For the 30th consecutive Christmas season, Santa Claus will be coming to town by train. Children living in communities in southern Indiana and eastern Illinois served by The Indiana Rail Road Company will get a chance to see St. Nick aboard the company's Santa Train Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Santa Train is scheduled to stop in Oblong on Sunday, Dec. 8 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., an in Palestine from 1:45 to 3:15 p.m. It will also stop in Sullivan, Ind at Main and Judy from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Families are invited to come aboard the decorated train to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and be entertained by a full cast of costumed characters, brought to life by railroaders and their families. The event is free and open to children and grownups of all ages. Santa's helpers will also be giving away coats, hats and gloves to help children in need prepare for winter weather.
The Santa Train originated in 1989 as a volunteer project of Indiana Rail Road Company employees. Now in its 30th year, the tradition has truly transcended generations.
Many of Santa's earliest visitors aboard the train now bring their own children to experience the event every year, and most of the founding volunteers have now retired from railroading.
More than 7,000 people are expected to visit the train during its three-day tour, which, for many small-town children is the only opportunity to visit Santa in person.
"The Santa Train is our most treasured community service activity and has truly taken on a life of its own," says Peter Mills, president and CEO of The Indiana Rail Road Company. "Our employees have created a very special tradition with the Santa Train, and their legacy will no doubt last for many generations to come."
A limited number of tickets to board the Santa Train will be distributed at each stop at the time of the train's arrival on a first-come, first-served basis; tickets are not available in advance.
Tickets - which are free - were introduced three years ago in order for the Santa Train to stay on schedule.
"We want to keep the Santa Train on time so little ones aren't waiting in the cold too long. The ticket system allows families to know right away whether they've arrived in time to board the Santa Train," said Shae LeDune, INRD spokesperson.