It never gets old! Those of you who have been reading Country’s Chatter for the past six years have heard about The Santa Train. Each year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, The Santa Train makes its way from Shelby, Ky., into Virginia, and ending in Kingsport, Tenn. That’s a 110-mile trip. Every year, there is a celebrity guest on board. This year, that guest was Amy Grant.This is more than a scenic ride for the many volunteers on board the train. The train is carrying more than 15 tons of toys, which are distributed to children at 14 scheduled stops along the route. The toys are sorted and packed into backpacks. The backpacks are different colors. It is with those colors that the volunteers know whether the bag of toys is for a boy or a girl, and what age child should get the gifts. The volunteers exit the train at each of the stops, with their arms full of backpacks. When they deliver all they can carry, they return to the train where more volunteers are standing at the doorways to hand them additional backpacks.
While all this is going on, Santa is standing at the back of the train, throwing small, soft toys and candy into the crowd. At stops where Amy didn’t get off, she was also on the platform with Santa, throwing the treats to the children. The children get the toys, but there is something for the parents, too. Every year, at each stop, hundreds and hundreds of rolls of Christmas wrapping paper are passed out to the adults in the crowd. The train doesn’t stay at each stop very long, there just isn’t that much time with so many miles to cover in one day. But, regardless of how long Santa’s train will be able to stay; and no matter how long the ‘elves’ have to distribute the toys; it is long enough to make a lot of people very happy.
It is exciting, it is exhausting, but it is one of the most heartwarming experiences I have ever had. For five of the past six years, Country’s Chatter has been onboard to be part of this awesome adventure. Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict prevented us from going this year, but we did have friends at CXS Railroad who took some pictures for us along the route. We had friends in Kingsport, when the train returned at the end of the run, who took pictures of Amy on stage entertaining the crowd. And, we got some pictures from photographer Ed Rode, that were contributed to us to use in this article. We need to thank all of these find folks for allowing us to use their pictures.
Food City, the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, and Dignity U Wear Foundation, Inc., were the sponsors of The Santa Train again this year. Those organizations, along with hundreds of volunteers, and CSX Railroad made this day one that children will long remember. When we talked to people along the route in previous years, we discovered that many have been coming since they were young children themselves. Now, they bring their children, and their grandchildren out to greet the train, and make a memory. This year marked the 72nd running of The Santa Train.
I think the best place to go form here is to share a few more photos of the 2014 Santa Train with all of you! Everyone around here is already thinking about the 73rd annual Santa Train trip next year. And, you can be sure the planning has already begun, too!
The Santa Train has a Facebook page! I hope you will all go over and visit. Remember to “Like” it while you are there, too! You can follow Team Santa Train on Twitter, too! If you aren’t already following Country’s Chatter on Twitter, we’d love to have you. You will find us @countryschatter.
If there was any doubt that Christmas is just around the corner, that doubt was removed yesterday! We’ll be back with more soon!