The Santa train has just made its 68th run from Shelbiana Kentucky (Pike County) to Kingsport Tennessee. It rumbles for about 110 miles through the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky and Virginia.
The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce began this run in 1943 to show appreciation to their patrons. Many businesses in Kingsport and surrounding areas help by supplying the gifts of toys, and the candy, to be thrown from the train all along the route. Santa is on board and is seen by all, as he waves to the children standing by the train track.
The Santa train caught the attention of the national media and poverty became the focus. During those early years poverty was very evident. In some cases that gift, thrown from the train by Santa was the only Christmas gift some of the children would receive.
In 1992 to commemorate the train’s 50th year, CSX arranged for the largest steam engine in the world. (CHALLENGER) to power the trek through the mountains and on board with Santa was Joe Garagiola of the Morning Show. NBC aired the run on Christmas morning. The Judds have also been seen on the train.
The number of merchants, donors and volunteers has grown tremendously and so have the lines of children and their parents. Parents and grandparents and great grandparents of these children come to the railroad track and stand with them year after year, remembering the early years, when they were the children waiting for the train, and the excitement of seeing Santa.
Poverty is not the only driving force behind the work of this wonderful group of people. The spirit of the season, love and the joy of giving to others make all the inconveniences and work worthwhile. The reason for the season is, THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST.
It takes many months and plenty of hard work to send this train on its way. Donations have been asked for and received. The gifts need to be sorted, wrapped and loaded on the Santa train. This year 15 tons of gifts were given to children along this route.
To CSX, their employees, The Chamber of Commerce in Kingsport and all the volunteers, Thank you.,