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Train to Christmas Town on track

Modified: Saturday, Nov 17th, 2012

An early model train is stationed at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk during a dress rehearsal Friday of the holiday train ride called “Train to Christmas Town.” (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/ Register-Pajaronian)

SANTA CRUZ — The Train to Christmas Town rolled into the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Friday afternoon, giving the community a sneak peak of the holiday service that will start running next week.

A handful of families with children were treated to a 30-minute ride on the train while they were served hot chocolate and ginger snap cookies.

Welcoming everyone was Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings, the parent company of Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway, which operates the service. Ellis said the Train to Christmas Town was all about having fun and is representative of what is in store for the new rail line.

“We will do a lot of fun stuff here – this is just the first thing,” he said.

Fishing in America, the Grammy-nominated band that wrote the musical score for the Christmas-themed train, entertained the riders with live music, while children stared wide-eyed at Zephyr the Cat, Bumblebee the Panda Bear, elves and other characters from The Train to Christmas Town.

The author of the book, Peggy Ellis (who is also the wife of Iowa Pacific Holdings president Ed Ellis) was on hand to answer questions and see her characters come to life.

Ellis said she was inspired to write about trains because of her husband’s work, but it wasn’t until the “Polar Express” license fell through that she was called on to complete her Christmas-themed train story.

“It came together much better than I could have ever predicted,” said Ellis.

On the train, special guest Santa Claus was a big hit with the kids, especially young Alden Glass, 4, who came with his aunt, Katie Sprenger. Glass said he liked Santa Claus most of all because “he always brings me presents.”

The Train to Christmas Town will run from Nov. 23 through Jan. 6 with several departures five days per week. Tickets can be purchased online at TrainToChristmasTown.com or by calling 888-978-5562.

Tickets are $25 for children ages 2-12 and $35 for ages 13-adult. Children under 2 are free when riding on an adult’s lap.

This is a big weekend for trains in the county, because a pair of General Motors/Electro-Motive Division F-9A diesel-electric engines recently rolled into Pajaro in preparation for today’s Right on Track: Rail Corridor ribbon-cutting event.

The celebration is for the acquisition of the 32-mile stretch of rail and trail that runs between Watsonville and Davenport. The party will include whistle stops in Watsonville, Capitola, Live Oak and the west side of Santa Cruz. In 2010, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Committee unanimously approved the spending of $14.2 million to buy the Santa Cruz Branch Line right-of-way for recreational rail, preservation and future transportation uses — including passenger rail, freight services and bicycle and pedestrian pathways.

The Watsonville stop will last about an hour and is being hosted by the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and Graniterock.

Check the RTC website for information, www.sccrtc.org.

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