HUNTINGTON — Blow the whistle and jingle those bells, there's some good holiday news coming from the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.
To celebrate Christmas, the Society has organized two special stationary events in some of its historic railroad cars. There will be a one-night only dinner train as well as four nights of the Holiday Train Social, with Santa Claus and a host of holiday festivities.
Tickets are on sale now for both events.
The Holiday Train Social is set for Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, and Dec. 22-23 with two events nightly at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
This non-moving event with Santa will be taking place on two of the Society's historic rail cars that will be parked over at the tracks by the flood wall (across from the Cabell Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, 210 11th St.).
Tickets for the Holiday Train Special are $20 or $15 for children ages 2 to 13. Everyone will get hot chocolate and cookies and the kids will get a stuffed animal and a bell from Santa.
"We will have Christmas music playing and be reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and since we are not moving, all the kids will have time to have a few more extra minutes with Santa," said Chris Lockwood, of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.
In addition to hosting Santa in the historic train cars, the Society will also host a special Dinner On the Train event at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21. The cost is $69 per person for the three-course meal aboard the Society's historic rail cars. When folks order, they can make their selection of salmon, prime rib or chicken.
"We've done dinners on the train in Washington, D.C., and we did it as part of a Downtown Huntington Live event about three or four years ago," Lockwood said.
Lockwood said that, thanks to CSX, the Society will be able to move its railcars over across from the CVB to host these holiday events and to help make some money for the nonprofit, which puts on a few dozen excursion train trips a year out of New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and its flagship New River Train that runs four trains from Huntington to Hinton each October to see the fall foliage.
The two historic train cars that will be used for the holiday events will be: The NYC-38, a 1947-built full length tavern lounge car with daytime seating up to 50 people with 28 in the lounge area and 22 at tables and a small kitchen for light refreshments, and The Braddock Inn, which was built Feb. 28, 1949, as a 21-roomette sleeper for the Pennsylvania Railroad numbered 8246. The car operated on “The Iron City Express” as a regularly assigned sleeper.
The Braddock Inn operated until 2001 on one of MARC’s express commuter trains between Washington, D.C., and Martinsburg, West Virginia, with the seats usually filled. The car was acquired by CPH in 2004. Over 900 volunteer hours were spent on the Braddock Inn between Dec. 27, 2016 and March 24, 2017. With a new set of furniture, the Braddock Inn can now sit 26 in the lounge and 24 at booths.
Tickets are now on sale for the train trips at www.newrivertrain.com. Folks can also call the office from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. toll free at 1-866-639-7487 or 1-304-523-0364.
Lockwood said the Society had a very successful fall season, running foliage trains through the Adirondacks from New York City to Montreal as well as the New River Train.
"The Adirondack trips were excellent. They were all sellouts and we will be doing those again this next coming year," Lockwood said.
He said he also just spoke with Amtrak officials Tuesday afternoon, who said the situation looks good for the running of the New River Train next October. Those train trips were in jeopardy after Amtrak, which had its budget slashed, announced at the end of March it would end charter and special service trains, putting West Virginia traditions like the New River Train and Hinton Railroad Days in jeopardy.
The New River Train is the largest mainline excursion train in the U.S., and brings in an estimated $3.5 million for the Huntington area and an estimated $1 million for Hinton each year, with 5,000 riders taking the trip annually.
"I got to talk to Amtrak today and we will most likely be running the train again," Lockwood said Tuesday. "It was a very positive conversation. We have to hammer out details but that information will be coming out in the next month or so. It is still under negotiation but we are charging ahead."