There is sure to be some wide-eyed wonder in West Point Dec. 2 when the Kansas City Southern Railway’s Holiday Express makes a Golden Triangle stop at the Sam Wilhite Transportation Museum.
The six-car Express is on its 14th annual run, visiting 21 communities in seven states. At each stop, visitors can board the train, visit with Santa and his elves and tour the inside of three cars. Tours — which are free — begin at 4 p.m.
“We don’t advertise an end time because the train will stay as long as there are people in line,” said Lisa Klutts, director of Main Street and Tourism at the West Point/Clay County Growth Alliance. After a 2012 family trip with her husband and children to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to ride the Polar Express, Klutts was eager to book the Holiday Express in West Point. “I wanted other children who may not be able to ride the classic train to experience that Christmas magic.”
The Express was built on the tradition of the Santa Train, which ran on a segment of the network bought by Kansas City Southern in 1997. In 2000, a group of KCS employees noticed that the Santa Train was the only Christmas some kids had, and that some kids did not even have essential items like coats, hats and gloves. They committed to elevating the project. In 2001, volunteers transformed a retired freight train into the Express that communities throughout the railway’s U.S. service territory see today.
Led by a smiling tank car called “Rudy,” the train consists of a flatcar carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a ginger bread boxcar; a newly remodeled elves’ workshop; the reindeer stable; and a little red caboose. Each car is dressed in lights.
The train’s Dec. 2 stop will result in a contribution to the Salvation Army in Columbus.
Through 13 years, the Holiday Express project has raised more than $1 million to purchase gifts cards which are donated to the Salvation Army at each scheduled stop. The cards are used to purchase warm clothing and other necessities for children in the local area.
Parking at the Sam Wilhite Museum at 210 Depot Drive is very limited. Visitors are encouraged to use parking lots at Kroger and Pass It On in a shopping complex at Highway 45 Alternate and Main Street. Lots are within about a half-mile walking distance of the museum. Or catch the Prairie Arts train that will make rounds between the parking lots and the Holiday Express. Rides are $1.
Wilhite Museum curator Terry Craig said, “This is a one-time event that you and the grandkids and everybody else will enjoy. This is really something.”
Craig plans to open the doors of the museum at about 1 p.m. Tuesday for visitors.
For more information about the Holiday Express, contact the Growth Alliance, 662-494-5121.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.