Train being spiffed up for holiday run
By Rita Howell
Company’s coming and workers are in full force, mopping floors, cleaning windows, and unrolling hundreds of feet of lighted garland to make ready the Train to Christmas Town, set to depart from Batesville next week.
Event coordinator Don Clayton said Wednesday that 12,300 tickets have already been sold through Grenada Railroad’s Web site. Clayton believes sales will keep up with previous years’ totals. Tickets are actually less expensive this year.
“We’re running the event ourselves, not going through Rail Events any more,” Clayton said, so, with no franchise fee to pay, a lower cost will be passed on to customers.
Clayton and his partner, Sheila Pounders, have been hired to manage the holiday excursions again this year after a successful run with the 2016 Polar Express, which carried 56,656 passengers from Batesville to the North Pole and back.
The Polar Express first pulled into Batesville in 2015, attracting to the Square families from all over the Southeast and beyond to catch the fantasy train.
Iowa Pacific Railroad owner Ed Ellis, who leases Grenada Railroad, decided not to pursue the Polar Express franchise this year, and instead has brought in a new theme, with new songs and characters who will entertain riders old and young. Also onboard will be familiar characters like elves, conductors and, of course, Santa.
Clayton and Pounders have hired 154 people to fill jobs ranging from parking lot attendant to elf.
This week some of those elves have been busy decorating the 14 cars that will be ready for practice runs November 15 and 16, and for the first paying customers on November 18.
The Train to Christmas Town can accommodate about 1,000 passengers per run. Already the “Diamond Class” premium seats are sold out for many runs.
Those passengers will ride in the fanciest vintage dining cars like the Calumet Club, a car which, in a previous life, carried passengers on the old Illinois Central New Orleans to Chicago route, along the same tracks it will be traveling to Christmas Town.
Ticket prices vary according to dates and class of service, from $25 to $110. The train will run 27 times from November 18 through December 27.
Go to grenadarail.com to order tickets.