Santa Claus and Ricky Skaggs greet the crowds from the back of the 75th Santa Train. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)
Year after year, families have lined the tracks from Pikeville, Ky., to Kingsport, Tenn., to be part of The Santa Train experience. Grandparents who took part in the event as children are now bringing their grandchildren to one of the 14 stops along the 110-mile route, so they can receive their special gifts from Santa.
The train makes its annual trip the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The event has become a tradition that families throughout the coal region of the Appalachian Mountains wait for, and look forward to year after year.
This year, Ricky Skaggs was among the hundreds of volunteers who ride the train each year and take part in distributing gifts to the children waiting at each stop. At some of the stops, Ricky would stand at the back of the train with Santa, and toss gifts to the hands of the children, who eagerly waited for their special gift.
Special guest Ricky Skaggs greets a young boy who has come out to the Santa Train. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)
At other stops, the celebrity guest would get off the train to hand gifts to the children, and great parents and childlren at the stop. CSX, Food City, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Appalachian Power and Soles 4 Souls, sponsors of The Santa Train, work all year long, collecting gifts and organizing final plans for the annual trip. On the day of the event, 100 volunteers board the train to help pass out gifts to the chilren.
“I was honored to be part of this incredible tradition,” Skaggs said. “I have a deep understanding and affection for the people in this region, and I really appreciate the people who organize this event every year.”
One of the highlights of this year’s running was a tribute to CSX’s predecessor railroad, the Clinchfield Railroad. In partnership with the Southern Appalachia Railroad Museum, CSX restored two historic Clinchfield locomotives that led the Santa Train along its route for the special anniversary.
“The Santa Train continues to be our favorite holiday tradition, and the 75th running was a great time to reflect on that,” said Bryan Tucker, vice president of corporate communications for CSX. “We’re especially thankful to Ricky Skaggs, our fellow sponsors and the people of Appalachia for making this event what it is today.”
The train is loadoed each year with 15-20 tons of toys, along with food items, gift wrap, and other items the families along the route can enjoy. This is a long-lived tradition that serves a real purpose for the families in the Appalachian coal region. Many of these children would not receive any Christmas gifts, if it were not for this annual visit from Santa.
That’s pretty much the story of The Santa Train. Now, for a few more photos from this years trip.
A little girl attends her first Santa Train. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)Volunteer Stephen LaHair of Kingsport, Tenn., helps carry bags of gifts and winter clothing into the crowd at a stop. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White Skaggs perform for an audience in Kingsport, Tenn., after the Santa Train has made its last stop of the day. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)Santa waves from the back of the train. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)CSX’s Shantel Davis offers gifts and smiles to people at a stop along the route. Photo Credit: Ed Rode)Santa tosses gifts to the crowds from the back of the Santa Train. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)The fully restored CRR 800, the first diesel locomotive to operate on the Clinchfield Railroad, led this year’s Santa Train. (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)
If you enjoyed this story and would liek to read stories about The Santa Train, followo the links below, to Country’s Chatter Santa Train articles over the past eight years.