Last month, Santa Claus boarded a train to deliver toys, backpacks, and a whole lot of Christmas cheer to communities in Appalachia. This marked the 81st run of this special train, spreading joy and holiday spirit to those in need.
CSX’s “Santa Train” embarked on a 110-mile journey, spanning Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Throughout its route, the train made 12 stops, distributing an impressive 15 tons of toys, winter clothes, and other essential items to the local communities.
For the past eight decades, the annual tradition of the community event has been a constant, only pausing for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. The towns along the route have grown accustomed to this beloved tradition.
According to Bryan Tucker, the vice-president of corporate communications for CSX, the train stops have remained unchanged for many years. He mentioned, “The folks in those communities know exactly when the train is coming and where it stops.”
According to Tucker, each of the stops attracts crowds numbering in the hundreds, and sometimes even in the thousands. He explains that for many people, attending these stops has become a beloved family tradition and a chance to experience the thrill of being near a train and walking along the tracks.
For many people, the Santa Train holds a special significance.
During conversations with individuals at these stops, there are people who express that this Christmas is their only one.
The Santa Train was initiated in 1943 by the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, which was known as the Merchants Bureau of Kingsport at that time. Its purpose was to express gratitude to the customers from nearby rural communities who visited Kingsport for their shopping needs.
In the past, Santa used to toss candy to children, who would eagerly chase after the train to catch it.
The event has evolved over time into its current form. It now entails almost a year of planning and relies on the efforts of hundreds of volunteers who work on the train and at each stop to ensure its safe execution.
Being a CSX employee, Tucker considers volunteering on the Santa Train as an integral part of his job. However, it has evolved into something much more meaningful to him than just another work event.
Tucker’s daughter has been eagerly volunteering on the Santa Train since she was 11 years old. She looks forward to this event all year long and cherishes the opportunity to participate. However, as she is now 18 years old and about to graduate from high school, this year’s Santa Train will most likely be her last for a while.
In October of 2017, I joined this company with no idea of the profound impact the Santa Train would have on me and my family.”
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