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Santa Train greets generations along tracks for 70 years

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Nov 17 2012 07:51:07 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 17 2012 12:31:54 PM CST

A tradition on the tracks marks 70 years of Christmas cheer.

A tradition on the tracks marks 70 years of Christmas cheer.

The Santa Train makes its annual 110 mile journey through Appalachia.

From Elkhorne City, to St. Paul, to Waycross, at every stop Santa's greeted with hundreds of eager boys and girls, and he doesn't come empty handed.

Along the tracks, it kicks off the holiday season; a tradition that's lasted generations. "My mom's been bringing me ever since I was little, so now, we're bringing my kids," said Danielle Sperow at the Fremont stop.

Some people like Thelma Cline have never missed a stop since the very first run in 1943. "From the time I can remember, it was an exciting time. All the kids had to come. I have two great grandkids here today," Cline told News 5.

But this year, it may mean a bit more for these crowds.

"Coal is the biggest part of the industry back in here, and with all the layoffs and everything else that is going on, you know it gives you something to believe in," said James Mullins, a recently laid-off coal miner in Dante.

In true Christmas spirit, at the Santa Train it’s the giving that's just as important as the receiving.

We caught up with volunteer Donna Harlan as she was giving away toys to children. "This is very uplifting. It's very inspiring. It's humbling, and just a really great experience to be able to be a part of it. It's exciting," Harlan said.

Because for every bag that's specially packed by Santa's helpers, there's a child with a gift and a heart full of gratitude. It's what this train is all about. "It's the spirit of love that comes here," said attendee Judith Blanton.

Even Santa took time to ask News 5, "Did you see the sparkle in the eyes today?"

Here's a festive fact: more than 15 tons of toys and treats were given out along the Santa Train's 14 stops.

The first was in Shelby, Kentucky this morning and the last was in Kingsport, Tennessee, with their annual Christmas Parade to follow.