Above: Clinchfield Railroad F3A #800 at Huntington, WV after being unveiled by CSX Transportation on November 6, 2017. Photos submitted by Mark Ragan.
Beginning in 1942, the Clinchfield Railroad once 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.
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. During the journey, the Clinchfield Santa Train rolls travels over bridges, through tunnels, and up the steep grades of mighty mainline.
2017 marks the 75th Anniversary of this November tradition and CSX is celebrating it in a big way. On November 6th, CSX unveiled the Clinchfield #800, an EMD F3A locomotive built in 1948, which will pull the Santa Train consist on Saturday, November the 18th. In partnership with the North Carolina Transportation Museum, CSX returned the locomotive to its proper Clinchfield appearance. In addition to the #800, the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum of Oak Ridge, TN is disguising Seaboard SD45 #2024 as Clinchfield #3632 to run with the F unit on the Santa Train this year.
Below: SARM’s contribution to the 75th Anniversary Santa Train will be “Clinchfield” SD45 #3632, a Seaboard Coastline locomotive disguised for the Clinchfield’s classic black and yellow freight livery.
Last year, we were on location for what was thought to be one of the very last Santa Trains on CSX. Pulled by a CSX SD40-3 and an F40, the train was rumored to be ending after 2017. However, with CSX’s new administration under the Hunter Harrison era, the Santa Train will most-likely be a tradition for many years to come. To see our video from the 74th Anniversary trip, watch below.