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Santa Train continues to marvel

December 11, 2017

Children aboard a train car at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society squealed with excitement Sunday at the sound of approaching jingling bells.

Within seconds, Santa Claus stepped inside the cozy car that, with its green interior and decorations of garland and white lights, already exuded a festive atmosphere. His appearance shouldn’t have come as a surprise. This was, after all, the Santa Train.

Santa will have greeted more than 5,000 passengers when the sold-out event wraps up its 16th season next weekend, said Kelly Lynch, the organization’s vice president.

The society, which is along Edgerton Road east of New Haven, has tried to accommodate the growing demand. It added Sundays to the schedule last year and extended the hours this year, Lynch said. Even so, he said, tickets sold out within 48 hours.

“It’s nice to be part of the tradition,” he said.

Jose and Patty Mata of Ligonier were among the first-time visitors and came for the Christmas experience, they said. After the 20-minute Santa Train ride, the couple and their three children : ages 3 to 14 : explored the workshop.

Dimmed lighting and decorations gave the ordinary structure some holiday charm, and Lynch : dressed as a conductor : stood near the entrance to check in visitors.

“Plenty of kids think I’m from ‘The Polar Express,’ ” he said.

The workshop offered visitors an opportunity to see steam locomotive No. 765 up close and to interact with a recently painted locomotive cab in a different way. It served as a storefront of sorts for a model train display.

The model train seemed to captivate 3-year-old Nash Reiff, who needed a boost to see the action. His grandmother Marge Ellis stood at his side, noting he was enamored by the society’s trains during a previous trip, so she took advantage of the holiday activity when an email alerted her about it.

“Trains are his passion,” the Bluffton woman said.

Lynch acknowledged the rural setting lacks scenic views, but passengers didn’t seem to mind. Children and parents alike turned their attention toward Santa.

After visiting with each child, Santa led the group in song, first with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and then “Jingle Bells.”

“Yay,” he said, “you guys did really good.”

asloboda@jg.net