LM&M Railroad’s North Pole Express steams into Lebanon

LM&M’s North Pole Express makes its journey through Warren County with Santa on board. Photo: Matt Lang.

By Tim Walker

Children love trains. Wide-eyed with excitement, they stare at the great engines, travelling as they do down those endless rails and pulling massive cars loaded with people and freight, a steaming, chugging connection to an earlier time in this country. From the locomotive to the caboose, trains and railroads still have a hold on our children—and even on some of us as adults—and they cause us to stare in wonder and amazement at each encounter. Add in a visit with Santa Claus and a little hot chocolate, and you have a Christmas combination that’s just about impossible to beat.

Every year the LM&M Railroad, a non-profit railway service based in Lebanon, Ohio, presents their Christmas-themed North Pole Express to celebrate the holiday season, and this year is no exception. In what has become an annual tradition for many local families, the train leaves the brightly decorated station house at scheduled times and makes its 80-minute, nine-mile journey through Warren County and back to Lebanon. During the train ride, Santa Claus makes an appearance and visits with the passengers. Hot chocolate and cookies are served in the station area, and during the ride balloon artists dressed as elves make balloon animals and keep the mood pleasant. During the mid-point stop, as part of this holiday experience that is second to none, there is a reading of the timeless classic “The Night Before Christmas” before the train returns to Lebanon. During the trip, photos with Santa are allowed and encouraged, and each child receives a bell from Santa’s sleigh and a North Pole Express souvenir train ticket, and passengers of all ages receive a free souvenir hot chocolate mug.

“Our North Pole Express is still my favorite event.” – Tara Longfellow

“I’m in charge of making sure the passengers are happy,” says Tara Longfellow, Passengers Service Manager for the LM&M Railroad, “I’m on board during the entire ride to make sure everything runs smoothly with the passengers. I work with the conductor in charge, and with Will Gawain, the railroad’s General Manager, and Alex Pickrell, our head ticket agent. Our North Pole Express is still my favorite event—it’s the first event I actually worked on, and I have great memories of taking the trip with my family when I was a young girl.”

The LM&M Railroad’s 2017 “North Pole Express” experience features three classes of coaches and riding experiences to accommodate all budgets, and each one provides a variety of amenities and benefits. “We have three separate classes this year starting with our Lackawanna Class seating,” continues Tara Longfellow, ”Which features passengers riding the normal Lackawanna Coaches that we use for every single ride. Then we move up to our Deluxe Coach Class, which seats passengers inside the Milwaukee Road 3200 car.” This particular long distance coach car, which seats 60, is on-loan from the Cincinnati Dinner Train and was featured in the 2015 movie “Carol”.

Longfellow continues. “The Deluxe Class seating is a little bit more comfortable than the Lackawanna Class seating, and on that one you would get everything that you’d normally get on the Lackawanna but you also get a Christmas ornament of 901, which is one of the engines. Then finally you have the Cocoa Class, which is a lot nicer cars, car 663 and 664, long distance coach cars that are both on-loan from the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum and seat 48 passengers each. So each class is a step up from the last one, and the prices vary.”

The LM&M Railroad holds a variety of events throughout the year, with over 25,000 passengers showing up each year for the Thomas the Tank Engine visit alone. Altogether the railroad provided service for over 60,000 passengers last year. The North Pole Express, however, remains one the most popular experiences. A leisurely and relaxing train ride in heated comfort with the family, through the beautiful winter vistas of Warren County, with hot chocolate on tap and a visit from Santa Claus, ensure that all available tickets for the holidays rides will sell out. The North Pole Express rides begin on Nov. 24 and continue on a variety of dates through Christmas Eve. The railroad offers various departure times, depending on the day. More information and ticket prices can be found on the railroad’s website, Lebanonrr.com/

What could be a better break from the hectic hustle of the holidays?

The LM&M’s North Pole Express will be running on select dates through Christmas Eve, and all ages are welcome. Ticket prices vary, all seats are reserved, and all rides will sell out. For more information, go to http://Lebanonrr.com/or call 513-933-8022.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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