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January 07, 2019

All Aboard: Santa Train Makes Annual Trek Through Appalachia With the Help of APCo

Gifts ranging from toys and fresh fruit to scarves, gloves and hats were handed out by some 120 volunteers aboard the 76th Santa Train. Among the volunteers were several Appalachian Power employees and their spouses. Appalachian Power was a major sponsor of the event for the second year in a row.

"I will tell you this is one of the most humbling, yet gratifying events you will ever be part of," said Rob Arnold, an Appalachian Power employee and an organizer of the event. "I appreciate our company coming aboard as a key sponsor to give back to those who matter most -- our customers, and especially the kids."

The Santa Train started in 1943 as a goodwill gesture to residents of rural eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia and Tennessee. The train, which made its 76th trek on Nov. 17, runs a 110-mile route through eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia before concluding in Kingsport, TN. In all, the train makes 14 scheduled stops in one day. Crowd sizes at each stop range from a few hundred to more than a thousand people.

For many in this part of coal country, the Santa Train has provided perhaps the only seasonal gifts they or their children might receive during the holiday season.

Bystanders and train aficionados line side roads for much of the scenic rail trip shooting photos of the classic rail cars that host the gifts and volunteers.

"It was an emotional day for me," said Appalachian Power President and COO Chris Beam, who experienced the Santa Train for the first time and has already signed on for next year. “This is one of the most rewarding community events I've taken part in since joining APCo. I am amazed by the people who planned this event, and also by how appreciative the people were that received everything."

Appalachian Power's Walter Carlton also volunteered aboard the train. He grew up in McClure, VA, a small community along the Santa Train's path. He and his wife, Paula, have fond childhood memories of the Santa Train.

"It was a tradition for all the kids to get together and stand near the tracks," Carlton said. "As the train came by, Santa would toss toys and school supplies to us. Parents and their kids were scattered up and down tracks. It's much safer today having people gather in specific spots, but the experience and feeling are still the same."

This year, award-winning country duo Maddie & Tae were the special guests on the Santa Train. Maddie & Tae first broke out in 2013 with their Platinum-selling, No. 1 hit, "Girl In A Country Song."

Gifts are donated from individuals and companies across the U.S., including CSX, Food City, Appalachian Power, the Kingsport Chamber and Soles4Souls.

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