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John Skelly/MEDILL

CTA holiday train Santa hands out candy to a little boy.

CTA holiday train rumbles through its 20th Chicago Christmas

by John Skelly Jr.
Nov 30, 2011

John Skelly/MEDILL

Passengers riding the CTA holiday train are greeted by costumed employees and decorated cars.

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down the CTA.

2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the CTA holiday train.

“The holiday train consists of six passenger rail cars and one flatcar. The open flatcar carries Santa, his sleigh and reindeer, as well as lights and decorated Christmas trees with ornaments. Santa sits in the sleigh as the train travels each line,” said Marisue O’Conner, spokeswoman of the CTA.

The holiday train is a regular, in-service train that serves each of the CTA’s eight rail routes. There is no additional cost to ride.

“The tradition began on the Blue Line in 1992 when a ‘Season’s Greetings from the CTA’ sign was placed on the front of an out-of-service train that was used to deliver food to various charities,” O’Conner said.

The train started carrying passengers in 1996 and as it grew in popularity, the schedule was expanded to include service on all CTA rail lines throughout the holiday season. The holiday train rotates service on each of the lines. The schedule can be found on the CTA website.

“The inside of the train has red and green overhead lights, red bows, garland, rope lights and candy cane striping on the vertical handrails. The outside of each rail car is decorated with colored lights outlining the doors and windows and running along the tops of the cars,” O’Conner said.

“The public response has been positive. The holiday train allows CTA to brighten the commute for customers and enhance their transit experience,” O’Conner said.

A rider from Bridgeport who ordinarily takes the Orange Line, said he decided to hop on when he saw the holiday train pull up on the Green Line.

“It smells great and it puts you in a good mood after a long day,” he said.

Ozell Byre printed out the holiday train schedule before he left work.

“It’s actually convenient for me. Get off work, get on the holiday train and go home,” he said.

A six-year CTA employee, who was greeting passengers as they boarded the holiday train, said

“I love the expressions of the people who get on the train. The kids especially.”

A student from University of Illinois at Chicago, found the holiday train schedule on the CTA’s new Twitter account.

“I like it, it’s a nice experience.”

The holiday train is scheduled to run through Dec. 22.