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What can you tell us about the Santa Claus train that ran out of Wilmington in the 1950s?

Jim Ware
Atlantic Coast Line insignia

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad insignia. (StarNews file photo)

Mark Koenig, executive director of the Wilmington Railroad Museum, 505 Nutt St., Wilmington [Map this], answered this question:

“In 1959 the first ‘Santa Claus Special’ ran out from Wilmington, with tickets priced at only 50 cents and sponsored by the Wilmington Merchants Association. The Atlantic Coast Line News reported that 2,600 passengers from around southeastern North Carolina boarded for a fun-filled excursion, requiring five runs to the ‘North Pole’ and back. Popular demand brought the ‘Santa Claus Train’ back for several years, providing lasting holiday memories for children who rode.

“Like many other railroads, the ACL more frequently ran chartered ‘specials’ out of major stations, essentially restricted cars populated by sports boosters and athletes, civic clubs, or trade associations, and added on to regular passenger runs.”

User-contributed question by:
Amy Lou Powell Ottaway

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6 Responses to “ What can you tell us about the Santa Claus train that ran out of Wilmington in the 1950s?”

  1. On June 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm amy lou ottaway wrote:

    Thanks for this story, any pictures available from the Santa Train. The Sunset Park Jr high School has a face book page and we are all recalling the past in Wilmington and surrounding area and this was one of the thousand of things we are hoping to find info on.

  2. On June 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm Been There, Done That wrote:

    I remember riding it and it was great fun for the kids. I think we went from downtown to the Wrightsboro depot (just past the intersection of Blue Clay Road and Kerr Ave.) and picked up Santa for the return to downtown.

  3. On June 24, 2011 at 4:59 pm Jim Ware wrote:

    I searched our in-house archives and the digital archives of the New Hanover County Public Library with no success.
    Maybe some of our readers will have photos of the train they can share. If so, they can email them to me at jim.ware@starnewsonline.com and I’ll post them with this answer.

  4. On June 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm Stanley Outlaw wrote:

    I remember riding it also. The year I rode it we went as far as the Castle Hayne Station and then returned by backing back to Wilmington. I have seen pictures and have gone through mine without any luck. The one I remember is of the kids loading on at the main station with a sign in the back ground that said “Santa Claus Special”

  5. On June 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm mathew mark lukenjohn wrote:

    sounds so great! Anyway we can bring it back?

  6. On July 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm Mark Koenig wrote:

    Small Clarification: Dec. 1959 was the first time a story appeared in the ACL News about the Wilmington Santa Train (and one out of Tampa, too). A nice centerfold feature with a bunch of photos. However, I have been told that the Santa Train had actually started a few years earlier and grew in popularity before it was a big enough seaonal item for the company’s publication. Wilmington Councilman and Mayor “Buddy” Wade played the part of the jolly old elf for most of the years the holiday special train ran.

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