Santa Claus is taking time out of his busy schedule for a train ride in Skagway. The annual Santa Train rolls down the tracks this Saturday. White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad employees organizing the event say they expect a record turnout.
“We have a nice relationship with Santa, he thinks it’s a cool way to travel, coming into town on the train,” said White Pass Marketing Manager Allison Haas. “Plus, we treat him well. We feed him cookies and give him lots of coffee to warm his belly. He likes this event every year, so it’s not too hard to convince him.”
Santa gets coffee and cookies, and children get to tell Santa about their wish lists. At 11 a.m., Santa arrives at the White Pass train depot, where he’ll meet with kids and take pictures. The train leaves around 11:45 a.m.
Last year, about 600 people rode the Santa train. To prepare for even more visitors, the train will have 15 cars – the most it’s ever had. That number of cars can hold about 700 people.
“Every year it just grows and grows,” Haas said. She says the crowd of Yukoners who hop aboard the Santa Train is rapidly growing.
“It’s funny, we’ve definitely seen a switch in the last couple of years, we get a lot more Yukoners actually riding the train. We still do get a lot of the Skagway community coming out to see Santa at the depot, they might just not ride the train itself. We see a lot more Yukoners on board for sure.”
She says so many Skagway residents have been on the train, that the ride itself is less of a draw for locals than the pictures with Santa. That’s why this year there’s a bonus time with Santa on Friday evening from 6-7 p.m. Families can come and get pictures before the crowded rush Saturday morning.
“For those who can’t maybe make it Saturday or if they have very small kids who can’t wait in line very long.”
Haas says Santa Train day is her favorite day of year.
“I look forward to seeing people that I don’t get to see all the time, lots of our Yukon friends. And I just like to watch people riding the train, and it’s a landscape they don’t get to see all the time. Usually people riding the train, it’s in the summer and it’s green or there are wildflowers out. But I like it in the winter because it’s icy and wintery and it just looks very Christmasy. So I’m looking forward to the train ride itself and chatting with friends and enjoying the ride.”