SANTA TRAIN–Orvel Cox, as a Santa “assistant” and his wife Betty, both of Red Bud, are pictured aboard this year’s Keokuk Junction Railway Santa Train. Orvel Cox has been a part of the Santa Train for the past 25 years.
Photo courtesy of Erica Kelsey
On Dec. 8 of this year, Orvel Cox of Red Bud served as a Santa “assistant” on the Keokuk Junction Railway Santa Train. He noted that this year was his 25th and final year doing this for the Santa Train.
Erica B. Kelsey, an assistant controller for Pioneer Railcorp, is in charge of the Santa Train. She noted that Pioneer Rail Corp is a holding company for several short line railroads across the country and the Keokuk Junction Railway Santa Train runs on their largest line.
Cox noted that the Santa Train is a late 1950s vintage train, that is still in regular service.
On the Keokuk Junction line, there are six stops for the Santa Train: Mapleton and Glasford in Peoria County, and Breeds, Canton, Cuba and Smithfield in Fulton County.
At each stop, children (and their parents) can board the train, starting at the caboose. They get to meet Santa and receive a goodie bag that includes candy and a train whistle. Kids can also go up to check out the locomotive and even blow the train’s horn.
Kelsey noted that most of the communities the Santa Train serves are fairly rural. This is convenient for families as Santa comes to them and they don’t have to go into town. Because of this, the amount of people visiting the Santa Train each year has grown substantially.
For more on this story, please see this week’s print edition.