Friday, November 16, 2007

The Santa Train pulls into town

In Appalachia Santa Claus comes the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Since 1943, the Santa Special, more commonly known as the Santa Train, has traveled 110 miles through the mountains of eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia and northeastern Tennessee to distribute loads of candy, toys and other goodies to eager bystanders, most of whom have made it a family tradition. The train typically passes through more than 30 towns delivering 15+ tons of goodies and Christmas cheer.

Joe Higgins as Santa ClausThis year Patty Loveless, a native of eastern Kentucky, will be taking her third trip aboard the train, during its 65th annual run tomorrow. Loveless grew up in Pikeville, where the trek begins. She rode the train in 1999 and 2002 and chronicled the trips in a song she wrote and recorded titled "Santa Train."

Train staffers throw candy, crackers, popcorn, bubble gum, cookies, stuffed animals, electronic games, hats, handmade gloves, mittens, toboggans, T-shirts, wrapping paper and other treats from the train’s caboose.

The Santa Special, a joint effort of CSX Transportation and the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, was the brainchild of the city's businessmen who wanted to show their appreciation to the people of the coalfields for their patronage throughout the year.

Santa Train Route
Santa Special officials have said that the first Santa Train pulled just one car and a meager load of gifts. It reached towns and cities that at the time had no other means of transportation. Some believe the train provided many children the only toys they received during World War II.

Joe Higgins played the role of Santa Claus in 1943-44 --- the run's first two years.


Originally blogged at Appalachian History


Anonymous said...

In West Virginia, Barbour County has 30% of children in poverty, Braxton has 30%, and Taylor has 25%.

The Santa Train has a West Virginia car that serves as Santa's Sleigh.

Why doesn't Santa's train travel to West Virginia, where so many children are in poverty just across the state line from Kentucky?

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