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CHRISTMAS ON THE CLINCHFIELD


Here Comes Santa Claus


BY ERIC MILLER/PHOTOS BY THE AUTHOR


DATELINE: THE RUGGED APPALACHIAN mountains of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. For railfans, the high-iron that winds its way through these mountains is the Clinchfield route, one of CSX’s busiest coal arteries. For thou- sands of denizens of this region, howev- er, to those with little or no interest in railroads, this is the route of the Santa Train. The Santa Train, which makes an annual passage from Shelby, Ky., to


Kingsport, Tenn., has woven itself into the fabric of life here, an Appalachian tradition enjoyed by both young and old alike. The Santa Train, once known as the


Santa Claus Special, was conceived as a way for merchants in Kingsport to thank their customers in Southwestern Virginia. It is a 110-mile long Christ- mas “parade,” distributing 15 tons of toys, candy and gifts to children of all


ages. Every year, celebrities and digni- taries, from musicians Naomi and Wynonna Judd to Allison Krauss to governors of Tennessee and Kentucky, ride the train and lend a helping hand to the Jolly Old Elf as he spreads Christmas cheer. Families have passed on their Santa


Train tradition from one generation to the next. The train has become famous across the nation and around the


CSX preserves a holiday tradition started by the Clinchfield Railroad years ago. ABOVE: With the clock tower on the graceful Clinchfield depot at Kingsport, Tenn., looking on, the 2006 Santa Claus Special arrives, completing another run of spreading early holiday cheer through the Ap- palachians. OPPOSITE TOP: Country music star Wynonna Judd waves good-bye to the crowd at Kermit as the 2009 Santa Train departs for its final stops at Waycross and Kingsport. OPPOSITE: A mother and her little girl wait anxiously to see Santa as he passes by. The train, behind SD40-2 No. 8095, is exiting Perkins Tunnel, just south of Clinchco, Va., on November 17, 2007.


38 DECEMBER 2011 • RAILFAN.COM


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