Christmas Tradition: Santa visits children on train

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 7, 2006

SPENCER — This Christmas season, when Santa hands you an orange on board the North Carolina Transportation Museum’s train ride, you might think he wants you to be healthy. But there’s another reason the jolly ol’ elf gives out this sweet treat — it’s a railroad tradition.

During the Depression of the 1930s, when most Americans didn’t have much money, and often didn’t have enough to eat, railroad workers would throw out oranges to children as the train passed. Today, the museum remembers that history during its annual Santa Train event, when Santa rides the train, passing out oranges and candy canes to young passengers. This train ride also features a reading of two Christmas stories, “Santa’s Christmas Train” by Joseph Caro, and one written by NCTM volunteer Bill Speer, “The Christmas Ribbon.”

The Santa Train is just one of three special Christmas events at the site. A popular draw for school groups is the Jingle Bell Express. This train ride, which runs especially for student groups, features Christmas carol singing and a reading of Christmas stories. Students are also encouraged to wear their pajamas. Teachers who are interested in bringing their students should call in advance to schedule a ride.

Cookies & amp; Cocoa with Santa is a nighttime event that allows visitors to take a train ride to the Roundhouse, then enjoy a treat with Santa and hear Christmas stories read by one of Santa’s elves. Limited tickets are available, and advance registration is required.

Event dates and times are below. For more information, call 704-636-2889, or visit

Santa Train

Dec. 9-10 and 16-17. Ride times are 10 and 11 a.m., 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Sundays. Cost is $6 per person for ages 3 and up or $5 per person with the donation of a new, unwrapped gift for Toys for Tots.

Cookies & amp; Cocoa With Santa

Dec. 8-9 and 15-16. Ride times are 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10, with a limit of 200 riders per trip. Advance reservation required.

Train rides are approximately 25 minutes long, and depart from the museum’s Barber Junction Visitor Center. The museum is located at 411 S. Salisbury Ave., Spencer, N.C., just a few minutes from Interstate 85 at exit 79.

Toys for Tots

The N.C. Transportation Museum is taking part in the Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots program in conjunction with the Santa Train. With a new or used unwrapped toy, visitors can get a $1 off their Santa Train Tickets.

To support the Toys for Tots mission, drop an unwrapped toy in the boxes located in Barber Junction Visitor Center.

Also, Cruizin’ Round Spencer will collect toy donations for Santa’s Sleigh Drive Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m.

For more information about the N.C. Transportation Museum’s Toys for Tots program, call Brian Moffitt at 704-636-2889 ext. 257 or email nctrans@nctrans. org. For more information about Santa’s Sleigh Drive, call Margaret Waddel at 704-633-7178.