CARVER, Mass. -- Aboard this train, there are no stressed looks from travel-weary, new-millennium commuters.
Instead, there are squeals of delight from children and smiles from parents as they ride a 19th-century train 5.5 miles through 1,500 acres of cranberry bogs, woods, ponds and wildlife.
Edaville Railroad, which opened on a cranberry plantation in 1947, is having its best year ever, helped by a dazzling holiday lights festival featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus and other fictional characters of the winter holidays.
The theme park's owners are projecting 300,000 visitors by the end of the year -- more people than it attracted in annual attendance in the 1970s, when Edaville was at its peak popularity as a family tourist destination.
"It brings back a lot of memories for people," says Brenda Johnson, who has been general manager of the park for 30 years.
"Time and time again, people come in and say, 'I remember when I used to come in with my Mom and Dad. Now, I'm going to bring my kids.' "
Edaville began operating as a tourist railroad in 1947, after Ellis D. Atwood bought abandoned railcars from the defunct Bridgton & Harrison Railroad in Maine to carry cranberries and workers across his 1,500-acre plantation in South Carver. Atwood's family had been operating cranberry bogs in the region since the 1880s.
At Christmas time, Atwood put up decorations and took his friends for rides on the train. The rides became so popular that Atwood decided to charge for tickets.
The 2,000-acre park gets its name from Atwood's initials -- E-D-A-ville.
Over the years, the park has been expanded to include amusement rides, an antique train museum, a carousel, and a restaurant, The Freight House Cafe.
The 30-minute train ride remains the highlight of any visit. The train rides on a narrow-gauge, 2-foot-wide track, the type that was popular in the early 1900s. Today, most commuter trains run on tracks more than twice that width.
Each November, the owners put up an elaborate holiday lighting display along the train route, stringing multicolored lights on wrought-iron frames of snowmen, angels, toy soldiers and other holiday favorites. The lighting display has grown steadily; this year, there are more than 5 million lights.
Kyle and Cheryl Josephson of Cranston, R.I., brought their two toddlers, Robbie and Taylor, to Edaville recently.
"We both came here as kids and we wanted to show our own kids what it was like," Kyle Josephson says. "They loved it."