All Aboard for Union Station's Free Holiday TrainFest

The afternoon-into-evening celebration is a toy drive, too.

What to Know

  • Saturday, Dec. 16
  • 4 to 8 p.m.
  • Find the fun on Track 14

True fact: There are a number of iconic objects, edibles, doodads, and staples associated with the end-of-the-year holidays, items that are only ever seen come the end of the year.

Candy canes? Those apply here. Santa hats? Same. Fruit cake? It gets unduly picked on, but the tasty (yes, tasty) treat is only ever enjoyed (or, um, not enjoyed) when Christmas is on close approach.

But a few sights seen throughout the calendar have also become well-known objets d'Christmas over the decades.

One such thing is a train, and while commuters and travelers ride the rails throughout the year, holiday storybooks are so full of wreath-sporting steam engines and snowy adventures that we can't help but associated choo-choos with the sparkliest season of all.

Union Station gets this concept. And while trains chugga-chugga into and along its tracks 24/365, the busy transportation hub does pause to honor the train's place in Christmas lore.

That will happen, for free, on Saturday, Dec. 16 from 4 to 8 in the evening when the Holiday TrainFest and Toy Drive pulls into the Alameda Street landmark. Track 14 is the place, and if you keep an eye out for the Santa Fe 3751 steam locomotive, the one with oodles of stories from the decades gone by, you're in the right spot.

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Other interesting features'll festoon the track, from vintage rail cars all done up in their bows-and-bulbs best to a fire engine straight out of the 1930s.

Shall there be live in-the-spirit tunes? "Toot-toot," which everyone knows is train-ese for "you bet."

Will Santa be there, and police officers and firefighters, too? Toot-toot, and, yes, make time for a hello and a chat.

Metrolink and Amtrak cars'll be nearby, too, in case you want to step inside one and have a lookie. ("Toot-toot" is your answer, we suspect.)

The sweetest part of the night? It's not the free admission, though goodness knows that's a welcome thing come the holiday season. It's that the Holiday TrainFest is also a toy drive, one that's part of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Toys Program.

So do show with a new game or doll or toy, one that's unwrapped, for donation, if you can.

And keep in mind those sights and objects and huge things (trains) that are seen throughout the calendar, but, come the holidays, transform into festive icons of the season.

Trains have done just that over the years, in our movies and storybooks. So to celebrate the season in the vicinity of decorated rail cars and a classic engine? It's almost like you've stepped into a timeless yuletide travel tale yourself.

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