CTA's Holiday Train in its 18th year

December 10, 2009 (CHICAGO) The CTA has brought back the annual Holiday Train to spread season's greetings to passengers. Adorned with thousands of lights and red and green décor, the train pulls into stations playing Christmas and holiday music. The interior of the cars are decorated with bows, tinsel, red and green lights on the ceilings and poles wrapped to look like candy canes. CTA workers hand out Holiday Train schedules and candy canes, and Santa and his reindeer ride on a flatbed car waving at riders on the platforms.

Rashaun Patterson, who was on the Holiday Train along the Brown Line on Thursday, said he rode the train two years ago and still likes riding it.

"It makes me feel good," Patterson said. "I like Christmas a lot and this puts me in the spirit."

Despite CTA budget woes that could produce cuts in service and layoffs, the Holiday Train is in its 18th year. However, the train does not cost the CTA a lot because the majority of the decorations are reused from previous years and many of the CTA workers volunteer their time.

Ian Stamps has volunteered as an honorary staff member on the Holiday Train for six years. He said he is a people person and enjoys talking to and seeing the reactions of passengers as the train rolls by.

"It puts smiles on people's faces," Stamps said.

Employees also donate their time and money to purchase groceries and assemble food baskets to distribute at train stations along the Holiday Train routes. According to a CTA press release, the CTA plans to donate approximately 300 food baskets to 19 local community organizations.

Many CTA riders pulled out their cell phone cameras to take pictures of the Holiday Train, including DePaul University student Jordan Sunderland. She said she was surprised to see the train because this is her first year in Chicago and did not know about it.

"I was coming from a six-hour class and kind of tired," Sunderland said. "This made my day a little bit."

The Holiday Train will run on all CTA rail lines and make stops at every station.

The train began its run on Nov. 23 and will continue until Dec. 23, operating from about 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on certain weekdays. Normal CTA fares apply.

Visit the CTA Web site for specific dates and schedules.

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