There's only one time of year when passengers can board a train at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and be transported to the North Pole.
That ride, the North Pole Limited, departs on numerous trips to Santa's hometown through Dec. 22.
"It's something we've been doing for the last 12 years," said Steve Freer, the museum's membership and marketing coordinator. "The trips have been popular, especially for families with young children, though all ages enjoy it. It's like a 'dreamy' trip to the North Pole."
When the train arrives at the North Pole (TVRM's East Chattanooga Station), Santa boards the train for the trip back to the Grand Junction Station.
"He goes through all the cars, greets each child and gets his picture made with them," Freer said. "We have storytelling, we sing carols, and we have refreshments." Santa gives each child a keepsake.
If you go
What: North Pole Limited.
Where: Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, 4119 Cromwell Road.
When: 5:45 and 7:30 p.m. (and 9:15 p.m. on select dates) through Dec. 22.
Admission: $24 coach, $48 Santa's private car.
The round-trip excursion lasts about an hour and 15 minutes, Freer said.
In addition to coach service, passengers may upgrade to ride in Santa's private car, a bonus that was added last year.
"It's a limited-capacity car and double the price of coach, but it gives people more elbow room and more time with Santa," Freer said. "Each passenger is served hot chocolate in a souvenir tumbler and cookies."
Because many of the Friday and Saturday trips already have sold out, museum officials have added a 9:15 p.m. excursion.
"It's a late trip, but a lot of people will work it into their schedule," Freer said.
Freer said some children in the past have expressed curiosity at the short amount of time it takes to get to the North Pole from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
"I tell them when we go through the Missionary Ridge Tunnel, it's a magic, time-travel tunnel," he said. "That usually works."
The North Pole Limited is a big fundraising effort for the museum, he said. It's so popular, the museum begins booking the trips a year in advance.
"Many families have made it an annual family tradition," he said. "Even when the kids are teenagers, they come back."
The museum, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, offers excursions year-round.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...