RED SPRINGS — The Red Springs and Northern’s open-air rail cars were packed on Saturday with kids of all ages who were seeking a quick trip to Christmas cheer.
On a rail car behind the conductor’s seat sat Amanda Hollis with 4-year-old son Jayson, a “train enthusiast,” and 1-year-old daughter Kennedy. Joining the three were Hollis’ parents, Ken and Jody Waterson. The family traveled from Raeford for the event.
“We’re excited, huh buddy?” Hollis asked her son as the train took off. Jayson didn’t answer immediately, but was quick to point out the lighted decorations to his mom along the way.
The train soon passed under a tunnel of lights as riders exclaimed and camera flashes fired. Hollis laughed as she pointed out to Kennedy a directional sign that pointed two ways — one leading to Parkton, and the other to the North Pole. Although the railroad offers rides to Parkton and back at different times of the year, the holiday trip was confined to a mile-and-a-half away from the depot, and back again — a ride of about 20 minutes.
The foundation’s “Rails to Christmas” rides have been offered for the past five years, and according to Chris Abbood, vice president, the event grows with each holiday season.
“It was just a brainchild of the organization,” he said. “We try to change the decorations every year and add more to it. Having 40 members, we all have ideas in our head of what we want to do, and we work to bring that all together.”
A $5 ticket included the ride, hot chocolate, cookies and candy. Those under the age of 5 rode for free, and children aged 12 and under received a free Christmas gift bag.
When asked again by his mother if he enjoyed the ride, Jayson was quick to answer with an enthusiastic head nod — and a request.
“I want to do it again,” he said.
It’s an statement Rick Tufts, foundation member, loves to hear.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s all for the kids,” he said.
The foundation will hold Rails To Christmas rail car rides again on Friday and Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m, starting at the depot of East Third and North Main streets. The foundation will also accept donations of new, unwrapped toys for the Toys for Tots program.
The train will run again on Friday and Saturday. For information or tickets call 910-285-6242 or 910-602-0962 or visit www.redspringsandnorthern.com.