Strasburg Santa Trains, December 2017

Although the recent annual passenger counts have never come close to their 1980s peaks of half a million, the Strasburg Rail Road, America's oldest shortline (chartered in 1832) does a land-office business at Christmastime, sometimes running more than a dozen trains a day on the weekends, using two engines and as many as 16 or 18 cars.  On the Saturday I visited in early December 2017, the schedule showed eleven trains, at 11, 11:30, noon, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 7:00, and they ended up adding two extras, at 2:30 and 3:30, to handle the crowds.  I spent part of the day riding in the caboose of the half-hour train ("Train 2") with Santa (he uses it as his office, a place to get away from the passengers and for the elves to prepare their bags of goodies); on Train 1, a baggage car in the middle of the train serves as the two Santas' office.  When the trains pass at Groff's Grove, all of the Santas hide in any convenient closet or bathroom, to eliminate the chance of any child seeing two at once.  Don't tell anyone I told you this.

#89 leaving enginehouse
Ross Gochenaur and Ryan Merrill
#90 at East Strasburg
Train 1 trainmen and engine crew
Fred Mattison and Kevin Blevins
Shoving train 2 to the depot
Engineer Aaron Sholley
Fireman Ross Gochenaur
Train 2 meets train 1 at Groff's
#89 from Santa's caboose
#89 coupled to Train 2's caboose
#89 at Leaman Place
Kevin Blevins at Leaman Place
Kevin Blevins at East Strasburg
Engineer Ross Gochenaur
Train 2 meeting Train 1 at Groff's
Engineer Ross Gochenaur
Kevin Blevins at Leaman Place
Santa Claus at East Strasburg
Train 2 climbing from Leaman Place
Train 2 climbing Long Curve
Train 2 approaching Leaman Place
Train 2 on runaround at Leaman Place
Train 2 climbing from Leaman Place
Train 1 approaching Groffs Grove
Russell Shurtleff, Dave Domitrovich
Ross Gochenaur at Groff's Grove
Ross Gochenaur at Groff's Grove
Russell Shurtleff leaving Groff's
Russell Shurtleff leaving Groff's
Train 2 arriving Groff's Grove
Ross Gochenaur and Aaron Sholley
Train 1 eastbound at Groff's Grove
Aaron Sholley leaving Groff's Grove
Train 2 leaving Groff's Grove
Kevin Blevins at East Strasburg
#89 in the enginehouse
Aaron Sholley on the ground
Aaron Sholley throwing switch
Putting away the diesel
Diesel meets steam

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