Santa swapped his usual sleigh and reindeers to travel in style on the Marston Vale Line between Bedford and Bletchley in the run-up to Christmas.
The train was transformed into a winter wonderland for the occasion, with Santa and his team of elves hard at work taking Christmas requests from all the children on board. A special Christmas gift was given to each child visiting the grotto.
Santa was joined by a face painter and balloon modeller to keep everybody entertained during the journey through the heart of the picturesque Marston Vale Line.
The special service was arranged by the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership in association with London Northwestern Railway. All of the activities on the train were provided free of charge with passengers just paying the normal rail fare.
A team of 18 volunteers were on hand during the event to assist passengers, distribute information packs, collect surveys and sell refreshments. Volunteers travelled from as far afield as Birmingham to help with the event.
A number of regular passengers enjoyed a journey with a difference too!
A collection taken on behalf of Diabetes UK resulted in such a heavy bucket that the elves struggled to carry it!
An on-train survey generated a great deal of positive feedback. As some happy passengers put it:
•“An excellent event – the children’s favourite Christmas activity! Crafts…excellent. Santa is ‘cool’. Balloon man stunning as are all helpers!”
•“Thank you for another fantastic Christmas train – it has been excellent.”
•“Lots of lovely activities for the children – fantastic event, thank you very much.”
Many passengers took the opportunity to visit Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre during their journey. The building was a hive of activity with children engrossed in festive crafts, a model railway (courtesy of the Milton Keynes Model Railway Society), tours of the Heritage Booking Office and a special seasonal menu in the Tea Room.
Stephen Sleight, Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership Officer, said: “The Santa Special is a firm fixture in the MVCRP calendar. It was great to welcome so many local families on board, many of whom were taking the opportunity to travel on the Marston Vale Line for the first time. I am delighted we were able to extend the Christmas magic to Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre again.”
Vicky Cropper, Head of Stakeholder & Community for London Northwestern Railway said: “The Santa Train was a fabulous event and brought so much excitement to the families and other passengers who enjoyed a ride on the Santa train. This was a great example of the railway and community rail partnership working together and delivering an event for the benefit of the communities which the railway serves as well and bringing a little bit of Christmas cheer to the Marston Vale line. Thank you to everyone who helped to make the event happen and run so smoothly, all the hard work did not go unnoticed.”