Wednesday, December 01, 2010

That's What It's All About

Santa tosses presents at Clinchco, Virginia

The 50th running of the Clinchfield Santa Train in 1992 
On November 20, 2010, brother Bruce and I chased the 68th running of the Santa Train on the Clinchfield Railroad (now a part of CSX) in southwest Virginia. The last time I chased this train was 18 years ago, on the 50th Anniversary, when Union Pacific sent their Challenger No. 3985 to run in disguise as Clinchfield No. 676. On that day in 1992 we spent most of the time photographing the head end -- the steam locomotive. But the real story of the Santa Train occurs at the rear, where the Jolly Old Elf tosses off tons of toys and goodies to the people of Appalachia.

The Santa Train arrives in Fort Blackmore
This year Santa had two helpers, mother-and-daughter singing duo Wynonna and Naomi Judd. Bruce and I first went into Haysi to photograph the stop there as swarms of people gathered to see Santa. Down the line at Clinchco the crowds got larger. We bypassed a couple of stops to get some head-end shots of the train on the road, but returned to the rear during the busiest stop in St. Paul. Here there were hundreds of people ready to see Santa and the Judds. And as Santa tossed off toys, I just happened to be at the right spot when a little girl smiled as she held her new stuffed bear. The Santa Train isn't about passenger locomotives and steel -- it's about a little girl's smile.

Smiles at St. Paul, Virginia

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