I have seen the Santa Train go by on the L tracks, but have never had the chance to actually ride it. I found the schedule and it was on the Blue Line, my line, today, so I worked a little late and showed up at Jackson about 15 minutes before its scheduled arrival (so as not to miss it!).

The guy playing guitar and singing at Jackson was actually really good, so I enjoyed sitting there hanging out waiting for the train, and tipped him $5.

Finally, we heard the sound of the approaching train from the south, and turned to look. Instead of the normal destination direction lights on the top of the front car, they were all lit up in holiday colors, and, under the headlights, they had blinking red and green lights. And as it grew closer, you could see that the train was outlined in tiny white fairy lights, around all the windows.

The destination sign read Santa’s Express.

As the train pulled into the station, every car was decorated with snow on the windows and garlands, and huge signs were hung on the sides, and lighted candy canes and other elements. Santa’s Elves – CTA employees volunteering for Santa Train duties, and dressed in bright red jackets and hats – greeted us as we got on the train. Everyone was oohing and aahing over the decorations. Even the upholstery on the seats was changed—instead of the normal brown fuzzy seats, we had seats with snowmen and Christmas trees. All the normal ad placards inside were replaced with new ones, with silly reindeer jokes and ads for Comet’s Billiards (Closed December 24 and 25) and Northstar Bucks Coffee.

A special flatbed car was between two of the married-pair of cars, and on it was a sleigh, reindeer, and even Santa himself waving and telling everyone Happy Holidays.

I’m so glad I made the time to hang out and ride the Santa Train. I may be old and crotchety the remaining 364 days of the year, but that was the best L ride ever.

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