Jingle all the way home: Holiday Train turns 24

Photo at top: Kids and Parents both enjoy the Pink Line holiday train.(Qingwei Vivian Chen/Medill)

By Qingwei Vivian Chen

Large crowds were waiting at stations for the CTA holiday train. Chicagoans are giving a warm welcome to their 24-year-old holiday train tradition.

“This is my first time getting on a holiday train, I have lived in the city for a number of years, but I have never been on a holiday train,” said Victoria Bradford, who got on the train in the Loop mentioned that she missed her Pink Line but luckily caught the holiday train. “I know it’s a Chicago tradition. It’s really fun, because I don’t have lights at home but I got lights on the train, I am very happy to see the lights on my way home,” she added.

The Pink Line holiday train runs three days in December with two trips per day. (Qingwei Vivian Chen/Medill)

“It was very exciting. My son is 23 years old and he first got on a CTA holiday train when he was 2 years old. We took holiday train every year before,” said Grene Jones, who came for the holiday train again with her son. She mentioned that there are more people being aware of this program this year.

“The decoration is even more special this year. My favorite parts of the holiday train are the people on the train and their smile. I enjoy the warm welcome from CTA staffs and I expect to see the friendly smile with holiday cheer!” Jones said.

According to a press release about the holiday train, CTA received $300,000 from Sprint as the sponsorship covering “all of the 2015 holiday train operational costs and for the train and bus, it will allow CTA to add an extra day of service for the holiday train.”

“We are delighted to partner with Sprint to support an iconic Chicago tradition—one enjoyed not just by CTA riders but all Chicagoans who watch the train and bus pass by,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. in a news release from CTA.

This Saturday will be an opportunity for taking photos with Santa, at 54th/Cermak Pink Line station. (Qingwei Vivian Chen/Medill)

Joann Hawkins, waiting for the holiday train at Kostner station with her two grandchildren, said, “I think it is really fun for my grandchildren, they never seen a Santa Claus before. They are exciting about taking a picture with Santa.”

The CTA holiday train started to run in 1992. In the first year, CTA staff only posted a sign in front of the train that said, “Season’s Greetings from the CTA.” The train delivered free holiday food to various charities along the route. Since then, the decorations on the train have become much more elaborate.

A larger crowd of people came for the holiday train during rush hour Tuesday afternoon. (Qingwei Vivian Chen/Medill)

“Now, the annual offerings feature a six-car train, festooned with thousands of colorful lights and extensive holiday decorations,” said CTA spokesman Jeffery Tolman. “Santa Claus will sit on a flatbed car on the train, staffed by Santa’s helpers,” he added.

Mosoui Porche came from Indiana, taking her son Collen to Chicago especially for the holiday train, said, “I think it’s a good activity especially for the kid, I wish Santa Claus is in the train and play with these kids. But we will come back Saturday, taking pictures with Santa is a good idea and he will like it,” she added.

CTA holiday train staffs are handing out candy and 2015 holiday train badges. (Qingwei Vivian Chen/Medill)

“The most exciting part for today is that we got a nice selfie with Santa,” Porche said. “Hopefully we catch it again on Saturday, right?” she said to Collen.

The CTA holiday train will run 11 more times in December on different rail lines. The detailed schedule can be found on the CTA official website. This Saturday will be the only up coming opportunity for taking pictures with Santa, at 54th/Cermak Pink Line station.

Photo at top: Kids and Parents both enjoy the Pink Line holiday train.(Qingwei Vivian Chen/Medill)