By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
On a busy day, the Frankie Schmitz Express train takes hundreds of smiling children and adults on a round trip through Gainesville’s Leonard Park.
The train is a popular draw for residents and visitors.
During the first week of the train’s 2013 season, more than 4,000 passengers rode the Express, Gainesville Parks and Recreation Director Patrick McCage said.
The Express was purchased by the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation and donated to the city of Gainesville in 1999. It made its inaugural Leonard Park run in July 2000.
The miniature train is a replica of an 1843 wood burning locomotive and was constructed in San Marcos in 1971. It operated in Wimberly prior to coming to Gainesville.
Conductors Bill Stalik and Albert Farr say they love their jobs.
Farr is veteran conductor who has operated the Express since the train opened in Gainesville.
Newcomer Stalik has been driving the train for a week but said he’s excited to be part of one of the park’s most popular attractions.
“It must be the best job ever,” Stalik said.
“Where else can you drive a locomotive and (get to see) the excitement on the kid’s faces,” he said. “Plus you get to wear overalls. What could be better?”
The Frankie Schmitz Express spring hours of operation are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The times listed represent the first and last train rides of the day.
Tickets are $2 per person and the train leaves on the hour and half hour.