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Children ride rails with Santa

December 23, 2002|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

ROUZERVILLE - More than 300 children and adults enjoyed a train ride at Red Run Park on Saturday.

The Santa Express, driven by Santa himself, went three times around the track and through a tunnel on a sunny, windy afternoon with temperatures near 50 degrees.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer frolicked nearby and waved to the passengers.

"Kids love Rudolph as much as they love Santa," Linda Fleagle said. "They're not as intimidated by Rudolph."

Waynesboro, Pa., resident Fleagle is co-chairman of the event with Brian Sease, also of Waynesboro.

With holiday music playing, a line of children and adults waited on the wooden station platform for their turn to ride.

Riding the small train is a multi-generational experience. Many of the adults in attendance had ridden the train as children, when it was at Cold Spring Park on the edge of Waynesboro.

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Sarah Mills of Waynesboro brought her great-granddaughter, Leanna Sheffler, to Red Run for the Santa Express. Mills remembers riding the train as a child.

"They did it over when they brought it from Cold Spring," she said.

Leanna, 3, had her picture taken with Santa, and said that she liked Rudolph.

Betsy Blair of Greencastle worked at Cold Spring Park for several years when the train was there.

She watched her granddaughters, Kelly and Deanna O'Brien of Chambersburg, take their first rides on the Santa Express.

The brightly-painted train has 11 seats, and on some of the trips as many as three children crowded into the caboose.

The engine was decorated with red bows, American flags and pine boughs. Engineer Frank Bowders wore striped engineer overalls, a Santa jacket and hat, and white gloves.

"It's wonderful," he said of driving the train and having his picture taken with passengers. "I have fun with the kids every year."

Bowders said he, too, rode the train as a child.

Janette Koons of Waynesboro has donned a Rudolph costume for the past three years to frolic around the track, wave to the children and have her picture taken with them.

"I love it," she said. "I get to be silly and nobody knows who I really am."

Last year, she had her picture taken with a dog, she said.

Summertime engineer Donald Hovis of Waynesboro said that the train was built in 1927 and originally was run at Red Bridge in Chambersburg, Pa.

"When it was first built, it had a steam engine," he said. "Then it had a Model T engine until 1938 or 1939, when a Model A engine was put in."

The train still runs on the Model A engine. Other than that, the train is all original, Hovis said.

"Some of the cars were made in the late 1800s," he said.

The train and its track came to Red Run Park about eight years ago. The Santa Express has been running since 1994.

The train runs on weekends in the summertime. All rides are on a donation basis, and the work is done by volunteers.

The Washington Township Train Committee, which oversees all operations of the train, is appointed by the Washington Township Supervisors.

Free cookies, hot chocolate and candy canes for Santa Express passengers were provided by the Eagles Club, Inc. of Waynesboro, the Rouzerville Ruritan, Blondie's and the Waynesboro Lions Club.

Major donors who help keep the train running at Red Run Park, according to the "Donor Express" train painted on the station house wall, are Joe Stickler Post 15, American Legion; Dean Hebb and Dorothy Hebb; and Harry W. East, Rouzerville Ruritan.

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