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All aboard for a Cincinnati Dinner Train ride with 'Leave It To Beaver' star Jerry Mathers

Jerry Mathers from Cincinnati Dinner train crop.jpg
Courtesy Cincinnati Dinner Train
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Jerry Mathers, who starred as "Beaver Cleaver" on "Leave It To Beaver" frofm 1957 to 1963, will be in Cincinnati April 23.

TV's "Beaver Cleaver" to dine and chat with Cincinnati Dinner Train passengers April 23.

A few years ago, Cincinnati Dinner Train owner Brian Collins didn't know what to do with his large collection of memorabilia from his favorite childhood TV show, Leave It To Beaver.

Through a mutual friend in Los Angeles, he offered it to actor Jerry Mathers, who played Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver, the youngest son of Ward and June Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley), and brother of Wally (Tony Dow). The beloved 1957-63 family sitcom still airs today (8 and 8:30 a.m. on MeTV, Channels 5.2 and 7.2).

Mathers welcomed the opportunity to see the Leave It To Beaver lunch box, coloring books, comic books, figurines, photos, board games and scrapbooks.

"Jerry didn't keep any of that stuff, and so badly wanted to pass it along to his grandkids," says Collins, a Villa Hills entrepreneur who owns the Cincinnati Dinner Train which operates Saturdays only from March through December.

Over the years, Collins, 66, the son and grandson of railroad police detectives, had bought from eBay everything he could from the show, including props such as the meat grinder from the Cleaver kitchen and a coin changer Wally used selling ice cream from his bicycle.

He also owned a cereal box with Mathers' picture that he had the actor autograph at the Cavalacade of Customs at Duke Energy Convention Center four years ago. Collins says he told him, "If you're ever in Cincinnati, promise me you'll ride my Dinner Train."

And on April 23 he will.

Collins is flying Mathers and his wife Teresa here to chat with fans and pose for photos with them as they enjoy a four-course dinner on the three-hour Cincinnati Dinner Train excursion.

Tickets ($120) go on sale Feb. 15, at the Cincinnatidinnertrain site or at 513-791-7245. About 60 of the 180 seats already have been taken by past customers and family told about the celebrity visitor in an email last weekend.

"It will sell out quickly," predicts Collins, who left Procter & Gamble in 1985 to open Commonwealth Inc. warehouses. The Erlanger native also is majority partner in the Cincinnati Railway Company.

"We never advertise, because we don't have to. In the last two or three years, we've sold out every night from word of mouth and repeat customers," Collins says.

The Cincinnati Dinner Train, now in its 13th year, operates 45 Saturdays a year. The ride from 2172 E. Seymour Ave., in Bond Hill, to Theodore Berry Friendship Park on Riverside Drive in downtown Cincinnati and back includes a four-course meal in restored 1940s dining cars and entertainment by the Queen City Sisters, a trio reminiscent of the 1940s' Andrews Sisters.

Collins says he could probably sell out Sunday brunches or other excursions — but doesn't want to.

"I could do more. Then it's a job," he says. "This is fun. I've had jobs."