If you go
What: The BNSF Santa Steam Train, featuring the 1938 SP&S 700 steam locomotive.
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.
Where: Near the Vancouver Amtrak station, 1301 W. 11th St., Vancouver.
The ninth annual BNSF Santa Steam Train will be chugging into Vancouver on Saturday.
Santa will arrive promptly at 11 a.m. on the iconic 1938 Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 steam locomotive, with festivities running until 1 p.m.
The steam engine has been popular with families across the region, with the railway fielding calls since this summer asking when the train might appear.
Just last week, "a child in Spokane even asked me, 'Is Santa coming on the chuga chuga to Vancouver this year?'" Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF, said. Santa will greet visitors and give out gifts for children, with holiday music, refreshments and treats surrounding the decorated train.
The public can also tour the new GE 4400 diesel locomotive that will be open on the BNSF property, near the Vancouver Amtrak station. There will be a local Toys for Tots toy drive during the event, with donations of newly wrapped toys encouraged.
The SP&S 700's tight schedule caused the train event to happen later this year, Melonas said. The locomotive was the engine for this year's Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation's Holiday Express. On the bright side, "now the event is closer to Christmas," Melonas said.
The steam train has always drawn a crowd, even before the event was open to the public. The engine made an appearance 10 years ago at the BNSF employee Christmas party in Vancouver, Melonas said, but word got around about the locomotive's appearance, and the public lined up in the rain to see. Employees opened up the party to the public, making it the unofficial start to the spreading of Christmas cheer by BNSF.