If you need to get a giant sleigh from point A to point B and you can’t seem to find eight flying reindeer, a six-car (non-flying) CTA train powered by 600-volt direct current isn’t a bad substitute. At least that’s the theory behind the ever-popular CTA Holiday Train. I headed to the southwest terminus of the Blue Line on Saturday to check out the bling-ed up train.
There were roughly 400 visitors to the train platform, all waiting to get an audience with Santa. He sat regally upon the open-air sleigh which is placed midway on a standard CTA train (albeit one with tens of thousands of colored lights inside and out). Flanking Saint Nick were a cadre of CTA elves.
Mary Sue O’Connor, a CTA staffer, told me the popularity of the Holiday Train has grown exponentially over the 23 years it’s been running. “We get people coming from all over to visit Santa and see the train,” she said.
The Holiday Train is unique to Chicago, too. I couldn’t find any similar holiday-themed rail-based public transportation in the U.S. or overseas. And this year, for the first time, the CTA has expanded the festivities to a holiday bus—also festooned with lights, carrying Santa.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the CTA Holiday Train from the inside or outside, there’s still one week to go. The remaining schedule is:
Dec. 16 – Red Line
Dec. 17 – Purple Line
Dec. 18 – Red Line
Dec. 19 – Purple Line
Dec. 20 – Red Line and Purple Line
Dec. 23 – Yellow Line
Consult the CTA website for approximate station arrival times.