Every November, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, The Santa Train begins its journey at the Shelby, Ky., rail yard. The train, loaded with approximately 17 tons of toys and food, heads out on a 110-mile trip, with 14 scheduled stops. There is a lot more than toys and food on board that train. There are hundreds of volunteers and two celebrity guests – getting ready to put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces along the route. One guest, who needs no introduction, is Santa Claus. Each year, Santa takes his place on the platform at the back of the train, ready to toss out stuffed animals and other soft toys to the hands of waiting children. (Photo above by Ed Rode)
Each year, there is a very special celebrity guest onboard to join Santa at the back of the train to toss out gifts; and, to get off the train and hand presents to the children at various stops. The other celebrity on board this year was Meghan Linsey. Most country fans remember her as half of the duo Steel Magnolia. But, these days, we all know her as runner-up on season 8 of The Voice. Meghan took some time form her very busy schedule to climb on board the train this year, and help volunteers pass out gifts to thousands of children who waited at each stop.
While I will always think of Meghan as half of Steel Magnolia, she is now an established pop star, with her debut EP “Believer” landing in the No. 7 spot on the iTunes pop chart. When Meghan climbed up on to the stage at the Kingsport stop (the last stop on the train’s run), she told the crowd that she enjoyed the day, and had a good time passing the gifts out to the children. You could tell she did. She was all smiles when she climbed off the train and headed to the crowd to finish out her adventure.
Meghan made sure people standing near the fenced area were able to get a photo or autograph as she made her exit at the end of the event. It’s always a fun day, and a heart-warming experience for the entertainers who get to share this journey with all of the volunteers.
Local television hosts Morgan King and Laura Steel Woods were on the stage to keep the crowd entertained, and informed! They kept a countdown for the many people who were waiting for The Santa Train to arrive at 3:08 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
CSX Railroad, Food City, The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, and Dignity U Wear, sponsored the Santa Train again this year. Without their support, and that of hundreds of volunteers, none of this would be possible. this is a tradition that has been going on for 73 years. Along the tracks, people who came as little kids are now bringing their grandchildren to enjoy seeing Santa, and getting what might be the only gift they receive this Christmas. The train makes its way through some of the poorest coal-mining towns in the region – traveling through parts of Kentucky, into Southwest Virginia, and ending up in Kingsport, Tenn. for the final stop.
When the train got to Kingsport, a very long stage was set up, where volunteers were joined by Santa and Meghan Linsey to throw more toys out to the children in the crowd there. Volunteers were also on the ground, handing out large rolls of wrapping paper to parents, and bags of food to the adults as well. They did this at each stop along the route as well.
To make it easier to find the right age child for the toys in each of the back packs, the bags are color-coded, which blue bags going to certain age boys; pink to certain age girls, etc. there are a lot of different colors, for many different ages of boys and girls. Each bag contains a number of gifts.
I think we need to finish this one out with a few more pictures. And, a great deal of thanks to Meghan Linsey, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Food City, Dignity U Wear, and CXS Railroad for mailing all of this possible every year.
Most of the photos above were taken by Country’s Chatter. Our thanks to Ed Rode for the ones he sent for us to use. We have marked the photos he took, and really appreciate having those!
That will do it for this year’s Santa Train report. I’m sure the planning for the 74th annual trip of The Santa Train has already begun. It is definitely a year-long project, and such a wonderful event for the people along the route.
More news later! Have a wonderful rest of your Monday!