Planning our Halloween scenes is a year round project.  My family continually watches for items that can be used to enhance or add to our scenes.  This past year my Grandfather came across some wrought iron fencing in 10' sections.  These were taken, cut into two pieces and used to make our cemetery fence.  All the scenes are used at our home and transported to the Ghost Train.  Afterwards, they are hauled back home and reset up for Halloween at our home.

    This year I decided to take on the project of organizing the Ghost Train production and volunteers as my Girl Scout Gold Award.   This is the highest award that can be earned through Girl Scouting.   My goal was to provide a minimum of two new scenes and find more volunteers than we have had in the past.

    After  the Girl Scout Council approved my project idea, I started to work on scene ideas and changes.  My mother, LeAnn Boardman, provided the funding for projects since the actual props would become part of our family inventory.  Visit the scene page for in-depth information on the props.  The scenes I added to the 2005 Ghost Train were:  a Picnicking couple; I brought in enough volunteers to have ghosts at the "ghost crossing;" added grave diggers to the graveyard and a fence; added two vampires under a tree; brought in a volunteer to be a Frankenstein monster on the loose; plus had my mom become a wandering werewolf.  Along with the scenes, I came up with the idea of using solar lights for lighting.

    One of the hardest obstacles we face in the dark woods is lighting.  On a trip to Walmart I was looking at the lanterns and thought it would be a good idea to visit the garden shop to check out external lights.  There I found the solar lighting section and wondered if that would work well for improving the lighting of our scenes.  My mother purchased one to take home and check it out in the dark.  The light seemed sufficient to light small sections of a scene if the covers were removed and the unit set on the ground with the light facing up.  However, the cost was prohibitive at $6 - $8 per light.  We watched for sales.  Since it was the close of summer it was not long before a sale came on at Home Depot.  My mother was able to purchase six boxes, all that was left, of amber LED Malibu solar light sets.  These had four lights in each box for a cost of $16 each.  That was a start of our lighting.  Later we purchased sets of six from Harbor Freight.  These however were not the quality of the Malibu lights but would work for spot lighting of signs and smaller items.

    Recruitment of volunteers began by asking friends.  Most of the recruitment was by word of mouth.  I sent information of the event with my troop leader, Rebecca Moore, to the leader meetings to ask any troops interested to contact me.  Even my sister became involved by recruiting some of her friends.  At first it was difficult to get commitments from the teens.  Most of the volunteers committed just a week out from the event.  Days before the event I had 29 committed volunteers.

    There is quite a bit of work involved in preparation but the most rewarding part is setting it all up.  The night before the Ghost Train we loaded all the props and costumes into a 16' cube van (use donated by Stokes Auction).  The scenes had been set up in our yard and it started to pour as we took them down.  We got soaked in the process of loading everything - just my mom and I.  Saturday morning of the Ghost Train we drove to the park.  We arrived at 9:30 a.m. and the train guys were ready for us to start loading onto the train to transport into the woods around the track.

    Transporting the props and materials into the scene areas was completed by 12:00 p.m.  We even picked up the carved pumpkins from Rebecca Moore's house to transport them to the park and out into the woods via train.  Becky had called my mom and let us know she had an accident with the knife while carving - she was on her way to the ER for a tetanus shot and stitches.   She had five pumpkins remaining that we finished opening, cleaned and carved, without incident.

    After all the props were dropped off in the woods, we began to sort though the smaller props and carried them to the areas they need to be at.  Once each area was set up we worked on lighting.  We used 12 tiki torches and 48 solar lights between the 17 scenes.  The tiki torches are used in areas with people and we also leave a fire extinguisher at each of those sites.  By 4:45 p.m. we were ready for our volunteers to begin arriving.  Most were scheduled to arrive by 5:00 p.m. with a meeting scheduled at 5:20 p.m.  After the meeting, each volunteer would complete their costumes and get into position for the 6:00 p.m. start time.  Becky had even arrived back from the ER with her hand bandaged and ready to walk the track.

    Safety was another aspect of the night I took into consideration.  First, all the scenes were set back from the tracks a minimum of 3'.  At the volunteer meeting, instructions were given not to startle the train riders in a way that a joint reaction would cause the trains cars to rock off the tracks. This can cause the cars to derail and worse, tip over with people onboard.  I also asked that all volunteers sign-in with their position so we would know who was who.  This allowed us to know if anyone not involved in the Ghost Train production was along the tracks or trails.  Track walkers are used to make sure there no obstructions on the track, to walk volunteers through the dark if needed, and make sure the volunteers are ok at each position.   They also keep a watch for any intruders into the production area, there were none that night.

    By 6:00 p.m. the candles in the 50+ jack-o-lanterns were lit, the torches aflame and all the solar lights powered on.  Costumed volunteers were in their place and the trains began to roll filled with passengers.  Since we do not handle the money, I cannot say for sure how many people rode the trains.  I do know that the line was very long, meandering through the park.  The park board collected the fee of $2.00 per rider.  They also had crafts and games available for the kids.

    The last train  with passengers rolled through the scenes around 9:00 p.m.  As soon as that train passed a scene the volunteers began to tear their set down.  All the small props went into boxes or tubs, items were stacked or moved closer to the tracks so they could be loaded into the train cars when it arrived.  It takes three passes around the track to load all the items out and back to the train yard to be loaded into the truck.  With all the volunteers still there helping it goes quite quickly and we are on the road by 10:15 p.m.