First-time Santa-Reindeer train draws a big crowd for Railroad Museum
18,000 also rode the Polar Express for Railroad Museum, which followed busy fall foliage rides
MEDINA – The magic of Christmas was in full swing Saturday at the Medina Railroad Museum, where throngs of people came for the first ever Santa/Reindeer train.
Also in attendance was a train full of veterans who were given free tickets to ride the train through a grant from the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer program.
Veterans’ services director Earl Schmidt secured the grant to provide recreational and entertaining events for Orleans County veterans. Saturday, 56 veterans and their families rode the train.
Catherine Schmidt, who is the volunteer coordinator for the Peer-to-Peer program, purchased mugs and chocolate suckers from Della’s in Medina for each veteran.
Among the veterans were the Strickland family of Lyndonville. Ace Strickland, an Army veteran, took the ride with his wife Rebecca, their children Ava and Aksel and Rebecca’s father, Ed Schmidt, an Air Force veteran.
“It’s so wonderful they are actually paying attention to veterans now,” Schmidt said. “When I got out, you didn’t want people to know you were a vet.”
On the two dining cars on the train, first-class passengers also received a mug for their hot chocolate and the chance to visit Santa by a Christmas tree in the cars.
Children were given a stuffed animal which Santa plucked from his big red sack.
This is the first year the Railroad Museum has attempted a Santa/Reindeer train, coming off the heels of the most successful Polar Express run ever. During its eight-day run of six trains per day, more than 18,000 people rode the Polar Express, said museum director Janien Klotzbach. She is also daughter of the museum’s founder, the late Martin Phelps.
Polar followed a record-breaking sell-out of every fall foliage train, Klotzbach said.
The museum grounds were all decked out for the holidays, from an antique sleigh on the deck, to the grounds with a human size snow globe capable of holding 14 people, and a petting tent with reindeer Dasher and Dancer. A faded ticket shack was converted into a snack shack, where snacks and hot chocolate were served.
Klotzbach attempted to secure local food vendors during all the holiday events. Zambistro was on site for one weekend, and Hojack’s Bar & Grill in Carlton came through for the remainder of the season.
“Having the Hojack here was so appropriate,” said Klotzbach, referring to the ice cream/snack bar in Lyndonville which was named after the old railroad which used to run through the town.
Volunteers on the Santa/Reindeer train were mostly teenagers, including Lincoln Pace, 15, of Medina; Nick Mitchell, 15, of Le Roy; Catherine Grossman of Oakfield; Danielle Schmidt of Medina; and Noel Vasquez of Barker.
The teens all said they had friends who previously volunteered and had such a good time. They embraced their elves costumes, peaked hats and necklaces of blinking Christmas bulbs.
As the train headed out of Medina for the “North Pole,” the teens bounced down the aisles as they led the singing of Christmas songs. Then it was time to pour the hot chocolate and pass the Christmas cookies from Case-Nic Cookies in Medina.
The train made a brief stop at the North Pole, where Santa disembarked to return to his workshop.