History Behind the Santa Train, Rolling into Town This Saturday

I’ve said it recently – that 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 kicks off this Saturday, November 24th, and ushers in the holiday season in the valley.  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 Snoqualmie 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?  Yup, right there in the antique kitchen car stoves, more than 24,000 cookies were baked for last year’s 8-day event.  The dough is donated and volunteers spend hours in the cars baking up Santa’s treats.

Volunteers bake cookies in the kitchen cars

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 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.  Last year over 11,000 people boarded the Northwest Railway Museum’s Santa Train.  The event owes much of its success to some 57 dedicated volunteers who baked cookies, served cocoa and assisted Santa by loading and showing riders around the cars.

Those volunteers spent hours decorating the Snoqualmie Depot, the kitchen and the train.  They also baked cookies, mailed tickets, cleaned train cars and set up craft tables. Last year 1,600 hours were logged to prepare and host Santa Train.

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


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  • Thanks Danna,

    Not only is this fun information – it is important that it be documented. Few knew that the RR started BEFORE they were given the Snoqualmie depot and before the North Bend depot was built?


  • I remember when I was about 6 going on the Santa Train and seeing Santa in the woods at the end of the line. In those days, the train went all the way out to the tressel that is now seen from the lookout at the falls. I can’t remember if we went over the tressel or just up to it, but I do remember feeling like the train was going to fall into the falls. You could hear the roar of the water, which since it was December, was quite full! I think I got to go about 3 times as a kid.

    Santa also used to come to the Snoqualmie Fire Hall, too, which was located where the now Snoqualmie City Hall offices are. It was a free event, I think hosted by the volunteer fire department. We’d all get in line and we’d each get a bag of candy and sweets and a picture with Santa. The Valley Record would run many photos the following week of the local kids sitting with Santa! That, and the Weyerhauser Turkey giveaway downtown (which was at the now empty building where Lifepoint Church was renting), were highlights of my childhood Christmases!

    Thanks for the memories. I’d love to take my kids on the Santa train someday – its just a large chunk of change for a family of 6. Ouch!

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