Santa Trains and Insane Trains
As the holiday season takes hold--am I the only one depressed by ubiquitous Christmas music in mid-November?--Santa Trains come down the tracks in many states, in partnership of course with CSX and other railroads, delivering candy, stuffed animals and Christmas accessories to excited children. One particular Santa Train, which runs between Kentucky and Tennessee, passing through Virginia's southwest corner, is considered the official kickoff to Christmas in rural areas largely disadvantaged along economic lines. Chaotic scenes ensue, according to this article, with children pelted in the face by candy bars and stuffed animals. Contributing to this year's craziness was the presence of country/bluegrass superstar Alison Krauss. I always appreciate the carnivalesque and excessive aspects of holiday cheer.
Speaking of riotous scenes, if you've never ridden Amtrak during the holidays, you're missing out on quite a, uh, treat. The trains inevitably sell out--I noticed that both the Cardinal and Crescent trains, which pass through Charlottesville, are booked for Wednesday--and Amtrak's measures for rider capacity are imprecise at best. Two Novembers ago, I had to stand for 15 minutes on the Cardinal before being seated--in the Cafe car! Should this happen to you, keep in mind that your ticket, in most cases, entitles you to a reserved seat. So, when you reach your destination, even if you had to stand or sit in the cafe car for only a portion of the trip, approach the ticket counter and demand a full refund. Most likely the agent will have you fill out a form that will then be sent to Amtrak headquarters. It will take a while to receive your voucher, but you will. Happy traveling, everyone!