Thousands Tour KCS Holiday Express Train in Arkansas & Oklahoma
By: Cindy Fuller
Not even sometimes frigid temperatures could stop the hundreds of children in Arkansas and Oklahoma from seeing Santa Claus and the Holiday Express train. Children from DeQueen and Gravette, Arkansas as well as Poteau, Oklahoma were delighted when Santa rolled up – not in a sleigh with 12 reindeer, but in a 120 ton, six-car train complete with lights and elves.
Since 2001, the Kansas City Holiday Express train has traveled to more than seven states and over 20 communities each year to bring Christmas to children who might otherwise not have one. The Holiday Express train, owned and operated by Kansas City Southern, is quite the experience for the young and old alike. Volunteers and employees sign up for this special excursion every year as they bring with them gifts for children to make their holidays a little brighter.
Children were already lined up as the train pulled into Poteau, Oklahoma at the rail yard a little after 3 on a Monday afternoon, December 12.
Volunteers said they had already made sixteen stops so far this year with over 30,000 people having toured the cars. Though lines were long, the wait wasn’t too long to view the train. Additionally, there was a Santa station where photo opportunities were available with Santa and convince him they were good this year.
At each scheduled stop, The KCS Charitable Fund contributes of gift cards to the local Salvation Army to provide warm clothing and other necessities for local children. Over the past 16 years, the Holiday Express has donated more than $1 million in gift cards to The Salvation Army.
“Without the help of Kansas City Southern, we wouldn’t be able to help near as many children,” said Kim Kennison, Leflore County Salvation Army.
The Holiday Express made its 16th annual run this past November and December stopping in 22 communities in seven states on 26 dates. Nineteen stops were made in the Southern Territory of The Salvation Army with the remaining in the Central Territory. At each scheduled stop, visitors can board the train and tour inside three cars of a decorated six car train. The cars are filled with a winter wonderland of snowy villages and decorative Santa’s of all sizes. There is even a miniature version of the Holiday Express train running on a mini train track with trains running overhead in each car.
The “Holiday Express” portion of the train includes a smiling tank car names “Rudy”; a flatcar carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a ginger bread boxcar; a newly remodeled elves’ workshop; the reindeer stable; and a little red caboose. Each car is decked out in lights.
The Holiday Express was built on the tradition of Kansas City Southern’s Santa train, which had run on a segment of the railroad purchased by the company in 1997. In 2000, several KCS employees notices the Santa train was the only Christmas some children had and decided to elevate the project. In 2001, volunteers transformed a retired freight train that is now the Holiday Express.