Next stop ... NH

Santa Claus to ride the rails in pre-Christmas visit to Hobo Railroad

By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor
December 20. 2017 1:08PM

Santa Claus peeks out from the Santa Express at the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln. 

He’s known for flying a reindeer-powered sleigh around the world on Christmas Eve, but here in New Hampshire, Santa Claus has been hitting the rails since the day after Thanksgiving Day.

On Saturday, he’ll make his last guest appearance of 2017 at Hobo Railroad in Lincoln before setting his sights on the skies. The 1 p.m. excursion is one of many visits Santa will make in New Hampshire in the next few days.

“In the course of the Santa Express Train season, we’ll see about 3,500 to 3,600 passengers,” said Paul Giblin, who is director of marketing and business development at the Hobo & Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroads.

Each of the 10 excursions carries 360 passengers, and of those, more than half are children between 6 months to 12 years old, Giblin said.

The Santa Express is a three-decade tradition at the White Mountains railroad.

“In the early years, they were run along the rail in the Tilton area, not far from where the McDonalds is at Exit 20, (and the) train consisted of four cars and a locomotive,” Giblin said.

But operating special excursions 30 miles from where the bulk of the operation was based in Lincoln presented a number of logistical challenges.

“So, in 2005 when we started working with the Believe in Books Literacy Foundation and added the Polar Express trains (now referred to as the Journey to the North Pole trains) to the late afternoons and evenings, we changed the operating location ... to Lincoln, so we could operate from our Hobo Junction Station.

The train “now consists of four first-class cars, two coach-class cars, and in many cases, two locomotives due to the increased capacity,” he added.

Rides last about an hour and 20 minutes take place on 10 days in November and December

It’s a chance for families to get some extra special time with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and snap some pictures with the celebrity couple.

“Santa visits with each and every child as he makes his way through the train from one end to the other... , often getting down on one knee to speak to the kids or to high-five them, always asking if they’ve been a good boy or girl this year . (He’ll often ask the parents and grandparents if they’ve been good, too!).”

On the return trip, Santa and Mrs. Claus go through the train once more, this time giving each child a small gift.

Over the past 30 years, they have collected countless wish lists.

“One of the amazing things that stands out is the number of children who didn’t ask for a specific toy or game, but asked for their mom or dad to get well from an illness they were dealing with at the time, or maybe one of the parents had passed away and they missed them...,” Giblin said. “We still see these requests today.”

Tickets range from $22 to $28; free for ages 2 and younger.

For additional information or details on availability, visit www.HoboRR.com or call the railroad at 745-2135


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