St. Nick travels by train to take children's orders

December 13, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

The Jenkins family of Westminster waited about two hours for a free ride on the EnterTRAINment Line yesterday.

Although they were among the last on board, the Jenkinses found themselves with a car of their own and lively entertainment, too.

As Wayne Jenkins carried his 8-year-old son, Wade, aboard, a conductor helped with the child's wheelchair and ushered the family into a "private" car. Spike, a hairy orange puppet, and Needles, the singing Christmas tree, greeted Wade and his 3-year-old brother, Joey.

With his mouth agape in awe, Joey clutched the handle of his brother's wheelchair, befuddled by a tree with big green eyes, a bright red tongue and a voice belting out Christmas carols.

"It's the only one in the world," said Gus Novotny, president of the EnterTRAINment Line, a company whose train sponsors dinner theaters, mystery crime-solving trips and the annual Christmas junket for children and their families. "We just unveiled Needles last week."

When Joey worried that the singing was over, his brother said, "Maybe, he's a little tired."

"He's not tired," said Spike, playing the deejay. "What do you want to hear?"

"My brother is a little shy," said Wade. "He doesn't talk much."

Wade made a few requests and thought he had unraveled the mystery. He told his laughing parents the conductor was doing the talking. Joey remained a firm believer in tree magic.

"This was well worth the two-hour wait," their father said.

Beginning at 8 a.m., lines of passengers formed along Westminster's Railroad Avenue. At 10 a.m., the train began making successive 20-minute trips until about 750 children had a chance to ride the rails with Santa Claus, who came to town waving from the engine and welcoming all the good little boys and girls aboard.

The long, cold wait didn't dampen any child's enthusiasm. Most raced onto the train's cars and scrambled for window seats. Parents settled in, breathing sighs of gratitude for the newfound warmth.

"We are on our way to Union Bridge or New Windsor or maybe Pittsburgh," said conductor Cliff Sylvester with a laugh, and the train rolled out of town.

"It's a lot more fun than a car because we can get up and move around," said Dawn Richards, 9. Her 4-year-old brother, Steven, liked the way the train rocked.

Santa worked his way among the passengers, stopping to chat or pose for a family picture.

"Did you come from the North Pole?" asked Ronnie Schuette, 6, while his 2-year-old cousin, Kevin Schuette, scribbled on the train's steamy windows and waved good-bye to passengers waiting for the next ride.

Of course, Old Saint Nick listened intently to all Christmas wishes, including several for gack.

"What's gack?" he asked.

"You know, it's like Play Dough," 10-year-old Holly Warren explained.

Trent Krumrine, 2, wanted a "horsie" and Santa to come back home with him. Five-year-old Kyle Howes' wish for "only candy" lightened the shopping woes for his dad, Jim Howes. Thomas Warren, 5, wanted to make sure he had all contingencies covered and asked for "everything."

Joy Page, 7, made the most altruistic wish, for Little Miss Magic Jewels. "Next Christmas, I'll make jewelry presents for everybody," she said.

Although the revelation to Santa was the first Chris Page had heard of her daughter's request, she promised it would be under the tree.

Robert Moton Elementary's stuffed brown bear also road the rails on Travis McClelland's lap. The kindergarten child and his mother had to write a journal of the bear's weekend activities and travels to share with classmates on Monday. "He might want to come with me again," said Travis. "We've done a lot. We shopped and we wrapped presents, too."

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