Santa and his Elf greeted more than 150 people at the Santa Paula Depot Saturday night during the annual stop of Fillmore & Western Railway’s Santa Train.

F&WR Santa Train: Old St. Nick
greets huge holiday crowd at Depot

December 04, 2016
Santa Paula News

The Fillmore & Western Railway Santa Train pulled into his namesake town Saturday where more than 150 people waited to greet the Man With All the Toys, and even give him some for needy Santa Clara River Valley families.

\There was an “Incredible turnout,” said F&WR owner Dave Wilkinson who has been running the Santa Train from Montalvo to Fillmore, the train’s home base.

Ventura County Sheriff’s that were collecting toys for the Santa Paula and Fillmore Rotary Clubs for their Christmas Basket programs estimated there was “well over” 1,000 holiday celebrants at the first three stops at Montalvo, Johnson Drive and Petit.

“We got a lot of gifts for Santa Paula and Fillmore Rotary, three or four full bags each,” said Wilkinson.

Old St. Nick was riding on a brightly decorated vintage train and offered everyone best holiday wishes and took children’s “Wish Lists”  —all claimed they had been nice, not naughty — before heading to his next stop. Santa’s Elf handed out candy canes and kept order while each child — and many adults — had their photo taken with Santa.

Wilkinson said the Santa Train has been an annual event for about 20 years; Santa Paula was added to the stop about 15 or 16 years ago.

“This year it was better than ever,” which might have several contributing factors from the low price of gasoline to a burst of nostalgia.

“I think people really want to get away from it all and see Santa Claus, escape like they used to when they would go to the movies…it’s a wonderful treat for the kids and really brings back memories for the adults.”

In the wake of the Great Recession the F&WR North Pole Express is also seeing a boom in business: “It’s filling up nicely and it’s bigger and better this year. We kind of pulled the plug and did more for Christmas than we have in years past, we’ve had wonderful support and now’s the time to turn around and pay that back.”

All in all, he added, “We had a great time on that train, it’s just an all around good time…”

Those at the Santa Paula Depot agreed with children lining up in an orderly manner to get their moment with Santa who was generous with his smile and “Ho ho hos!” as his Elf took “Wish Lists” for presents.

“Did I tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas? No,” laughed Wilkinson, “that little son-of-a-gun told me what he wanted for Christmas.

“Santa told me he wanted Fillmore & Western to stick around…Santa said that’s his wish.”

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