Joys of the Santa Train

The Santa Train made its 75th run this weekend, winding down from Kentucky through Virginia coal country into Tennessee.

There are different Santa Train runs across the country, but this is the one I’ve gone to time and time again since I was a kid. My cousins and I used to go when we were little and stand beside the railroad track to catch the candy, toys and coloring books volunteers threw off the train as it passed by us. I kind of felt like Charlie Brown at halloween when he ends up with an empty sack. I can’t remember ever getting anything big — just a few pieces of candy that landed at my feet.

Now that you’re feeling really sorry for me… picturing me standing by the track with an empty bag. I was fine – I had fun and that’s what matters.

My mom remembered going out to meet the Santa Train with her brothers and sisters years ago when it first started the Christmas run.They had to cross a field in rural Southwest Virginia to get to the track. She said she remembered digging the candy out of knee-deep snow. Back then, they just threw candy out as the train made its way down the track.

These days, kids and adults line up along the track and then swarm the train as soon as it stops, trying to get a stuffed animal or a roll of wrapping paper. I have seen knock-down-drag-outs over the toys (between adults and kids!) but this year the crowd was pretty civil and orderly. I’m glad — it’s for the kids anyway. I like to watch the goings on and snap photos to remember the event.  Except this year my phone almost ran down before the train even got there and the doublewide husband had to share his pics with me.

There’s usually a country music star aboard the train as special guest. It was pretty cool seeing Ricky Skaggs on the train this year. He’s from Cordell, Kentucky. I bet he watched the Santa Train as a child and maybe even dreamed of riding it one day.

I hope the Santa Train gets to keep on running for many more years to come. One day we’ll be watching it on its 100th run. Maybe by then they will throw out things like computers and gift cards for massages. I might have to knock somebody down to get that.

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