Fun History Behind the Santa Train, which Rolled into the Valley this Weekend

There’s history everywhere in the valley. You just have to slow down enough to spot it – and then hear the stories.

The Santa Train is no exception.  The annual event kicked off Saturday, November 30th and runs on weekends through December 21, 2013 – ushering in the Snoqualmie Valley holiday season.  Tickets are still on sale on the Northwest Railway Museum website.

Each year the Northwest Railway Museum hosts its premier event, the Santa Train.  It’s a 2-hour tradition that brings thousands of families (and many excited kids) to the Valley to see Santa each weekend during the holiday season.  Families board the antique train in North Bend, travel to the Snoqualmie Depot and share cookies and cocoa with Santa, who also, by the way, has a gift for each child on his train.

Did you know?

The Santa Train started in 1969 as a half-hour train ride into the woods to visit with Santa over a cup of hot cocoa and cookies.  The Railway Museum did not own the Snoqualmie Depot at the time; nor the North Bend Depot.  The simple event launched as a way to thank patrons of the Railway Museum, which began its first regularly-scheduled public programs in 1967 with a short rail excursion.

At the time Snoqualmie was still very rural and getting here for those public programs was… well, patrons had to be very deliberate to support the Railway Museum in the early years. The Santa Train began as a “thank you” kind of event and became an instant hit and a yearly tradition.  Lines for the event used to stretch “as far as the eye could see” according to the museum’s blog.

All Those Cookies

Did you know the cookies for the Santa Train are actually cooked in the train cars?  Yes, right there in the antique kitchen car stoves. In 2011, more than 24,000 cookies were baked for 8-day event.  The dough is donated and volunteers spend hours in the cars baking up Santa’s treats.

Evolution of the Santa Train

The Santa Train was transformed in 1976 because of pretty big happening.  It was this year that Burlington Northern Railroad donated the Snoqualmie Depot and a portion of the Snoqualmie Branch to the Museum.

This was also the year the Santa Train stopped heading to the woods to visit Santa, which they say was a huge improvement on rainy days.  Instead, patrons could  now could visit Santa at the Snoqualmie  Depot.

Then in 1987, with the dedication of the North Bend Depot, the Santa Train took on its current destination model where travelers board at the North Bend Depot and travel to the Snoqualmie Depot to visit Santa.  About 15 years ago, in addition to cocoa and cookies, Santa also began giving out small gifts to children riding his train.

Volunteers Make Santa Train a Success

You can’t share the history of the Santa Train without thanking its volunteers. In 2011, 11,000 people boarded the Northwest Railway Museum’s Santa Train.  The event owes much of its success to nearly 60 volunteers who baked cookies, served cocoa and assisted Santa by loading and showing riders around the cars.

Those volunteers spend hours decorating the Snoqualmie Depot, the kitchen and the train.  They also bake cookies, maile tickets, cleane train cars and set up craft tables- logging around 1,600 hours preparing and hosting Santa Train.

Santa Train… history, holidays, tradition.  Thanks Northwest Railway Museum!


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  • The “Santa Train” is a delightful local tradition. In 2000 my family took the trip along with visiting friends from Everett. It seems like yesterday.

  • Living Snoqualmie