Santa will forgo his reindeer-drawn sleigh on Dec. 8 and hop aboard an MBTA train for a few rides on the South Shore Polar Express.
The Rotary Club of Plymouth is organizing the popular train rides, in which a commuter rail train will be decked out in holiday decor and carry Santa and his elves for the delight of children and their families.
The one-hour train rides will start at four times — 11:45 a.m., 1:45 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7:15 p.m. The train leaves from the Kingston commuter rail stop, glides west to Halifax, and then back to Kingston.
Passengers will be greeted by carolers and elves and given goodie bags as they board the train. During the ride to Halifax, elves will read the original “The Polar Express” story by Chris Van Allsburg and serve hot chocolate.
On the way back to Kingston, Santa and Mrs. Claus will walk through the train to greet children and listen to their Christmas wish lists.
“It’s such a fun thing,” said Rotary Club member David Kindy, who doubles as an elf for the train rides. “The kids are just living that whole experience. It’s so rewarding.”
The Rotary Club of Plymouth has about 40 members who are volunteering on the train as elves and book readers, along with about 70 high school students and other volunteers from community groups.
The Rotary Club took over the holiday event last year from the Plymouth Housing Authority. Club member Jeff Metcalfe was involved in the event when the housing authority ran it, and when he heard they were looking for someone to take it over, Metcalfe helped get the Rotary Club involved.
“The Rotary Club motto is ‘Service above self,’” Metcalfe said. “We do a number of events throughout the year that might help different groups of people, but one of the things we hadn’t had over the years was an event for children.”
Club president-elect Chris Dickinson said the group received positive feedback after the event last year and will continue running the train rides in the foreseeable future.
“There’s no question we’re going to continue this project for the long term,” he said.
Last year, Dickinson said, about 1,000 people came out for the wintry rides. This year, the club has sold well over that number of tickets, and it hopes to sell as many as 2,800. The money raised will go toward various community service projects.
Metcalfe said the train rides are rewarding to be a part of because of the memories they create for the young passengers.
“If we create these kinds of memories [for children], they remember that more than the Nintendo game someone bought them,” Metcalfe said. “The looks on their faces as they come off the train is really what it’s about.”
Individual tickets for the South Shore Polar Express are $20. Family discounts are available at $75 for a five-pack of tickets and $125 for a 10-pack. Those interested can purchase tickets at the NorthEast Community Bank, 8 North Park Ave., or online at www.plymouthrotary.com. Children are encouraged to wear pajamas.
Emily Files can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.