Almost a full moon was overhead, and Santa Clara’s Caltrain station was jam packed for Santa’s 8 p.m. arrival on Dec. 2. For 15 Decembers, Santa and Mrs. Claus and their fairy-tale entourage of elves, gingerbread people, and Frosty have come to town aboard the Holiday Train, choosing public transportation over private sleigh so that Santa’s reindeer can rest up for Christmas Eve touring the world.
But even if Santa had come to town in a red sleigh drawn by Rudolph and eight tiny reindeer, he would have had a hard time competing with the wondrous sight of the Holiday Train charging into the station through the dark night. The train was decorated and aglow with more than 75,000 colored lights. It arrived from San Francisco after 20-minute stops in Burlingame, Redwood City and Mountain View. Sunday, it took Santa to Millbrae, San Mateo, Menlo Park and Sunnyvale.
Saturday night, kids sitting on the shoulders of dads waved down at Santa and friends, who disembarked and walked the length of the train. Santa gave high fives to kids close enough to reach over the waist-high, metal fencing that kept them from overwhelming him in their excitement.
Magic was in the chill air as kids grabbed at snowflakes falling from the open-air car in the middle of the train, where the San Mateo’s Masterworks Chorale sang holiday songs such as “Frosty the Snowman.” Parents took family selfies. And then, too soon, Santa re-boarded the train, a signalman flashed his light to the engineer, and the Holiday Train sped away for another year.
“It was really cool about the lights [on the train]. It only comes once a year. I was excited to see Santa and the snowflakes and the singing,” said six-year-old Damon Bokla. He was with his three-year-old brother, Tyson, and their parents, Sonia and George Bokla, Sunnyvale residents who have made seeing the Holiday Train a family tradition.
The Santa Clara stop is unique because the Museum of Railroad History is housed at the Caltrain depot, 1005 Railroad Ave., built in 1863. The museum, operated by the South Bay Historical Railroad Society (www.sbhrs.org), was open and the scale model trains were running.
Adding to the magic of the night, the Salvation Army Brass Band played traditional holiday songs and carols. Also, the Salvation Army and the 23rd Marines collected new, unwrapped toys for less fortunate families.
The Caltrain Holiday Train is presented through funding from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Another Holiday Train opportunity is at Christmas in the Park at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose, where families can climb aboard a train display and ring the train bell.
It’s almost official that Christmas in the Park broke the Guinness Book of World Records by lighting 600 holiday trees in one location on Nov. 24. The previous record of 559 illuminated trees was set in New York City in 2015. Christmas in the Park is open through Jan. 7, 2018.