Starting in November and up until Christmas Day railroads invite guests to reimagine and relive the idea of an old-fashioned experience by climbing aboard a holiday train.
During their peak as mode of travel, trains became synonymous with Christmas as families traveled home during the holidays. Acknowledging this connection, small, historic railroads in Pennsylvania offer Christmas-themed trains for both young and old visitors. Each train is different, whether a spinoff of new Christmas celebrations or takes on classic Christmas tales. Here is a selection of railroads who deck the halls of the railroad cars for the holidays and spread the magic of the Christmas spirit.
STRASBURG RAIL ROAD
Santa’s Paradise Express is the most popular Christmas train at Strasburg Rail Road. Santa is the star of this ride and hands out gifts and poses for photos as he makes his way from car to car. On Strasburg’s The Night Before Christmas Train a costumed reader, donned in a nightcap and sleeping gown, treats each car to the ageless holiday tale. The nighttime ride includes milk, cookies, and a few other surprises. The holiday trains sometimes take place on the historic railroad’s fully restored 1st Class Baltimore & Ohio lounge car. Strasburg operates several Christmas trains—Santa’s Paradise Express, The Night Before Christmas Train, Santa’s Christmas Trolly, and the Christmas Tree Train.
301 Gap Rd., Ronks
Colebrookdale’s first Santa’s Polar Bear Express left the Boyertown Rail Yard in 2014 and has been a popular attraction ever since. While kids enjoy hot chocolate, small gifts, chocolate chip cookies and the sounds from a few carolers, the train is flagged down by none other than Santa Claus. He has broken down and desperately needs to get to Pottstown for replacement parts. With help from train riders Santa makes his repairs and secures a special delivery for Christmas morning. Adults without children who want to enjoy a holiday train ride are invited to the 1st Class parlor car. The parlor car offers upgraded seating, cocktail service, and often a complimentary beverage served in a souvenir glass. The line’s Doodlebug will often run during the holidays.
64 S. Washington St., Boyertown
READING BLUE MOUNTAIN & NORTHERN RAILROAD
Several hundred people climb aboard RBM&N Railroad’s holiday trains every day and the tickets sell out quickly. The Santa Claus Special departs Reading Outer Station for an 80-minute, round trip ride on cars decorated for Christmas and pulled by diesel powered engines. Santa and Mrs. Claus walk the cars filled with Christmas music and visit each ticketholder. The railroad operates holiday trains out of stations in Tunkhannock, Tamaqua, and Minersville. RBM&N’s historic red coaches were manufactured as early as 1917 for the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad and the blue coaches were built in the 1930’s by Bethlehem Steel for commuter service in the Philadelphia region.
3501 Pottsville Pike, Reading
EVERETT RAILROAD COMPANY
All aboard the Santa Express at The Everett Railroad for a one-hour train ride through Central Pennsylvania. Leaving the station in the aptly named town of Hollidaysburg the round trip excursion travels to Brookes Mills. Children and adults enjoy the scenic ride onboard a steam-powered locomotive and a visit with Santa. Hot cocoa and cookies are provided, and all children get a small gift from the merry old man himself. These weekend-only rides sell out quickly.
244 Loop Rd., Hollidaysburg
ALLENTOWN & AUBURN RAILROAD
Ticketholders at the Allentown & Auburn Railroad are invited to enjoy a leisurely ride on a coach, open air car, or a caboose with a stop at the North Pole. At the pole, which is the railroad’s picnic grove, children will meet Santa and Mrs. Claus to tell them what they want for Christmas and have their picture taken with the jolly couple. A&A has been known to run an Elf Express featuring a mischievous elf in a green hat and for the adults a Holiday Wine Tasting train. The ride travels between Kutztown and Topton on a line founded in 1853.
232 Railroad St., Kutztown
NORTHERN CENTRAL RAILWAY
Passenger cars pulled by either Northern Central Railway’s replica Civil War-era steam locomotive or mid-20th century diesel locomotive are decked out for the festive season with the Santa Express. A leisurely trip from New Freedom to Glen Rock brings holiday cheer to riders of all ages. Onboard, travelers will listen to a reading of the Night Before Christmas and enjoy Christmas music as they prepare to visit Santa. When jolly old St. Nick makes his appearance, he brings a special gift for each child. Back at the station free cookies and hot chocolate can be found at the railway gift shop.
2 W. Main St., New Freedom