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Climb aboard the Christmas train

By Special to Arkansas Online

This article was published November 11, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.

am-railroads-christmas-train-in-springdale

A&M Railroad's Christmas Train in Springdale.

The Happy’s Holidays series will share exciting and memorable trips and activities for the season.

Why not make this year about celebrating the true meaning of the holidays, while creating cherished memories with your family and friends?

If you’re ready for a ‘Happy’ change this holiday season from the spending and commercialism, climb aboard this train of fun, and get ready for a ride your family will treasure for a lifetime.

The trip begins this week with the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad in Van Buren and Springdale. The A&M claims "A window seat to history." The leisurely elegance of the antique passenger and parlor coaches will envelop you in a sense of nostalgia with its velvet bench seating, mahogany inlay and superbly maintained and restored details of rail travel from a bygone era.

It’s not too late to savor the resplendent color of the bountiful fall foliage as the whistle echoes and the train rumbles and rolls across the majestic Boston Mountains and through the intimate Arkansas River Valley Basin. This year’s fall palette has created a brilliant patchwork quilt of color like no other. A 1/4 mile tunnel beckons, and trestles abound on this parade through forest finery.

Many of the leaves in the higher elevations have already wafted to the forest floor, blanketing the ground in preparation for the wintry carpet that is sure to ensue. However, the lower elevations' reluctantly falling leaves paint a breathtaking landscape of fiery hues and golden tones.

Christmas is just around the bend, and for a trip your family will never forget, the A&M Christmas Train is a memory maker.

The A & M hosts Christmas Express trains and holiday excursions throughout the Christmas season. However, if you’d like your train ride to make a difference in the lives of others, as well as to your own family, December 3 is the day to make it happen.

The A & M Railroad, in partnership with J. B. Hunt, hosts Santa’s Workshop and the Christmas Train at the Springdale depot. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to benefit the Children’s Safety Center for abused children and The Circle of Life Hospice for children’s bereavement.

Brenda Brown, Passenger Trains Operation Manager at A & M says, “Last year Santa’s Workshop and Christmas Train rides, in conjunction with J. B. Hunt’s in house fundraising efforts, raised over $34,000 for the two children’s nonprofit programs.”

The Christmas Trains depart from the Springdale station every hour and a half on December 3, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Pajama parties for the kiddos include hot chocolate and snacks. Santa’s Workshop at the depot delights with a visit from old Saint Nick, a few of his trusty elves and even Mrs. Claus, too.

The day’s special events entail carolers, games and activities, a petting zoo and story time in the Candy Cane Caboose. The cost for kiddos is only $5 and its $10 for the older folks.

Mike Dougherty, J. B. Hunt Senior VP Intermodal says, “Every year J. B. Hunt and their employees and A & M Railroad staff coordinate the Santa’s Workshop and Christmas Train fundraising event to benefit children’s charities. In the last 7 years we’ve raised over $130,000 to help 6 to 8 different charities.”

If you can’t make it on December 3, check out their schedule at www.amrailroad.com and peek at their calendar page, or give them a call at 1-800-687-8600. Brown says, “We are adding dinner trains and special trips every day.”

Here’s something that’s super exciting. If you haven’t planned your corporate dinner party or Christmas get together yet, A & M Railroad will host it for you. That’s right, you can have your very own Christmas party or other special event, while taking a fantastic train ride through the unparalleled beauty of the Ozarks.

If you’ve never ridden a train before, or it’s been a half-century since you have, this is one train ride that will evoke memories of the past as well as create new and special ones for your family, too. Climb aboard this holiday train of fun for a magical trip you won’t soon forget.

Happy Frazier is a Southeastern Oklahoma native whose column follows her as she travels to exciting destinations exploring the world's wonders. For more photos and information check out Happy's Exploring with Happy and Cooking with Happy facebook pages.

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