xmlns:o="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" xmlns:w="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40"> Metrolink Holiday Toy Express 2002

           

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Metrolink Photo Archive
A presentation by the Los Angeles Metrolink Historical Society

On November 29, 2002 at 6:30 PM, Charles White and Thomas Morrow, both Charter Members of the Los Angeles Metrolink Historical Society were invited to ride along with the Christmas Train for the run to Burbank, Sylmar, and Santa Clarita.  Below is their story written by Charels P. White.

I had to call to see if tonight’s run would be cancelled due to rain, but the word was out that the train would depart on time.  Getting our camera batteries charged and memory sticks erased was all a part of the preparation.  With our memo at hand, Tom Morrow and I passed security and entered the Los Angeles Metrolink Car Barn as the train sat waiting for its cargo of special passengers to board.

Metrolink Engine 861 sitting in the car barn with the Christmas Train ready to roll.

Our Engineer, Veronica, will be guiding our train, and Santa Claus safely down mainline tracks.  We departed the car barn at 6:49 and headed to downtown Union Station to use the Wye at the junction.  This kept the lead engine 861 with all the lights on the front, and the caboose on the rear.

Engine 865 was on the tail behind the caboose and that engine would be used on our return trip from Santa Clarita.

Our first stop, Burbank Station had 450 people waiting to see Santa Clause and the "2002 Martian Santa Claus Show".  With Christmas music sounding from the loud speakers, the train comes rolling slowly into the station with the engine bell sounding and the conductor looking out of the coach door.  

People wave at the crew and the riders in the forward coach.

As the train comes to a stop, the show director, Paul, and the train's conductor, Bob, tell the Engineer Veronica were to position the car so people can see the entire show so their view will not be blocked by trees, lights or station shelters.  Once the train has been positioned, the show is ready to begin.

But before the show begins... people get a chance to see all the wonderful details right up close.

Montebello Fire Engine riding on one of two Metrolink Flatcars.  The cold weather did not stop the folks from coming out, and a few raindrops didn't keep anyone away.

To get the show started a Metrolink representative, Francisco, introduces Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovic, his wife and two children.  Mike addresses the audience and thanks everyone for bringing toys and sends his holiday wishes from his family to all.

"This is a 450 ton, gigantic Christmas Card Greeting to all of you... and, it has a lot of Love, hope for peace, and hope for better and stronger communities.  We want to thank the Burbank Police Department, Fire Department, and Sheriffs Department that are here tonight that help us in the County, and we appreciate their professionalism.  But more importantly, we want to thank all of you that has brought gifts so that the young children will have some joy this Christmas morning.  Santa Claus is about to come out so from my family, Christine, Michael, and Mary, we would like to wish you all a Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, and a great two thousand and three.", Mike Antonovich*

* Slightly edited from live speech

After the speech, Jeff from the San Manuel band of Mission Indians, one of the main sponsors, gave credit to all those that are also sponsoring the show.

Supporting sponsors are: The Union Pacific Railroad, Bombardia, KABC Channel 7, Radio Disney, Big Bear Mountain Water, El Capitan Theaters, and the Twin Palms Restaurant in Old Town Pasadena.

Participating in the "Spark of Love Toy Drive" are: KABC Channel 7, Radio KLOS 95.5, Radio KFROG, Radio ESPN 1110, Radio KABC 790, and the Los Angeles Firefighters Association.

With the arrival of the train, the music, and all the speeches done, the kids do not have to wait long to see the big man in red.  Santa Claus and Misses Claus begin the show talking about what it must be like to be in outer space and what it must be like on other planets in the Solar System.

While everyone is enjoying the show, people continue to donate toys to the "Spark of Love Toy Drive".

Here, Burbank firefighters Ken (right) and Kelly (left) load the Chiefs truck with donated toys.

Ken accepts a Barbie Doll gift, a new unwrapped toy from Emily and her Father Dave.  All the gifts given at each station will go to children in the city where that station is located.  This is a great way people in a community help others in the same community.

Now we are not going to show you the show... you must come to see it for yourself and we encourage you to bring a new unwrapped toy when you do.

Here are some of the many lights that decorate the engine and coaches.  There is no shortage of electricity.  The F59 engines generate 480 volts of power.

When the show is over... Santa and Misses Claus come out of the Coach car and greet many of the guests.  Hugs are given and pictures are taken, but the Conductor calls "All aboard the Christmas Special" and Santa and all the staff get back on the train for the next station stop and for all the kids waiting down the tracks.

The Train sounds its horn, rings it's bell and starts slowly out of the station.  Everyone waves as the Coach, and Metrolink Caboose pass by.

At the Sylmar station, the fire department again accepts all the toy donations the people in the community bring.  Mike Antonovich rides along to Sylmar and detrains after his speech there.  The show begins again and again Santa Claus is a big hit among the 250 people that attended.

Ernie was enjoying the show so much he just could not keep that Christmas Spirit out of his feet.  He was dancing right along to the music and the crowd gave him the space he needed.

In Los Angeles County, the LA County Sheriff Department provides law and fare enforcement.  The "Tradition of Service" continues.

Again Santa puts on a great show.  Here he is returning to the Coach Car from the Flat Car stage.  The middle level of the coach serves as Santa's area during the transits between stations.

On the lower deck of the car, some of the seats were removed to make room for tables, while the upper deck was used for the staff and supporting passengers.

After Santa Claus has left the stage, BeJay, Ben, and Bryant of Jondo Entertainment sang "White Christmas" and "Stand By Me" in acapella style.

Below is a 15 second 1.3 MB movie file in MPEG format of "Stand By Me".

Click here for MPG file. (May take awhile to download on slow network links)

Before the train leaves the Sylmar station, I take a quick tour into the Metrolink Caboose.

Although you can't see them in this picture, the camera shy crew are busy running all the electronics and lights that are needed for the show in the forward compartment.  It takes a crew of about 4 to make sure that all the lights work.  Sometimes, quick repairs are needed because transporting a moving theater, outside, across miles of track from city to city can sometimes cause problems.  The crew is ready and can fix about anything that might go wrong so the children won't be disappointed.

Here is a view out the top window of the Caboose.  You will notice the flash from the camera on the window and just ahead of the caboose is the fire engine flat car then the main stage flat car.  

I have to be quick because the train is about to leave the Sylmar station and I am not allowed to ride in the Caboose.  So I must take the shot, get out of the caboose, make my way through the crowd and get into the coach car before the train leaves without me.

"All aboard!"   I just made it!

The train departs Sylmar and just short of our next station in Santa Clarita, we met an intermodel train on one of the sidings.  We wait while it passes by.

We arrive in Santa Clarita station and there are about 325 people waiting for us.  This station was different from the last two because those station platforms were on the right side of the train.  This station was on the left, so there was no problem for Santa because the stage flat car has lights on both sides.  This was a great design for the train.

It is estimated to be over 50,000 lights because both sides of the train are decorated exactly alike.

The crowd is watching the show and flyers are handed out with the words to three traditional Christmas songs.  Everyone sings along.  Nothing like having 325 Christmas Carolers to instill that wonderful Christmas spirit.

This little pooch "Cornditas" also enjoys the show and is kept nice and warm from the chilly Santa Clarita air.  The weather was cold and the threat of rain stayed with us, but it must have been magic that kept us clear of rain.

One of Santa's helpers donates a bag of gifts to the "Spark of Love Toy Drive" in Santa Clarita.

Firefighter Bill stands by his engine at the start of the show.  This cab was full of toys by the end of the show so it is a good thing that firefighters are trained to ride on the outside of the engines.

Santa could not have a better body guard than a polar bear!

Again Jondo Entertainment provided two songs... but hey, did they change hats?   Oh I see, they kept their same positions but it looks different because now they are on the left side of the stage.

During the trip between stations on the tables in the upper deck of the coach car, these guys had a mean chess game going complete with timer clocks scoring each move.  I still don't know who won but it was fun watching them compete while polar bears, snowmen, two singing elves and a martin roamed about the coach car.  That was something you don't see everyday!

Santa and Misses Claus detrain at Santa Clarita station and visit the children.

Again hugs were given and pictures taken.  One child asked Santa, "If you are in the North Pole, how do you know really know if I have been good or bad?"  Santa looked at the young lad firmly and in his deep voice stated... "I know".

A few other children asked Santa for gifts, and Santa reminded them that it is not to late to send their letters.

With Santa off the train, the Polar Bear was not far behind making sure Santa was OK.

Santa's Elves (and part time Reindeer) also greeted the audience.

On the trips between the stations, these two “smilers” kept us all cheery as they would sing songs from past years shows.

"Peek a boo--- I see you".  The Snowman plays a quick game with a youngster.

And who is this?

Well he may be the next big Daytime Soap Opra star, or he maybe an out of this world guest of Santa Claus.  Don't worry, he looks meaner than he is because he helped Santa Claus by bringing Toys from (classified text removed from this space).

On the trip we met Bonnie, she is the composer of the shows music and what a great job she did. Well you have to see the show to find out more about the green guy and hear Bonnies composition.

It was a round trip until this point, now it is a one-way trip.

Uh oh... the conductor made his call and Santa gives the "thumbs up" signal that he is ready to board the train for the return trip to Los Angeles.  Many people waved to Santa and all the crew as we boarded the train for the last time tonight.   We could hear many of the people yell out "Thank You" to us.

The train engineer, Veronica, closes the cab to Engine 861 and walks back to Engine 865 located behind the Caboose.  From here she will drive the Train back to Los Angeles.

We hit some pretty heavy rain on the return trip, but we stayed nice and dry in our Metrolink coach.  The train was restricted to 40 miles per hour due to the flat cars in the consist.  Any faster and the lights would have a hard time staying attached to the train.  We pulled into a siding a let a freight train pass somewhere near Sylmar.

Once again the professionalism and safe operation of the Metrolink Christmas Special is due to the conductor, Bob, and the Engineer, Veronica.  Thank You for taking care of all of us, Santa, and all those that helped make this a night to remember.  

A special Thank You also goes to all crews of the Christmas Special, and to the hard working men and women of Metrolink that carry the thousands of commuters to their jobs everyday.

There are probably as many peole involved with making a month worth of these special trips possible, as there are children's smiles.  From dispatchers, truck drivers, light installers, painters, coach crews, maintenence crews, welders, administrators, managers, and so many more, that is hard to count all those that contribute to bring some Christmas joy to our communities of Southern California.

From Los Angeles to Burbank, to Sylmar, to Santa Clarita and back to Los Angeles, the Metrolink Christmas special is tucked away in the Car Barn and prepared for it's next journey.

Tom Morrow and I would like to thank all those at Metrolink that recognize the value our little historical society is contributing.  We are encouraged by the continuing respect and professionalism the Metrolink staff has given us while we are participating with them.  Thank you again Metrolink Employees, may you have a safe, wonderful, and very Merry Christmas.  Bless you all.

-Charles P. White & Thomas W. Morrow

Metrolink Photo Archive Homepage

All pictures are copywrite 2002.  Full resolution copies are available for limited use.

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