Santa rides in to Santa Paula on a steam engine for pre-holiday visit
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: November 30, 2012
A scene described as “perfect for Santa Paula” occurred Saturday evening when a vintage Fillmore & Western Railway steam train huffed and chugged and sounded its whistle as it pulled into the historic Depot carrying prize cargo on the brightly-lit caboose - Santa Claus!
And Santa was just the man about 100 people - many wearing Santa hats in tribute to St. Nick - wanted to see. Kids squealed as Santa shouted out his greetings, and elves made sure the children lined up for their chance to say hello to Santa, get a candy cane from the jolly fellow and perhaps whisper real quick what they want for Christmas.
Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Dave Wareham was also riding the 1913 steam engine pulling some circa 1920s cars. Aside from the fun factor, Wareham was also aboard to collect unwrapped toys to ensure a brighter holiday for disadvantaged children.
“I have a present to donate,” said Martin Hernandez, newly elected to the City Council. “Holly,” he said of his nearby wife, “is here to see Santa!”
So was Barbara Kroon, who said although her daughter Kelly and her friend considered themselves at 13 years to be “too old... I’m not!”
Several kids had brought along “wish” lists to hand to Santa, while others just thought they’d let him in on a quick verbal request. Kids came from all over to see Santa: Amber Grace Wineman, 8 of Newbury Park, could hardly contain her joy posing with Santa, while Brian Hoppe of Santa Clarita said he and his family were following the train to each stop.
The Santa train, said Fillmore & Western Railway owner Dave Wilkinson, had been welcomed by large crowds at several stops, although the visit in Northbank “brought out a huge crowd! As usual, people love it.” Wilkinson noted one present had already been given to an area railroad buff known as The Conductor: “Ken Brookes is our honorary engineer tonight!”
Santa Paula Police Sgt. Jeremy Watson and K-9 Officer Larry Johnson were also handing out candy canes and bantering with the crowd, although Johnson said his K-9 partner Zak had finally met his match when it came to attention getting. “Zak’s not getting quite the same interest” as Santa, said Johnson, who with the dog and Watson posed for a photo with St. Nick.
Larry and Mike Cossid said they heard the train coming from their hilltop home. And the vintage steam train, its swirl of caboose holiday lights, the Depot setting and of course the famous passenger from the North Pole making a pre-Christmas visit, said Mike Cossid, “is just so perfect for Santa Paula.”
Although Santa and his helpers were the lone passengers on Saturday’s special steam train tour, Fillmore & Western offers several special trains for the holidays including Christmas Tree trains, North Pole Express and the Santa Shopper Train. For information about the Fillmore & Western Railway Co. holiday train schedule, go online to http://www.fwry.com or call 524-2546.