We know that Santa gets around during the holiday season, but sleighs are not his only
favorite mode of travel. In Western Connecticut, you can often find the man in red enjoying a holiday train ride--and he loves company. On December weekends, Santa can be found aboard the Santa Express leaving from Thomaston, CT, ready with bags of goodies for all the young passengers he meets along the way.
Santa is so fond of trains that he even has two satellite workshops in train cars, one reached via a vintage train ride at the Danbury Railway Museum and another along the way on the Northern Lights Limited, a nighttime train excursion from Thomaston.
Rides are just part of the special railroad fun for families this year in Fairfield and Litchfield Counties, where lavish displays of working model trains are a traditional holiday treat in several locations.
The Santa Express in Thomaston
This 1920s vintage train travels along the scenic Naugatuck River for a warm, cozy 80-minute round-trip ride. Santa brings along Mrs. Claus and some friendly helper elves to visit with each child on board. Trains depart from the historic 1881 station in Thomaston Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. for the first four weekends in December.
Light displays inside and out make for an exciting outing at night aboard the Northern Lights Limited from Thomaston. The train makes a stop at Santa's Train Workshop, where the great man will board and greet everyone with gifts. Trains depart at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on November 24 and December 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, and 22-23.
Back at the gaily decorated station, a model train layout is in action, and a large selection of railroad theme gifts, books and memorabilia can be found. Tickets and information are available from the Railroad Museum of New England, online at rmne.org, or by phoning (860) 283-7245.
All Aboard in Danbury
At the Danbury Railway Museum, a classic 1903 station with a railroad yard filled with vintage train cars, visitors can ride a working vintage train through the yard to Santa's Workshop. They will find him busily supervising his elves as they make toys, but still with time to talk with visitors and offer a small gift for every child.
A miniature train layout whizzes its way around the restored station, where once again, there are gifts for railroad buffs of all ages. Trains leave every half hour from noon to 3 p.m. on weekends, December 8,9,15 and 16. For tickets and information, see www.Danbury.org/drm or phone: (203) 778-8337.
The amazing annual holiday model train layouts at several museums around Western Connecticut are a timeless treat for families.
The 25th Annual Hands On Train Display will again transform the waiting room of New Milford's restored vintage train station. Four big layouts covering almost 100 feet of track will traverse a Lilliputian landscape of hills, valleys and villages. Here, visitors are invited actually to take the controls, starting and stopping the action and operating signals and lights. The trains operate daily from noon to 4 p.m. December 22 to 30. This yearly free event is sponsored by the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce, 860-354-6080, www.newmilford-chamber.org
The Wilton Historical Society's annual Great Trains exhibit is truly great, featuring 12 different layouts with a wide range of makes, models and gauges of model trains whizzing their way through a variety of intricate local landscapes. The exhibit, now in its 15th year, will be open December 1 through January 21, 2013, Thursday to Sunday, 11a.m. to 5 p.m. For details, phone 203-762-7257 or see www.wiltonhistorical.org.
The Fairfield Historical Museum's annual Holiday Express Train Show begins the evening of November 30 following the tree lighting ceremony on the town green and remains open daily through December 31, except for Christmas and New Years Day. The trains wind around a spectacularly decorated tree and through a setting of holiday scenery. Gifts for train lovers will be among the ideas available in the museum's large gift shop. Hours vary; best to phone 203-259-1598 or see www.fairfieldhistory.org
The Brookfield Museum and Historical Society's annual Christmas Open House and Model Train exhibit will take place December 15 and 22 from noon to 4 p.m., featuring model train layouts, gift ideas, toys, and refreshments. Learn more at www.brookfieldcthistory.org or phone 203-740-8140.
For more information about train events, directions and listings of all the holiday doings in the region, contact the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, www.visitwesternct.com. They offer a free copy of the new edition of UNWIND, a 152-page color guide to the Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County.