Mrs. Santa Claus

It may be that the appeal of trains goes back to when I was a boy and the true sign that Christmas was around the corner was when we got the request to design the annual train layout. What a production! We all drew designs of how the track would carry the train around all the little bits of scenery, tunnels, bridges and switching yards while our parents started to task us with the annual clean up that would allow the train to take over a corner of the basement.

First, the floor had to be scrubbed and waxed. Next, we created legs using a collection of old army footlockers that hid in storage most of the year. When we had that done, my father would drag out the plywood sheets that we all knew as the "train board" and unpacked the track. I think that most years my brothers and sisters were glad that this was such a thrill for me because I do not recall that I ever had much help with the track cleaning or rolling stock repair that was the next step. Not important to me because it was a TRAIN! and it was getting close to Christmas! I got more help once the track was clean and the various designs were compromised into the same one we used every year. We got out the special screws that we had carefully saved from last years layout and attached the track to the board. Waiting for the electric to be attached was torture, but the testing of the current holiday train was one of my favorite times.

In short, the holiday season and train whistles will always be joined in my memory. I am also sure that I am not the only person who has that memory. Each year, the Austin Steam Train schedules a series of train rides with Santa Claus and Mrs. Santa Claus (does she have a name?), carolers and assorted elvish helpers. These Santa excursions of the train are always sold out.

A two hour train ride through the hill country of Central Texas with Santa Claus is obviously an occasion for children of all ages. Some rode the train with reindeer antlers and some were already snuggled into wintry pajamas. Santa worked his way through the train, checking his list and offering train whistle souvenirs. A very merry beginning to the holiday in Texas.

While the train rolled through the country side, Mrs. Santa Claus recorded a short anecdote from Santa's busy season. Skeptics might hear pickup truck when she says "sleigh" but people like that probably don't believe in the Great Pumpkin either. The train whistle you hear, is really a train whistle.

Santa has included his version of another ride on the Austin Steam Train.

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