The Clinchfield’s CSX Santa Claus Train
The Clinchfield Railroad traversed some of the most impoverished areas of the United States, the Appalachian coal towns of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Though rich in coal, many of the people along its route have little, and when Christmas comes around each year that is felt even more. So for the last 69 years the Clinchfield railroad, now CSX, has gathered gifts and food donated from local business and distributed them by train. The Santa Claus train has become a Holiday feature from Shelby, Kentucky to Kingsport, Tennessee, and all towns in-between. This year’s train was loaded with over 15 tons of gifts and food, including $500,000.00 worth of donated toys from the Kids Wish Network.
For the 50 anniversary of the Santa Claus Train in 1992, CSX pulled out all the stops by borrowing Union Pacific’s 4-6-6-4 steam locomotive number 3985. This was the same design of locomotive that the Clinchfield bought used from DRG&W Railroad, which in turn was based on the UP design. The locomotive was then renumbered 676 and re-lettered Clinchfield. For years prior to the 3985 AKA 676 pulling the train, it was CC&O’s own number 1, a 4-6-0 steam locomotive that did the honors. The little locomotive would be assisted by a few of Clinchfield’s F units (usually B units) on the Santa Trains.
Last year’s train at St Paul VA (left) and passing that Icon of the Clinchfield,
|All Images and photos from Railpictures.net by Ron Flanary|
This year’s trip was on November 19. The 110 mile trip stopped at 14 locations, including such legendary Clinchfield locations as, Haysi and Dante, and it also crossed the famous Copper Creek Viaduct. The train consisted of 9 cars, including Santa’s very own car, The West Virginia, CSX car #310. For all but two days during the year, this car serves as a conference/reception car for CSX. However, in November the car is transformed into a railroad version of Santa’s sleigh, bringing smiles to so many children, both young and old in Clinchfield Country.
The Real Polar Express AKA The North Pole Express
As the CSX Santa Claus train meanders its way through the Appalachian coal fields, in Central Michigan the North Pole Express takes passengers on an all day holiday excursion from Owosso to Chesaning, Michigan. From November 27 thru December 18 passengers board a diesel powered train at Owosso, Michigan and ride to “Santa’s Village” at North Pole USA, in Chesaning, Michigan. This train had been pulled by ex-Pere Marquette 2-8-4 steamer number 1225 up until 2009. However, owing to Federal Railroad Administration laws for the inspections of flues, she is not expected back for at least one more year. Therefore diesels will be pinch hitting for the big Berkshire until then.
If you Google the Pere Marquette 1225, you will find on Wikipedia that the 1225 (yes, its number is the same as the calendar day for Christmas, 12-25) was the prototype for the locomotive in the film, Polar Express. Thus, the 1225 could be considered a true Christmas train.
Holiday Train Rides
If you live close to an excursion railroad, chances are they are doing some kind of holiday special event. From New England to Florida, and on to the West, excursion/tourist railroads are gearing up for the Holiday season. Trains and the Holidays have always been a match, whether it’s the toy train around the tree or a train trip with Santa, trains and the Holidays just seem to go together. And for you model railroaders out there, don’t get left out of the Holiday spirit. There are miniature Santa Claus figures available in almost every scale. So get out your open platform observation car, steam locomotive, and Santa and run your own Santa Claus Special. If you have friends coming over with their children, be sure you have plenty of treats or even a little toy to givethem, just like the CSX Santa Train. “All Aboard!”
from the December, 2011 SMARTT Newsletter