RICHARDSON (CBS 11 NEWS) – All Joel Occhuizzo planned to build years ago was a little toy train to go around the tree outside his home in Richardson, but his simple idea kept growing.
“The kids wanted to ride on it,” he said. “Then the grandchildren wanted to ride on it. The neighbors wanted to ride on it and before you know it got bigger and bigger and bigger.”
His seven wooden car electric train now seats nearly 30 passengers as it travels along a 132-foot track around his elaborately decorated backyard.
For the past 13-years, every night from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Days, the 81-year-old – best known as “Joel the Trainman” – has offered free rides.
Last year, 19,000 step abroad the Holiday Express Riding Train. This year he expects even more to come.
But like all train rides, the Holiday Express Riding Train is nearing the end of the line. This year will be Occhuizzo’s final year.
“He really hates to give it up,” said his wife, BeBe.
While he’s never charged for a ride, Occhuizzo’s costs continue to go up every year.
In November, he received notice his homeowners insurance would not be renewed and his new insurance policy does not cover trains.
Occhuizzo said, “I try to get the people not to tell the kids because I don’t want to face the kids.”
Occhuizzo’s wife said next year is going to be really tough in her husband, but she said it’s time to pass it along to someone else.
“It’s been a good ride, she said, “a really good ride.”
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