Historic locomotives to lead Santa Train as tribute to Clinchfield Railroad

J. H. Osborne • Updated Nov 9, 2017 at 8:32 AM

KINGSPORT — Santa himself may be the main attraction for thousands of folks who turn out to great the Santa Train each year. But a fair amount of the crowd shows up along the 110-mile route to see the train — especially the highly polished passenger cars, many with ties to history, and all reminders of a bygone era when rail travel was commonplace.

This year, Santa has a special treat for railroad enthusiasts and history buffs: two historic Clinchfield locomotives will lead the 75th running of the CSX Santa Train.

The use of the restored locomotives is meant as a tribute the Clinchfield Railroad, CSX’s predecessor along the route traveled by the Santa Train.

CSX partnered with the Southern Appalachia Railroad Museum to restore the locomotives for this year’s running of the Santa Train, according to a news release issued Wednesday on the company’s behalf. According to the release:

• Both locomotives are from the museum, which is also a working regional rail carrier based in Oak Ridge.

• Leading the train will be locomotive CRR 800, which was built in 1948 as an F5 model, but was soon upgraded to a model F7 with newer traction motors. After more than 40 years of freight and passenger service, the rare locomotive was retired in 1993. It was restored this year at the CSX locomotive shop in Huntington, W.Va., where it was re-lettered with “CRR 800.”

• Following right behind CRR 800 will be CRR 3632, a model SD45 which was built in 1971 for the Seaboard Coast Line, another CSX predecessor. CRR 3632 hauled freight across the continental United States for much of its operation, including for Clinchfield, and it is one of the few remaining locomotives with an operating 20-cylinder prime mover. After being retired by CSX in 1990, the locomotive changed owners multiple times before its restoration this year as the CRR 3632.

When the Santa Train makes its annual trek from Shelby, Ky., to downtown Kingsport on Saturday, Nov. 18, Santa’s special guest will be 15-time Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs.

Skaggs, a Kentucky native, will help Santa distribute 15 tons of toys, food, warm clothing and other gifts to thousands of people at 14 stops along the 110-mile rail route the Santa Train has followed each year since 1943.

Items distributed by Santa and his helpers come from donations nationwide each year — from individuals, groups and businesses.

Each year, thousands of people — including families for whom a visit to the train is a multigenerational tradition — turn out at stops along the way, regardless of the weather.

Gifts are distributed only when the train is stopped. Nothing is thrown from the train while it is in motion.

The times for this year’s stops are: Shelby, 5:45 a.m; Marrowbone, 6:20 a.m.; Elkhorn City, 7:05 a.m.; Toms Bottom, 7:45 a.m.; Haysi, 8:07 a.m.; Clinchco, 8:40 a.m.; Fremont, 9:08 a.m.; Dante, 10:08 a.m.; St. Paul, 10:53 a.m.; Dungannon, 12:03 p.m.; Fort Blackmore, 12:48 p.m.; Kermit, 1:48 p.m.; Waycross, 2:20 p.m.; and downtown Kingsport, 3 p.m.

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