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Kansas City Southern has canceled this year's Holiday Express train due to the pandemic, but the railroad will mark the charitable program's 20th year with a fundraiser to benefit The Salvation Army in 20 communities along the KCS network.
"While it is not safe to gather for free visits with Santa Claus and tours of the Holiday Express train this year, the need for the charitable component of this program is greater than ever," KCS President and Chief Executive officer Patrick Ottensmeyer said in a press release.
The 20 communities that will receive funds raised for The Salvation Army include Kansas City, Joplin and Mexico, Missouri; Corpus Christi, Dallas, Houston, Laredo and Port Arthur, Texas; Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport and Westlake, Louisiana; Gulfport, Jackson and Vicksburg, Mississippi; Decatur, Arkansas; East St. Louis, Illinois; Pittsburg, Kansas; and Heavener, Oklahoma.
The KCS Holiday Express project's charitable component has raised more than $2.1 million over the past 19 years. Funds donated to the The Salvation Army have been used to provide warm clothing and other necessities for children in need in local communities.
The KCS Holiday Express was built on the tradition of the Santa Train, which ran on a segment of the network bought by KCS in 1997. In 2000, a group of KCS employees noticed that the Santa Train was the only Christmas holiday for many children on the route, and that some children did not have essential cold-weather clothing. As a result, the employees transformed a retired freight train into the KCS Holiday Express event.
In prior years, the Holiday Express train stopped in five or six states between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At each stop, visitors could board the train, meet Santa and tour the inside of three cars of the festive six-car train.