The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express train brought Santa and his elves to Beaumont on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
The stop in Beaumont and the previous day's in Port Arthur were part of the train's seventh annual journey to bring holiday cheer to 26 cities in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.
At each stop, KCS makes a contribution of Wal-Mart gift cards to the local Salvation Army to provide warm clothing for children in need. This year KCS employees, vendors and friends raised more than $120,000, an 8 percent increase from 2006.
The Holiday Express train was built on the tradition of the former Gateway Western (GWWR) Santa Train, which made stops in small towns from East St. Louis, Ill., to Blue Springs, Mo. GWWR was purchased by KCS in 1997.
In 2000, KCS employees noticed that the Santa Train was the only Christmas some kids had, and that some did not even have essential items like coats, hats and gloves. The employees were so touched that they committed to raising funds for each community they visited.
The Holiday Express was created in 2001 after volunteers dedicated 8,000 plus hours to the rigorous transformation of the retired freight train.
Led by KCS' Southern Belle, the six-car train included a smiling tank car "Rudy"; a flat car carrying Santa's sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a ginger bread box car; the elves' workshop; the reindeer's stable; and a little red caboose.
Each year, the decor inside the train focuses on a new theme, keeping the exhibit fresh for repeat visitors. This year's theme is Santa Claus.
After a personal visit with the jolly old elf, visitors will find images of Santa Claus throughout the train. New features this year include an ice castle exhibit in the red caboose, the "northern lights" in what used to be Santa's workshop and subtle additions to the model train displays. Festive music and lights complete the package.
Major sponsors include American Railcar Industries, CorpLogoWare, DST Systems, Inc., Michael and Marlys Haverty, Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences, Kinder Morgan and Watco Companies.