“It was like Christmas right out of Norman Rockwell straight into the hearts of all aboard,” according to a patron of the Children’s Christmas Train, a fun-filled holiday train ride hosted annually by the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. This family event, which attracts more than 2,000 attendees each year, is held on the first Saturday of December at the Emma Street Depot in Springdale. The event not only provides a magical holiday experience, but also raises critically needed funds for children’s charities in Northwest Arkansas.
The idea for the Children’s Christmas Train was conceived by a group of J.B. Hunt employees after attending a holiday party on the train, an adult-only event which many of their co-workers had missed in order to be with their children. As much as the employees had enjoyed the event, they knew children would enjoy it even more! They began talking with railroad colleagues and learned of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Annual Holiday Express train, a Christmas themed event that touches 20 communities in six states during the month of December. Impressed with the concept, employees from J.B. Hunt and Arkansas & Missouri Railroad enthusiastically jumped on board to create a similar event here in Northwest Arkansas – The Children’s Christmas Train.
This year, Children’s Christmas Train riders departed from the Emma Street Depot on Saturday, December 7th aboard a restored 1940s era train. The 40 minute ride to Johnson and back was a special treat for all aboard as we looked out on a snow covered winter wonderland and enjoyed caroling and a visit with Santa himself! Although the event has “train” in its name, it is meant to be much bigger than that! Our plans for 2014 will, weather permitting, bring back the popular holiday games and entertainment. The children will again be able to ride ponies dressed as reindeer, operate a model train, write a letter to Santa or just enjoy the characters. The weather also forced us to cancel the 2013 Ugly Sweater 5K and Fun Run, so pack that sweater away for next year and plan on combining your train ride with this fun event.
Thank you for helping to support organizations in Northwest Arkansas which provide programs and services for children and families in need. With your help, through our family sponsorship program, we were able to provide a great Christmas memory for more than 400 individuals this year. Please consider sponsoring a family next year so we can plan early and expand this great program. Visit the donations page to learn more about becoming a sponsor and the organizations we support.