PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

November 29, 2013

Holiday Express brings joy to thousands

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — More than 2,000 people from across the area waited upwards of three hours for a chance to board the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train on Friday.

Temperatures dropped to the 40s as the afternoon sun left the skies and bundled up families patiently waited in lines that went several blocks starting at San Antonio Avenue to Procter Street to Houston Avenue.

Elves, some volunteers who ride the train through six states and some who come on board from Port Arthur, greeted families as they boarded.

John Ferry of Chicago, Ill., is a longtime volunteer who loves the work.

“This is my fourth year covering the whole territory,” Ferry said. “This is one of the best things anyone can do. It brings holiday joy to thousand of people.”

Lines were so long that officials decided to place Santa outside in a special area to speed up the line, “Head Elf” and KCS employee Grant Elliott said.

“This year we are visiting 20 cities in six states,” Elliott said. “There are a lot of children here and train lovers. This brings smiles and holiday cheer. It’s a great experience for all of us and the volunteers on board.”

The Holiday Express Train features a smiling tank car “Rudy, a flat car carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village, a gingerbread boxcar, the elves’ workshop, the reindeer stable and little red caboose. Each car is filled floor to ceiling with decorations including collections of Santas and trains and more.

Briona Tankersley, 4, stood transfixed, a smile played across her face, as she looked eye to eye with a large Santa decoration. The Groves child was accompanied by a plethora of family members and other children.

Not far behind was Courtney Bates and husband Alan walked through the train with son Bradley, daughter Cheyenne and Aunt Deana Laughlin, all of Orange.

The family agreed it was worth the long cold wait.

“We really enjoyed it,” Courtney Bates said. “It was worth the wait.

“And watching the children’s oooh’s and aah’s,” Laughlin added.

Eric and Leslie Smith brought along twin boys Nicholas and Ryan, 4. Nicholas said his favorite part was the miniature trains while Ryan enjoyed Santa the most.

“It was worth it,” dad Eric Smith said. “It was really nice.”

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews