Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum hosting ‘Christmas at the Station’

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer 

CALERA — If 2020’s gotten you a little stir crazy, and you want to go somewhere but holiday travel is a bit too risky, you can have a one-of-a-kind adventure at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum this December.

In lieu of the traditional North Pole Express, which was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit museum is hosting “Christmas at the Station,” a new event that still offers the magic of a train ride, Christmas lights, tasty treats, fun family activities and a visit with Santa himself!

While the first weekend is over, there’s still time to get tickets for one of the following dates—Friday-Saturday, Dec. 11-12; and Friday and Saturday, Dec. 18-19 at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. each evening.

Each ticket includes a train ride on the diesel-electric Calera & Shelby train, a ride on the Shelby & Southern narrow gauge steam engine or the “Candy Cane Special,” access to the Merry Maze of Lights, safe family photos with Santa and more.

Ticket Office Manager Lindsay Barnett said the new event grew from popular demand, as the museum had been getting numerous calls from people who attend the North Pole Express every year.

“This was our solution. It’s a completely different event but it still offers train rides and visits with Santa,” Barnett said, noting that the railroad museum is a nonprofit organization that relies upon volunteers and fundraisers for its existence.

“Every time the train leaves the station it’s essentially a fundraiser for our organization,” she continued. “Christmas at the Station is our COVID-compliant safe alternative to being on the train with Santa.”

On the Calera & Shelby, folks can choose from five unique railcars, each of which has been decorated for Christmas. Each car is thoroughly sanitized between rides, and everyone is expected to wear masks per Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask order. Passengers will enjoy lights, Christmas carols and a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Photos with Santa will take place on an open railcar, and other activities include face/hand painting, hot chocolate courtesy of the Calera Band Boosters, the Great American Hotdog Stand, and sweet treats from Gimme Some Sugar.

If $33 tickets are cost prohibitive, families may opt to purchase a $5 ticket for a ride on the Candy Cane Special (the smaller train) or a $10 ticket for an unlimited number of rides on the Candy Cane Special. Some may recognize the train from its former location, the Birmingham Zoo, where it served customers for many years.

“This past weekend was a highlight for a lot of families,” Barnett said. “Christmas is still happening even though it’s 2020. We wanted to make the Christmas experience accessible to everyone, because we all need a little Christmas magic this year.”

Customers are encouraged to preorder tickets on the website and arrive an hour early due to heavy traffic. A hayride will serve as a transit from overflow parking to the museum. The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum is located at 1919 Ninth Street in Calera. For more details, visit Hodrrm.org/Body.cfm?id=1053.