All Aboard to the North Pole

Children, trains and Santa are a magical combination. That magic came alive when NJ TRANSIT and its transportation partners teamed up with schools and private organizations to make this holiday season a special one for underprivileged children, students with disabilities, and families who are experiencing severe illnesses. 

Two events that paused last year due to the pandemic returned this year, much to the delight of the children, with Old St. Nick, elves and other Christmas characters making guest appearances!

Santa Train
On Friday, December 3rd, the Railmen for Children organization hosted a train ride for more than 100 children who attend schools in North Jersey serving less fortunate children and students with special needs. The Railmen for Children organization is made up of NJ TRANSIT employees and retirees who volunteer their time to collect funds, purchase gifts and operate the Santa Train, which has been running for more than 30 years.

This year’s train ride operated to the North Pole on the Montclair-Boonton and Morris & Essex Lines. Along the way, the children were treated to lunch, Christmas songs, gifts from Santa and his helpers and more. NJ TRANSIT employees and customers make donations for the gifts and the trip during the year. The presents are specifically requested by the students and volunteers go shopping ahead of the train ride to make sure Santa has the gifts ready for distribution.

In addition to the train crew and Santa, others who came along for the ride were Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, Mrs. Grinch, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Christmas Mouse, Polar Bear, Olaf, a toy soldier and some of Santa’s elves. Special thanks are in order to the Railmen for Children organization and all of the volunteers who helped to make the trip a success!

Students boarding the Santa Train in Denville.

One of the students is thrilled to see Rudolph! 

Santa handing out presents on the train.

Santa Train Railmen for Children volunteers pose for a group photo.

Polar Express
On Saturday, December 4th, NJ TRANSIT and River LINE contractor Southern New Jersey Rail Group – Alstom teamed up with the Ronald McDonald House in Camden to stage the Polar Express train ride. More than 20 children and their families staying at the Ronald McDonald House enjoyed a ride on the River LINE to the North Pole. 

Before the train left Entertainment Center Station in Camden, volunteers decorated the train and awaited the arrival of the families, who were escorted to the station by the New Jersey Transit Police Department. As they boarded the train, the children received golden tickets to the North Pole and bags of goodies. During the ride, Santa and his volunteers distributed lunch, gifts, engineer hats and other items to the participants, who also heard the Polar Express story and sang holiday tunes.

The Ronald McDonald House in Camden has served families since 1983, a “home-away-from-home” for families who have children being treated at hospitals for severe illnesses across the Southern New Jersey region. Special thanks to all of the volunteers who helped to make this a special day! 

Santa delivers a present to a child from the Ronald McDonald House.

Is that a real beard? The answer is yes!

Riding on the Polar Express to the North Pole.

Polar Express volunteers pose for a photo at the North Pole (Burlington South Station).