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CTA Holiday Train: Riding in a Winter Wonderland

By Patty Wetli | Friday, December 10, 2010

Santa is in the station. Photo by Patty Wetli.

At 3:43 p.m., I stood shivering on the Chicago platform, peering down the tracks, waiting for a Brown Line train to round the curve. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. OK, not really, but the Holiday Train comes close.

“Santa!” screamed the little ones. Surly teenagers turned into giggling fools. Adults snapped photos and snatched up candy canes from the CTA “elves.” Not a Grinch or Scrooge in sight. Don’t believe in Christmas miracles? People were psyched to ride public transportation—it doesn’t get much more miraculous than that.

As we chugged along to the North Pole, er, Kimball, holiday classics serenaded us over the P.A. system, when our conductor wasn’t regaling us with CTA fun facts. The scent of cinnamon permeated the air, which beats eau du homeless man any day of the week. The cars themselves were decked out in enough red and green and tinsel and twinkling lights to rival Santa’s Castle itself. The only thing that could make the ride more amazing would be for it to all take place in stop-motion animation.

You’ve got to hand it to the CTA for this most genius of marketing ploys. Fare hikes? Service cuts? Stupid rail cars with half the seats removed? Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

To quote one rider, “They should do this all year long.”

The Holiday Train runs through December 22, with two more routes planned along the Brown line this weekend:

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ride.

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