Santa swapped his sleigh and reindeers to travel in style on the Marston Vale Line between Bedford and Bletchley on Saturday, December 16.
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.
The special service was arranged by the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership in association with West Midlands Trains, the new train operator for the Marston Vale Line. All of the activities on the train were provided free of charge with passengers just paying the normal rail fare.
A team of 16 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 and Brackley to help with the event.
A number of regular passengers enjoyed a journey with a difference too!
A collection taken on behalf of Ampthill & District Rotary Club for the Jigsaw Club 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:
“We have been coming on the Santa train for the last 4 years and it is always such a lovely day out – thank you to all who help out and start our family Christmas.”
“My son really enjoyed the Santa Train; all staff were friendly & nice. See you next year! Thanks.”
“Great effort made. Really good atmosphere! Balloon elf really impressive!”
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 too.”
Steve Helfet, head of West Coast Services for West Midlands Trains said: “The Santa Special was a wonderful event for West Midlands Trains to support, and many of us got involved in the planning and execution of a really successful day. Working with communities is a very important aspect of the service we provide and we look forward to helping the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership to flourish throughout our franchise.”
For further information contact Stephen Sleight, c/o Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity on 01234 832645, email firstname.lastname@example.org