I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with our CSX Santa Train. On Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, the train made its 68th run on the 110-mile route from Shelby, Ky., to Kingsport, Tenn. The train runs through the mining towns of Kentucky, and Southwest Virginia, before arriving at the depot in Kingsport. As if this event wasn’t special enough, Wynonna and Naomi Judd were on the train this year. (Pictured left with Everett Allen and Noel Muhn, with CSX Railroad)
What this train does on it’s 9 hour ride is nothing short of amazing. There is a reason it is called The Santa Train. That is because Santa is on the train, doing what Santa does best. He’s delivering toys to children from some of the poorest areas in Appalachia. Many of these children wouldn’t have any thing for Christmas, if it weren’t for The Santa Train.
This year, more than 15 tons of toys were on the train, along with candy, and other ‘snack’ type foods. At each of the 14 stops along the route, Santa, from the back platform on the train, throws toys and candy out to the children waiting along the tracks.
And, Santa has help! On the back of the train with him this year, were Wynonna and Naomi Judd. Naomi was on the train back in 2005, and last year, Wynonna made her first trip on board. Being from a coal mining town in Kentucky, and as Naomi pointed out during the interview – eighth generation Kentuckians – the duo was eager to come back to be part of this year’s train.
Bags are packed with toys, according to the ages of the children. While Santa and his helpers were throwing toys and candy from the back of the train, Ground Crews were on the grounds distributing the color coded bags to boys and girls who anticipate the arrival of The Santa Train every year. By the color of the bag, the ground crew knew whether it was to be handed to a boy, or a girl, and of what age group. Everything went smoothly.
The train is sponsored by CSX Railroad, Food City, the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, and Kids Wish Network. I have been fortunate to take this trip for the past two years. (You can find reports from last year’s Santa Train here, and here). We also put up an interview with Wynonna onboard the train. In a few days, I will put up the interview from this year’s trip with both Wynonna and Naomi.
Kids Wish Network is a fantastic organization, that this year donated more than $300,000 to the Santa Train. I hope you will all visit their web site, and find out how you can help this fantastic organization with everything they are doing for kids. Their web site is www.kidswishnetwork.org. You can even make a donation through their web site. They are a group of very caring people, who do all they can to help kids
There is little I could do to reach so many children each Christmas. But being able to ride this train, and see these kids light up when they’re handed a present from the ground crew, or catch something Santa has thrown off the back of the train is heartwarming. It’s an experience I wish everyone got to be a part of.
I’ll finish with a few more pictures from this year’s trip. As you can see, Wynonna and Naomi even got off the train at several stops to visit with the people gathered to get toys. It was a real pleasure seeing Wynonna again, and meeting Naomi for the first time. They are very nice ladies, with very big hearts. Thanks, both of you – for being a part of our Santa Train.
It was a very tiring weekend – but what a wonderful experience. I need to get to the office. I’ll talk to you all real soon, and hopefully get the interview with Naomi and Wynonna up in the next couple of days.