CSX and FFA spread holiday cheer in Appalachia

By Rheba Howard

The Santa Train passes out more than 15 tons of gifts. Country music artist Thompson Square helped Santa again this year passing out presents from the train.

Click-clack, click-clack. A blue engine emblazoned with the yellow letters CSX whirs through rural Appalachia. A shrill horn sounds, announcing to the crew they will be arriving soon. The roar of the crowd is heard, “Santa! Santa!” The door opens on the last car and out steps the man in red himself, Santa Claus. Parents push to get closer to the end train car, to the platform where Santa is handing out stuffed animals and books. To them this is Christmas. The look of determination on their faces as they try to get their little ones a toy is heart-wrenching, for without this, their child may not get anything for Christmas. The Santa Train, run by CSX, provides more than just toys. It provides Christmas hope.

CSX, a platinum-level FFA sponsor, runs the Santa Train every year in mid-November through the mountains of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. This year marked the 70th anniversary of the train. Started in 1943, the train consists of an engine and 10 restored Pullman passenger cars and runs on 110 miles of track. The train stops at 14 locations, spending 15-20 minutes at each stop. CSX employees, FFA staff and country music stars volunteer to pass out more than 15 tons of gifts along the way. The gifts range from small toys and snacks to age-specific duffle bags, which are popular for families with infants and babies. Joy lights the eyes of the children as they receive a toy from Santa. CSX works hard to help those they serve lead better lives by building up their communities and their morale.

The Santa Train stopped at 14 different locations along the 110-mile route. There were as many as 200 people at each stop.

FFA and CSX have built a strong partnership through this idea of service to others. Just as FFA builds young leaders by teaching leadership and giving self-confidence, CSX builds up the communities around them. The shared belief in personal growth, premier leadership and career success has united CSX and FFA. This is CSX’s second year of FFA sponsorship and first year at the platinum level. Through their sponsorship, CSX supports a variety of FFA programs including the Washington Leadership Conference, the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassadors, the Job Interview Career Development Event and others. FFA is proud to share this spirit of building up others with supporters like CSX.