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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Santa Train is coming to town

Thursday, November 22, 2012

(Photo)
(GCDW file photo) The Indiana Rail Road Company's annual Santa Trail will take place the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 2. Several stops are planned for the area. [Order this photo]
Santa and plenty of holiday helpers will be coming to a dozen towns along an approximate 175-mile stretch of Indiana Rail Road Company's line in western Indiana and eastern Illinois during the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

It's the 23rd Annual Santa Train event staged by employees of the Indianapolis-based railroad that serves customers from Indianapolis to Newton, Ill.

The train will make four stops in Greene County on Dec. 1 -- Solsberry (at Yoho's General Store, 8:30 to 10 a.m.); Bloomfield (Seminary St., 11 a.m. to noon); Linton (SE C St., 1:30 to 3 p.m.); and Jasonville (City Park, 6 to 7 p.m.).

Also, on Dec. 1, the train will greet children in Dugger on Main St. from 4 to 5 p.m.

On Dec. 2 the tour will include a stop in Sullivan from 6:30 to 7 p.m.

Indiana Rail Road Company founder and president Tom Hoback is thrilled the Santa Train event has been so successful.

"We get a lot of satisfaction out of it. It is really a thrill for our employees to see the response from the communities who have embraced the Santa Train," Hoback told the Greene County Daily World.

Hoback said the idea for the Santa Train came in 1989 from the employees who wanted to do something to give back to the communities.

The cities and towns visited along the route are accessed daily by the company and many employees thought this would be a fun and unique way to give back to the communities where they live and work, Hoback explained.

"I wish I could take credit for it, but it was their (the employees) idea," he stressed.

The format for the holiday event hasn't changed much over the years.

The decorated Santa Train rolls into each community with Santa and Mrs. Claus standing on a landing in front of the locomotive.

The train then stops and remains stationary as families are invited to come aboard and enjoy the holiday decorations, meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus and spend time with a few of their holiday friends from the North Pole.

It takes about 65 volunteers for each of the three days to put on the event.

The Indiana Rail Road Company employees and their families run the entire event and help make this highly anticipated holiday tradition a success.

"I am so proud of our employees for the wonderful way they give back to the communities that we serve," Hoback said. "It's an all employee and spouses event."

For many small-town children, this is the only opportunity they will have to visit Santa this year and tell him their Christmas wishes.

The event is free, and children of all ages are welcome to attend. Santa will also be giving away coats and mittens to children in need of warmth this winter.

Hoback said the coat and mitten project, which started about 19 years ago, has been especially satisfying to him.

Hoback explained that an alert employee who was wearing a nice leather jacket noticed a small child at one of the Santa Train stops who was wearing some aged slippers and no coat on a cold brisk day. The employee gave the child his coat and brought the idea to him of getting donated new coats and handing them out to the children.

"It's been a real eye-opener for me," Hoback admitted in pointing out that last year about 600 coats and hundreds of mittens were passed out to children along the Santa Train stops.

The railroad executive said the Santa Train is now serving the second generation of patrons.

"It reaffirms that we are doing something that the communities really appreciate," he added.

One long-time Santa Train volunteer, Gayla Daily, who is the office manager at INRD's Switz City operation, says the eyes of little children make the behind-the-scenes work worthwhile.

"Seeing all of the kids and seeing how excited they are is great," Daily, a 16-year volunteer and Santa Train committee member said. "This is so needed. I love doing it every year. We start planning in June and I get excited."

The Indiana Rail Road Company (INRD), founded March 18, 1986, is a privately held, 500-mile railroad with a full-time staff of almost 200.

The company hauls a variety of consumer, energy and industrial products, and serves central and southwest Indiana and central Illinois with nationwide connections at transportation hubs such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky.



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