Santa spreads cheer at Transportation Museum
By Karissa Minn
SPENCER - Before he readies his flying reindeer, Santa Claus is comin' to town on a train.
The N.C. Transportation Museum began its annual Santa Train rides on Saturday. They will continue today and each Saturday and Sunday in December until Christmas.
Ken and Debra Lane, of Cary, stopped by the museum Saturday on the way home from Mooresville with their sons, 3-year-old Drake and 11-month-old Chase.
"This is perfect," Debra said. "We can see their grandparents for Thanksgiving and then come here and look at the trains - and tell Santa Claus what we want for Christmas."
They said they chose the Transportation Museum because their sons like "anything that goes," and they hadn't known Santa would be boarding a train there.
"It was unexpected for us, and it worked out great," Ken said.
They said they explored the whole museum Saturday but still didn't get enough.
"We plan to come back," Ken said. "I think we're going to stay in town next time and have an extra day."
Debra said she loved that they were able to look out the window to see Santa arrive in a classic car with a police escort.
Amy Coghill, of Wake Forest, agreed.
"It was really cute how they brought Santa in," she said. "That was a really nice touch this year."
Amy and her husband Jay Coghill said they often stop in Spencer on the way to the lake with their sons, 5-year-old Jamie and 3-year-old Daniel.
Jamie said he was excited about asking Santa for Avengers toys, while Daniel enjoyed the candy cane and orange given to him by Santa's elves. The boys also made Christmas ornament crafts and got temporary Thomas the Tank Engine tattoos.
Amy said the family has come to the museum before for the Day Out with Thomas event, and she thinks the Santa Train is more roomy and "not as hectic."
"Our two boys love trains, so they especially love this museum," Amy said. "It's great for children."
Walter Turner, historian at the Transportation Museum, helped the elves hand out oranges and candy canes on Saturday.
"During the Great Depression, Southern Railroad engineers would throw out oranges to kids," Turner said. "We carry on that tradition today."
He said many train lovers come from out of town to see the museum for the holidays, and the special train ride also draws local residents.
"This is something we do every Christmas, and it's one of our big highlights, to see the big smiles on the kids' faces," Turner said. "They get excited when they see Santa Claus."
The Santa Train will continue to run today and each weekend in December. Saturday ride times are 10 and 11 a.m. and 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday ride times are 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors age 60 and older and $10 for children ages 3-12. Children under 3 years old can ride for free on a guardian's lap.
Tickets are available in advance by visiting www.nctrans.org or they can be purchased on the day of the event.
The Transportation Museum also is offering an evening train ride called "Cookies and Cocoa with Santa" at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, 8, 15, 21 and 22.
During that event, children will hear a Christmas story aboard the train while moving down the tracks to meet Santa Claus in the Bob Julian Roundhouse. Cookies and cocoa will be served, and children can make a craft and send a postcard to the North Pole, according to the museum's website.
Tickets for "Cookies and Cocoa with Santa" are $15 for adults, $12 for children ages 3-12 and free for children under 3 years old.
For more information about holiday events at the N.C. Transportation Museum, call 704-636-2889.