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Forget the sleigh: Santa rides the rails in December

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For just the first two weekends in December, Santa prefers the 2,000 horsepower convenience of the Secret City Scenic Excursion train.

He'll be on board Dec. 4-5 and Dec. 11-12 to delight children of all ages, and even Mrs. Claus will be there to help Santa distribute Christmas gift bags.  

Southern Appalachia Railway Museum volunteers will have the train all decked out in yuletide décor to make the jolly couple right at home while riding the rails and visiting the passengers.

Saturday departure times are at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.; the train will depart on Sundays at 1 and 3 p.m.  

The rides last for about an hour and are $15 for adults and $10 for ages 3-12.  

The train boards at the Heritage Center in East Tennessee Technology Park, on Hwy. 58, about 10 miles from downtown Oak Ridge.  

Reservations can be made by calling the museum at 865-241-2140.

Information about the rides and the museum is available at www.southernappalachia.railway.museum.

The train rolls through the historic Manhattan Project site of the K-25 uranium enrichment plant then through scenic Poplar Creek Valley, where passengers can see nature preparing for the coming winter season.

Coaches are heated, and restrooms are available on board.  

A former Railway Express baggage car has been converted into a rolling gift shop, where Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for pictures. Old-fashioned popcorn, refreshments and railroad souvenirs can be purchased.

Southern Appalachia Railway Museum is an all-volunteer, non-profit museum dedicated to the preservation of the rich railroad history of East Tennessee and the South.  

Anyone 18 or older is eligible for membership.

The group is conducting a fundraising drive for construction of a museum/depot on land that has been transferred to museum ownership.

The building has been designed and site preparation is under way.

A grant for part of the construction is in place, but significant costs over and above the grant are to be borne by the museum.  

Any and all contributions are accepted and are tax deductible.  

Anyone wishing to make a contribution may contact the museum at P.O. Box 6756, Oak Ridge, TN 37831; or by calling 865-241-2140.