If you like trains and are looking for a charming family activity to get into the holiday spirit, then look no further! Just over the hill in Boulder City at the Nevada Southern Railway Museum the annual Santa Train and Pajama Train experiences have already kicked off.
The Santa Train has both a daytime “Santa Train” and a nighttime “Pajama Train.” The daytime Santa Train runs all morning into the late afternoon. On these routes, Santa and a slew of elves walk through the train greeting passengers and offering free photo ops with the kids. The train is of course decorated for the occasion.
The Pajama Train is similar to the Santa Train, except at night and, as the name implies, passengers are welcome to wear their pajamas, but it is not mandatory. Hot chocolate and cookies are also served.
Regardless of which one you take, the kids are sure to love it! They have an open air cab for those that can handle the chilly weather, but of the seating is enclosed and the cabs are heated. Even though the departure I took was completely sold out, the train did not feel crowded inside and proved to be quite comfortable.
The coach cabs date to 1910 and 1913; they are Harriman Style passenger cabs, all masterfully restored. The dining cab is a 1949 ex-Union Pacific Dining Car, also fully renovated and fully functional. The track is from the Hoover Dam era of the 1930s, and runs alongside the U.S. 93 highway. These are real relics of the west’s past and a testament to our railroad heritage.
From boarding to exiting the train, the ride lasted a little over 45 minutes. There is more to see around the museum platform, which you can see either before or after the ride depending. The line to board usually forms about 20 to 30 minutes prior to departure time.
All in all, it was a delightful experience. Volunteers form the Junior ROTC program helping staff the train, and the conductors and engineers were all in full uniform bespeaking a bygone era. While automotive travel is quite convenient and air travel is quicker, trains—especially the historical engines such as this one—retain an air of nostalgia and elegance seemingly lost in modern transit. The east coast still has modernized rail that is affordable and efficient; it would be nice to see rebirth of the railroad out here. We have had talk of a connector train to Los Angeles for decades, so maybe we will see that come to be sometime in the near future. Until then, we can get our fill of trains right here at the Nevada Southern Railway, or the sister museum in Ely if you don’t mind a drive!
The Boulder City Nevada Southern Railway Museum also makes for a great visit any time of year. They do not at present have an exhibit hall, they do have trains and model displays. You can take a shorter daytime ride year round as well. One cool feature they offer are options to privately charter the entire train for events of up to 200 people, or just the dining car can be reserved for birthday parties or any type of engagement you can imagine.
You can buy your tickets ahead of time through the museum’s website ad it is definitely recommended you do. This weekend already had sold out departures and it is likely to be even busier the closer to Christmas we get. This year, daytime Santa Trains are only $6 a person, and the nighttime Pajama Trains start at $20. One thing to know in advance is that strollers are not allowed on the train.
For more info on the museum or to book your locomotive experience this month, go to nevadasouthern.com.