Handicapped Car First in Nation

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

It's been a landmark in Staunton for 45 years. WHSV found out a new addition to the Gypsy Hill Park train makes it like no other in the U.S.

The Gypsy Hill Express rolled into town for children of all ages in 1958. And now it has the only handicapped-accessible car in the nation.

"The biggest thing was seeing kids over here in wheelchairs that couldn't do anything in the park," says John Zinn, President of Dixie Express Inc.

The car is named after Marianne Cashatt, who was disabled in a car accident and has since become a fierce advocate of the handicapped.

"It's probably one of the most exciting things that's happened to me," says Cashatt, retired from working at Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center. "When you change your life you feel like maybe people will forget me and they haven't."

"She just was a shining example of what someone could do to overcome a terrible tragedy, the car wreck, she was in paralysis," explains Zinn. "To me she's the least handicapped disabled person I know."

The new addition was made by cutting a train car in half, then stretching and lowering it. David Law, the car's designer, says the city went above and beyond to provide the new service.

"We were the little ones that rode this thing when we were kids," says Law, a rehabilitation engineer at Woodrow Wilson. "And so it brings back so many memories and it's a great great day that allows everyone access to the train now."

The train car cost $12,000 in donations, but Zinn says the amount of volunteer hours put in was beyond measure.

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