Christmas train’s journeys now under way

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Christmas train’s journeys now under way

Caitlin Stanford takes her responsibilities as an elf seriously. On the Train to Christmas Town she shares the ride’s storybook theme with passenger Carder Dalrymple. Community friends and family of the train’s cast and crew rode last week during “dress rehearsal” runs. Paying customers began embarking on rides Saturday night. The holiday excursion runs through December 23.
The Panolian photo by John Howell

By John Howell
Riders on the Calumet Car who traveled to the North Pole and back on The Train to Christmas Town Friday night gave the experience hearty “thumbs up” on their return to the Batesville Square.
Friday night’s trips were the second day of test runs for the city’s third annual Christmas train event. Passengers were invited guests who eagerly agreed, in exchange for a free ride, to be the “guinea pigs” while the train crew, cast and machinery rehearsed for the paying passengers who arrived Saturday.
Danny Smith, now in his second season as a conductor aboard the Christmas train and now also as much a part of the Batesville train experience as the orange-striped engine itself, escorted Calumet Car passengers to their seats with his usual aplomb.
With The Train to Christmas Town comes a new cast of characters from Peggy Ellis’ children’s Christmas story — a polar bear with the unlikely name Bumblebee, a squirrel called Wabash and Zephyr the Cat among them. Of course Santa is the trip’s mainstay along with a host of elves.
And those elves? During Friday’s trip they seemed more animated and peppy as they sang and danced better and to livelier music than during the first two years of Christmas trains from Batesville.
Bumblebee joined the Train to Christmas Town in Courtland where it stopped briefly. The lighted trackside decorations that Bo Kilgore and neighbors first erected in 2015 to greet passengers aboard the first Christmas trains have been so generously expanded that several Calumet passengers thought they had already arrived at Christmas Town.
But Christmas Town waited further down the tracks where Santa and more elves waited to join the train. Santa focused on the children as he made his way slowly from passenger to passenger, exercising appropriate reserve in his approach if a child appeared tenuous, then rendering hearty “HO-HO-HOS” as he overcame the child’s initial fear of the real Santa, life-sized.
With Santa, Bumblebee, Zephyr and Wabash wandering through the Calumet car, greeting, hand-shaking and hugging while elves served hot chocolate and cookies between songs and cheers, it was rocking on the outside and rollicking on the inside as it rolled back into the Batesville Square.
With countenances raised to a festive temperament, Calumet Car passengers detrained somewhat reluctantly, exchanging hearty handshakes and hugs with crew members and among themselves. And their pajama-clad children among them had almost as much fun.

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