Above: Santa and his helpers are ready greet families at Haysi, VA.
On November 19th, 2016, CSX Transportation operated the 74th annual Santa Train on the former Clinchfield Railroad. Led by an SD40-3 locomotive that was wearing Clinchfield heritage decals, the train would stop in every town along the railroad between Shelby, Kentucky and Kingsport, Tennessee.
Beginning in 1942, the Clinchfield Railroad hosted the annual Santa Train as part of its local passenger train, No. 38. The train was originally conceived by several Kingsport businessmen who wanted to give back to their communities. Over time, the train grew and grew to become a regional spectacle – with children and families looking forward to the yearly visit of Santa Claus along the Clinchfield Railroad’s mainline.
Below Right: The entire town of Haysi came out to greet the train. This is a spectacle every year for the families in this small Appalachian community.
Every year, Saint Nick himself rides the on the rear of the train – tossing out candy and presents to the children below. For many kids, this is the highlight of their entire year. Thanks to the many sponsors of the train, the gifts were provided through monetary donations – giving these families joy and hope. For some families, these are the only presents they receive during the holiday season.
The train is not just exciting, it also makes one appreciate the spirit of giving. Operated the weekend before Thanksgiving, it reminds us of what it truly means to be thankful for what we have been given in this great country. Throughout the morning, the Santa Train rolls along at 25MPH over bridges, through tunnels, and up the steep grades of the Clinchfield mainline.
Though it’s cold and wet out this November morning, the excitement of the train’s arrival keeps the small town of St. Paul, Virginia on their toes. As the train slowly comes to a stop, the people greet Santa Clause – creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Below: Hundreds of families gather to witness the arrival of the Santa Train in St. Paul, Virginia.
To end our adventure with the Santa Train, we caught it one last time from above, over the famous Copper Creek Trestle. In our video covering the magnificent event, the train is seen soaring 167ft. above the Norfolk Southern’s mainline located directly below.
Though the Santa Train’s days might be numbered, with 2017’s train rumored to be the last run – its legacy will forever be remembered. CSX takes pride in the former Clinchfield Railroad and there’s no telling what the future may see brought back. You can watch our coverage of the 2016 Santa Train below.