More than 1,000 people — mostly grown-ups with kids in tow — grabbed peppermint bannisters and hopped aboard the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express train when it stopped Friday in Baton Rouge.
The colorfully decorated six-car train brightened a lackluster area of Baton Rouge near the tan Kansas City Southern Lines building and the gray BREC Memorial Stadium. Kansas City Southern has railroads running across the country and the company’s workers, dressed as elves, presented Baton Rouge Salvation Army representatives with a box filled with gift cards to help families this Christmas season.
Lexi Menard, 25, came from Lafayette with her 4-year-old son, Kason, to tour the train. She read about the event on Facebook and arrived more than an hour early to secure the first spot in line.
“They’re ready to see Santa,” she said about her son and his friend, who came along.
They walked through car after car of the train — the first one glittering with winter wonderland figurines, the second whistling with toy trains, the third shining with Santa statues. Christmas music played in the background, and spirited Kansas City Southern workers greeted them along the way and helped them navigate each train car.
Kason kept his eye on the prize. He and his mother finally made it to Santa, who sat beside the train to greet visitors. Kason posed for photos, completing the tour with a smile on his face.
Those waiting in line also could visit Salvation Army workers serving hot drinks, though they quickly ran out of hot chocolate. Baton Rouge Salvation Army Capt. Brett Meredith said they didn’t know how many people to expect, and he was wowed by the turnout.
Meredith said he was unsure of the amount of gift card money given to Baton Rouge specifically, but Kansas City Southern will distribute more than $150,000 nationwide.
“It’s a lot of gift cards; it’ll help a lot of kids,” Meredith said.
The Holiday Express travels across the country annually, and Baton Rouge was its first stop this year.