Some Memories of “The Santa Train”


BELOW: From the November 15, 1943 edition of the Kingsport Times



BELOW: From the November 27, 1955 edition of the Kingsport Times News


By Ellis Brinkley

NORTH POLE, Nov. 26 — Today Santa Claus spent the day reading letters from children all over the world.

Of particular interest, he said, were those handed to him Friday when he made his annual trip from Elkhorn City, Ky., to Kingsport, Tenn.

The genial old gentleman confided in this writer and told him he thought those from Kingsport and all along the Clinchfield Railroad line up into Kentucky were among the best. There were nearly 50 of them and they came from all along the line.

Santa said one thing he noticed, and liked about the letters, was how thoughtful the children were. “You were good to me last year, thank you.” “I will leave you milk and bread on the table.” Others offered candy, ice cream, soft drinks, and other children’s’ treats.

“Send my mother something.” “I like my teacher.” “Warm by my fire.” “I go to Sunday School every Sunday.” These are quotes from just a few of the letters.

Santa said today’s children can’t be so bad when they are thinking of others and are thankful for the things they have.

One little boy was a “stool pigeon,” Santa said. He informed Santa that his older sister and younger brother had been fighting. “Do not bring them anything,” he suggested.

Several of the children were helpful. Not only did they tell Santa what they wanted, they also included the full description of the toy and the price.

Asked if he would bring all of the children everything they had asked for in letters, the old gentleman said after a long pause, “I will do the very best that I can. If I don’t bring everything, I hope the children will realize I had to divide with all the children in the world.”

In addition to reading letters and supervising the workshop, Santa spent most of the day resting up from the trip to Kingsport. He said he learned Friday that gray skies and rain did not dampen the children’s love for him, or his for them. Both were happy despite unfavorable weather conditions when the jolly old fellow made his annual visit to Kingsport.

Starting at Elkhorn City, Ky., at 1 p.m., Santa was kept busy waving and speaking to children all the way to Kingsport. For more than 100 miles, he greeted thousands of youngsters who had gathered along the railroad for a glimpse of the red-clad gentleman. Santa had about 15 helpers who distributed thousands of toys and more than a ton of candy along the Clinchfield Railroad right-of-way.

About mid-afternoon when the train pulled into St. Paul, Va., rain began to fall and fell the rest of the journey. The big parade planned for the arrival in Kingsport was washed out.

Five local high school bands were scheduled to parade in honor of St. Nick. But pouring down rain cancelled those plans. A few hardy musicians however, did fall in behind Santa’s fire trucks and furnished music for the procession. Santa was atop a large fire truck waving greetings to the thousands of children who packed Kingsport’s downtown streets.

A. B. Coleman, executive secretary of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce estimated 10,000 persons saw Santa on his arrival in Kingsport. Thousands of others saw him as his train made its way from Kentucky, through Virginia, and into Tennessee.

Only a very few miles failed to have at least one or two groups gathered along the tracks to wave to Santa. At the stations they were packed. At some of those stops there were not as many as last year, because in the mining areas more men are working. Last year was slack and daddy had a chance to take the children down to the tracks for a glimpse of Santa. This year he was working. Even at that, there were only a few stations when the crowd was not as large as last year.


BELOW: From the November 25, 1948 edition of the Kingsport News









BELOW: From the May 19, 1992 edition of the Kingsport Times News


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