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Santa Claus came to town

For 25 years, Santa Claus has traded out his sleigh and reindeer for a steam locomotive and a conductor one day a year to spread Christmas cheer from Carbondale to Scranton.

"It rekindles the whole ethic of our region, is to bring people trackside, again, with a real live steam engine," said Dominic Keating, a former board president of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Association (LHVA).

The LHVA began the Santa Train in the late 90s. Keating has been involved since then. The number 26 locomotive that traveled down the original route of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company through the valley on Saturday was the same train that took Santa through the community 25 years ago, said Keating.

He said the event has grown immensely over the more than two decades it has been held.

The Santa Train is a partnership between the LHVA, the Steamtown National Historic Site and many other community organizations.

Volunteer organizations cooked up hotdogs and gave out chips in Archbald.

"It's a huge collaboration of the entire community throughout the valley to make this event happen," said April Rogato, LHVA executive assistant.

In Carbondale, families with small children gathered near the Pioneer City’s train platform. Mayor-elect Michelle Bannon gave out train whistles. Musicians from Doug Smith and the Dixieland All Stars played jazzy Christmas tunes. Performers from the Brown Initiative danced to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as Father Christmas and Mrs. Claus stepped off the train.

"It brings people back to their roots ... the original Carbondale passenger station stood here," said Keating. "Kids from other parts of the country may say 'well, I never saw a steam engine before,' but ... since 1997 steam engines are a part of these kids makeup."

The Clauses greeted the families. The performers, Marines collecting gifts for the Corps Toys for Tots program and Steamtown staff hopped back on the train and headed to Archbald.

The engine stopped along the way to pick up another Santa. He stays at each stop.

After hitting Jessup and Dickson City and greeting families along the way, Santa and the train make a final stop at the Steamtown National Historic site in downtown Scranton.

The LHVA is a regional authority that works to preserve the history of the region. It maintains the Heritage Trail.

Rose Breish holds her dog, Mochi, in Carbondale, the first stop of the annual Santa Train through Lackawanna County.
Aimee Dilger
Rose Breish holds her dog, Mochi, in Carbondale, the first stop of the annual Santa Train through Lackawanna County.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org