KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – For three quarters of a century now, the Santa Train has rolled through the mountains of Appalachia, bringing Christmas joy to families.
Wednesday night, elves packed the train with food for its 75th journey.
The Santa Train started in 1943, when a group of men wanted to thank the people of Appalachia for shopping in Kingsport.
“It started off as pencils and candy, and I know they talked about the old paper plant would do little note books and hand made dolls,” said Amy Margaret McColl, Visit Kingsport Marketing Manager.
Now decades later, the Santa Train is marking a milestone – its 75 anniversary.
“Its grown leaps and bounds, but its still just as special as it was back then,” McColl said.
The 110-mile trek starts in Pikeville, Kentucky early Saturday morning.
The train makes 14 stops on its journey to Kingsport, delivering 15 tons of goodies – gifts, toys and food – all from Santa himself.
“It’s just something, a magical experience to be able to see Santa on the back of a train bringing joy to these kids,” McColl said. “Santa actually stays back there the entire route to make sure he doesn’t miss anybody.”
So the tradition lives on, not quite out with the old this year, but bringing in something new.
Kingsport will unveil a Santa sculpture inspired by the Santa Train’s anniversary on Friday.
The Downtown Christmas parade, usually held in conjunction with the train’s arrival, will move to Saturday, December 2nd.
In its place this year is Santa’s Depot in Centennial Park with live reindeer, music and children’s activities.
It’s all for a celebration of an event that’s grown over the past 75 years.
“We have a lot of great events, but the Santa Train really helps kick off that holiday spirit, the spirit of generosity, the Kingsport spirit,” McColl said.