Christmas Train Traditions Through the Years

Christmas Train Traditions Through the Years

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was the first eastern railroad company to operate dome cars like the one prominently featured in this holiday advertisement from the 1950s. Today the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad operates over a former B&O line.

Trains and Christmas have a special relationship. Before the invention of the steam locomotive and the railroad, it was challenging for people to travel for the holidays. Once railroads began connecting the world, people began to travel more frequently for business and pleasure. During the golden age of railroad travel between 1870-1950, railroads would add extra passenger trains to their schedules to handle the annual holiday rush.

Railroad companies got into the spirit as well sponsoring Santa-themed excursions for employees and the general public. Santa appeared in many railroad advertisements leading up to Christmas, encouraging the public to travel by train. Sometimes Santa even delivered a brand new state-of-the-art passenger train to the railroad.

The invention of the electric toy train in the early 1900s tied trains with Christmas even more tightly. Wooden and metal clockwork or push-pull toy trains had been around since as early as 1845, but an electric train set was pure magic. Electric train sets manufactured by Lionel, American Flyer, and other manufacturers were and continue to be the subject of millions of letters to Santa.

The publication of the Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg in 1985, and its subsequent film adaption in 2004, cemented holiday trains in the modern era. The first holiday train to run at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad was the Polar Bear Limited in 1992. The Christmas train continued to evolve over the years into other Christmas programs including The Polar Express, and now the North Pole Adventure.

The New York Central Railroad takes getting a new train set to another level with this 1949 ad showing the railroad’s new state-of-the-art passenger fleet.

The whole family is taking part in their new Lionel train set in this vintage ad from 1953. The popularity of toy trains was equal to the level of video games today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year CVSR is excited to share the all-new North Pole Adventure™, a brand-new experience unlike any other. Guests enjoy hot cocoa and cookies, sing Christmas carols, and hangout with Santa’s elves while on their way to the North Pole. In addition, guests will write their letter to Santa on the train, where the North Pole Postmaster will collect the letters and will deliver the letters to the North Pole Post Office upon the arrival to the North Pole.

If you’re ready to start your own Christmas family holiday tradition, join us for North Pole Adventure. The program runs November 5 through December 19. Tickets can be purchased at cvsr.org/npa-info/

 

Adam Matthews