BLET member Alf Peoples pilots Santa Claus Special
Santa waves goobye to the crowd at Starnes, Va. Photo courtesy of Ray Poteat.
Thousands of children and families turned out on November 17 for the 65th annual CSX Santa Claus Special. The annual train follows a 110-mile stretch in the rural mountain communities of Eastern Kentucky, western Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, and is one of Appalacia's most anticipated holiday traditions.
Santa himself rode in the caboose and was part of the team that distributed more than 15 tons of toys at 14 stops along the route.
Another major player on the team was locomotive engineer Alf Peoples, a CSX engineer and member of Division 781 in Erwin, Tenn. Brother Peoples worked as locomotive engineer of the Santa Claus Special this year.
Brother Peoples is a veteran Santa Train engineer, and involvement with the program runs in his family.
"I was the engineer of the Santa Train once before in 1990 on the 48th annual Special," said Brother Peoples, who first joined the Brotherhood on December 1, 1980. "My father was a fireman on the Santa Train years ago."
According to Brother Peoples, the train left Erwin, Tenn., on November 16 and traveled to Kingsport, Tenn., where the toys and food for the needy were loaded on the train. They then traveled to Shelby, Ky., for the night, and on November 17, the Santa Train began its run from Shelby, Ky. to Kingsport, Tenn.
Country singer Patty Loveless was the special guest on the train this year. Brother Peoples said that including Shelby, one of the 14 stops along the route caters to children with special needs.
As important as the locomotive engineer is on the Santa Train, a team of volunteers make sure everyone stays safe along the route.
"There are many BLET and UTU members all along the 110 mile route to keep the crowds out of the track as the train arrives," he said.
The route concludes in Kingsport, Tenn., with a large parade.
"When we arrive in Kingsport Santa gets off the train to be in the Kingsport Christmas Parade," Brother Peoples said.
"This has been called the world's longest Christmas Parade."
Crowd at Fort Blackmore, Va. Volunteers from the BLET and UTU help keep crowds at a safe distance as the train approaches. Photo courtesy Dustin Grizzle.
The Santa Train near Dante, Va. Photo courtesy Dustin Grizzle.
© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen