years ago with private donations and a dream of providing education and a wonderful venue for young children," Brooks said. "We bought a train that was used for hauling Christmas trees on a farm in Oregon. Since that time, basically four of us, including retired county public works employee Charlie Thurston, retired Southern Pacific Railroad construction engineer Larry Parmenter and retired machinist Howard MacArthur, have worked two days-a-week refurbishing the locomotive, tender and other cars, making them passenger-friendly. Our main focus has been on safety. This will not be a ride for speed or thrill-seekers. Every system we have tried to make redundant. For instance, there is both a mechanical and hydraulic braking system, and all of the cars are gated. We are constantly concerned about keeping children from getting hurt."
Brooks laid out a tentative timetable for completion of the project, which will begin with grating of land, after "HolidayLights" finishes its run on Dec. 30. The next phase will include laying the tracks, which Brooks said will probably begin in the Spring, when temperatures are moderate. If everything goes exactly according to plan, he is expecting the Central California Children’s Railroad could be ready for its first passengers at CALM by the opening of "HolidayLights" next year.
To help things along, Nancy Wheeler Smith, representing the Wheeler Foundation — a long time friend and benefactor to the CALM Foundation — presented Brooks with a donation of $30,000 at the Nov. 18 news conference.
"We cannot begin to express how grateful we all are for Nancy's continued support," Brooks said. "As time goes on and more donations roll in, we hope to add a tunnel, train station and other improvements to the railroad."
Brooks and other members of the railroad will be at the train during "HolidayLights," handing out brochures explaining the project in more detail for those interested in contributing to its completion. General information brochures will also be available for "HolidayLights" visitors and there will be some access to parts of the train, allowing viewers a closer look.
The train won't be the only fascinating object on display at "HolidayLights." A volcano spews multi-colored lava. Huge frogs leap across lily pads. A sea serpent appears in one of CALM's tranquil ponds, amazing visitors. Deer avoid a stalking mountain lion. A playful young elephant gets chastised with colorful spray from its mother's trunk. Snow falls, even though the night is clear. A gorilla throws coconuts, while a coyote howls at the moon. A smiling mermaid offers welcoming waves, and Santa takes a brilliantly lit ride around the world with his sleigh and reindeer.
"HolidayLights @ CALM designed by Josh Barnett's Lightasmic!" runs from Wednesday-Sunday nights from Nov. 26-Dec. 12 and every night Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-30. Viewing hours are from 5:30-9 p.m. Admission prices are $4 for children ages 3-17, $6 for seniors above age 60 and $8 for adults. Parking is $1. Proceeds benefit the non-profit CALM Foundation providing funding for developing new and exciting animal exhibits at CALM. Tickets can be purchased through Vallitix at (661) 322-5200.
For more information check the CALM Web site, http://www.calmzoo.org.
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