One of the fun things we managed to do as a family in-between moving and the holiday was take a trip down to Elbe, Washington to ride on the Santa Express. We had this day trip planned since September and even though it happened to fall on the weekend we needed to move, we made a promise to the boys so we needed to follow through. The Santa Express is a special event that the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad does every year in December.
We woke up extra early that Saturday morning since we had to be down in Elbe before 10 a.m. to catch the train. Once we were all dressed and out the door we grabbed some Starbucks coffee and McDonald’s breakfast. The drive was easy but long and about half the trip we had no cell phone service at all. We arrived at the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad Museum at about 9:30. Little did we know we didn’t want to be at the museum but that 10 minutes down the road is where the train depot was and were we needed to be. Once Nick got directions from some nice locals we were headed in the right direction.
We made it to the train just in time to get our tickets, grab some hot chocolate and find our seats. About a minute later our conductor came in and announced that we’d be leaving in a minute and that Santa would be working his way from the front of the train to the back. We’d be stopping at the museum (yes, the one Nick had accidentally driven to) to refuel, use the restrooms and peruse the museum. Then we’d head back to the depot. After announcements we were off. Our very nice conductor David came through and took pictures with Odin, Gray was too shy and talked to the boys a little about the steam train we were on. We drank our hot chocolate and watched the dense, green forest zip by us as rain droplets ran across the window.
After about 40 minutes we were at the museum. Our first stop was to the bathrooms. The had a few honey buckets set up and then there was 1 family bathroom and 1 women’s bathroom. Needless to say, the lines were long. After finally getting through the line and using the restrooms we looked around the museum for a bit. The boys got to go up into the front of a locomotive and ring the bell. There was staff there who would take your picture in front of the locomotive with your camera so it didn’t cost anything which was really nice. They also could answer any of your questions about the trains, train parts and about the history of the depots.
Once the engine was done getting fueled and reattached to the train cars we were ready to head back. We just happened to be in the last train car so it took a while for Santa to get to us. Once he did the kids patiently waited in line for their turn to tell them what they wanted. Santa and Mrs. Claus were both very friendly and Santa was more than happy to listen to the kids and take pictures with them. Once the kids were done Santa gave them a sleigh bell from the reindeer. Odin got Vixen and Gray got a very special one from Rudolph. As you can imagine the entire train car was filled with the sound of sleigh bells all the way back to the depot.
Once we were back to the depot they suggested a stop inside the depot to get a gift or souvenir. We opted to skip this and get a head start on the two and half hour trip home since we still had a lot to do. All in all the boys really enjoyed it and I’m glad we gave it a try. I’m not sure it was worth the $100 we spent on tickets plus the gas we used but it was a positive experience which this family needs more of.