Santa visits Appalachia, as annual ‘Santa Train’ returns
Saturday marked the return of Santa Train, a special holiday train that travels 110 miles through Appalachia.
In downtown Saint Paul, families crowded the edge of the tracks, as the Santa train came into view.
6-year-old Chase Jordan sat on his father’s shoulders, excitedly waving his arms in the air towards Santa, and five helpers who stood at the back of the train, tossing toys to the kids.
Chase caught a green and orange dog. “Yay! I got this!” he yelled, hugging the stuffed animal to his chest.
It was Chase’s first year visiting the Santa Train, and the first time the train ran since 2019. During the pandemic, CSX and Food City organized a drive-through version to give away toys.
In August, they announced 2022 would be the same. CSX has been involved in ongoing negotiations with labor unions.
But in late September, when a deal between railroad companies and unions seemed like a done deal, CSX said they had found a way to bring back the Christmas train.
Rail companies and unions still haven’t agreed to a deal, and a strike is still possible.
But the Santa train chugged on.
“This is a long-standing tradition, something we’re very proud of,” said Brian Tucker, a spokesperson for CSX. “The rail industry has been through a lot of changes. Obviously the last few years have been very tumultuous, not only for the rail industry but for many businesses.”
Tucker said the company has struggled recently with staffing shortages and other challenges.
Many of the kids who visited the Santa Train Saturday were there with parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents who remember seeing the Santa train when they were kids.
16,000 toys and backpacks were given away Saturday along 14 stops in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. This year marked the train’s 80th year. It began running in 1943.