With a vision of delighting children in their hearts, Diesel Shop Manager Pat McCarron and Electrician Nate Smith began planning for a 2022 holiday train at the close of the previous year. They initially weren’t sure what they wanted besides a “wow” factor.
When it came time to implement the train decorations, Machinists Ryan Dolatowski and Giuseppe Laudando, and Pipefitter Jeremy Maxedon joined the effort. During the Dec. 10, 2022, holiday event at the diesel shop, attended by employees and their families, the children’s wide-eyes and broad smiles indicated it was a success.
“After months of work, it was absolutely worth the effort,” McCarron said.
Adding to the children’s delight was the star of the show, Santa, as portrayed by Assistant Superintendent of Mechanical Bob Perham. Manager of Human Resources & Labor Relations Caitlin Kerney was Mrs. Claus.
“Bob embodied Santa; he was the real deal,” Kerney said. “The children were amazed by him and the train decorations.”
Kerney and McCarron praised Chief Clerk of Transportation Brandy Lindquist for organizing the event, which featured refreshments, a magician and a face painter.
The intricately decorated train consisted of two locomotives, three ballast cars and a caboose from which Santa rode from the yard to the shop as music played. After disembarking, he took photos with children, who later received a card via mail that featured their gift wish list. The children also made their own picture frames for their photos with Santa.
McCarron noted that the train decoration process involved trial and error as he ordered things from a specialty online retailer but sent them back when they didn’t look as expected. Various magnets were necessary to affix the ornaments to the locomotives and rail cars. McCarron and Smith occasionally came in at midnight to test the lights and see their effect.
While planning began in early December 2021, implementation ramped up in October 2022. As the event drew close, the diesel shop was temporarily taken out of service so Communications employees could add music-playing speakers to the train.
McCarron said he was a bit nervous waiting to see if everything would go as planned.
“It worked flawlessly,” he said. “It’s one of the coolest things we’ve done at the Belt since I’ve been here.”
McCarron hopes the event becomes a tradition and plans to add to the spectacle next time.