More than 4,500 people purchased tickets for this year’s Santa Express train ride, which featured popular holiday characters making their way from car to car after a reading of the “Polar Express.”
Dan Durachko, president of the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society, said that 99 percent of the available tickets were sold in the first two hours. Andy Richards, treasurer of the BHRS, added that 95 percent of the available tickets were sold in the first 17 minutes. Tickets could only be purchased online beginning at 8 p.m. Nov. 1.
The reading of the “Polar Express” began shortly after the train departed from the Bellefonte train station and made its way toward Pleasant Gap. On the return trip, Santa Claus led the way and greeted those on board. Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch and several elves all followed Santa’s lead in making it a memorable experience for those on the trip.
Ryoko Miyake, her husband and two children were on the Santa Express for the first time. They signed up for the 2016 trip, but canceled their plans due to the weather.
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“It’s really cute. Our son really likes looking outside because he’s really into vehicles right now so getting on a train is a great experience for him. We definitely hit it on a perfect day. It’s beautiful weather; the snow is just awesome and really creates a nice ambiance,” Miyake said.
Dan Mellon was another passenger on the Santa Express, along with his wife and two sons. Mellon said he and his family drove more than two hours to visit friends who were also on the Santa Express.
“We like to drive the train and see our friends and get our kids together. It’s a nice, relaxing ride. It’s perfect scenery and really brings out the Christmas spirit in you. I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Mellon said.
The event serves as a fundraiser for the BHRS, and Durachko said the event raises “thousands” of dollars. There are 13 scheduled rides over a three-day period from Friday to Sunday. Each ride can transport roughly 350 people and tickets cost $12, a $2 increase over the previous year. Durachko said the money supports restoration and upkeep of the static displays, among other things.
With no shortage of holidays festivities, Durachko said he believes the scenic setting of the Santa Express is what separates it from other holiday events.
Our station is very special; it’s an honest-to-goodness railroad station that has been here for many, many years. This is a beautiful setting and that’s why it’s so cool.
Dan Durachko, president of the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society
“This group of cars visits several other locations during the year and, not to brag or anything, but we’re told by them that this is their favorite spot because Bellefonte is a Victorian setting and it’s very scenic. Our station is very special; it’s an honest-to-goodness railroad station that has been here for many, many years. This is a beautiful setting and that’s why it’s so cool,” Durachko said.
The group of cars that Durachko mentioned is the Penn Valley Railroad crew. Jeff Pontius, owner of the trains, said he and his crew conduct 39 Christmas ride and the trip to Bellefonte is the fourth consecutive weekend that they’ve been offering rides.
Bret Pallotto: 814-231-4648