(CBS) — Santa is beckoning riders aboard the CTA’s Holiday Train — a one-of-a-kind, gaudily decorated train that anyone can ride.
The train began four weeks of trips across all of the CTA’s lines Friday. Leaving from the Orange Line terminal near Midway Airport, it switched over downtown to the Green Line for the balance of the day.
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Workers at the CTA’s Skokie shops labored for more than two months to put together this year’s specially wrapped and brightly lit holiday train, which is composed of six cars for riders, and two for Santa and his sleigh.
Some have called it “the train the grinches couldn’t kill,” because of the outcry that occurred when a handful of CTA managers once tried to discontinue it as a belt-tightening measure. The CTA’s Catherine Hosinski said no thought was given at any point this year to discontinuing the train, despite the CTA’s touch-and-go finances.
“It’s become a holiday tradition,” she said.
“Kids love it. Adults love it,” Hosinski adds. “It really does brighten your day. I’ve gone home from work kind of exhausted, and when you see it, it just washes away the day and puts you in the holiday spirit.”
The train also has been known to create traffic jams along the Kennedy, Eisenhower, Stevenson and Dan Ryan Expressways as it runs on paralleling L lines.
Volunteer elves pass out candy canes to riders; on special trips, it will bring food baskets to the needy. Over the next four weeks, it will visit each line several times.
The CTA tried unsuccessfully to find a sponsor for the 2012 Holiday Train. It is actively pursuing potential sponsors for the 2013 holiday season.