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CTA holiday train spreads cheer through the Loop: ‘It lights up your heart’

The CTA holiday train added an extra day of circling the Loop Monday, giving passengers another chance to catch a festive ride.

Santa Claus waves to people on the platform as he rides the Allstate Chicago Transit Authority Holiday Train around the Loop Monday afternoon, Dec. 20, 2021.
Santa Claus waves to people on the platform Monday as he rides the Chicago Transit Authority Holiday Train around the Loop.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Holiday cheer was loud and clear Monday as the CTA holiday train circled the Loop.

While some riders were caught by surprise, others planned for the occasion — including 11-year-old Ryan Newport, who donned a gingerbread hat for the ride.

His favorite part? “The lights, and the fact that it’s a train.”

Ryan Newport, 11, sports a gingerbread house hat on the CTA holiday train Dec. 20.
Ryan Newport, 11, sports a gingerbread house hat on the CTA holiday train Dec. 20.
Katie Anthony/Sun-Times

His mom, Rebecca Newport, said she’s been taking him on the holiday train for as long as she can remember. Ryan, a “train lover,” hadn’t been able to ride the CTA in over a year due to COVID-19. He completed his vaccination series Sunday — just in time for the holiday train.

Although Ryan’s on winter break, Mom said she would have let him skip school to catch the holiday train.

Rodney Johnson, one of the CTA “elves” passing out buttons and candy canes, said he’s been working the holiday trains for seven years. It’s been a family tradition, he said. His wife and her twin sister both did the job. When his wife moved to another position and her twin sister passed away, Johnson took over.

“I love doing it,” Johnson said.

Kooper Andringa and Tara Gutzman ride the CTA Holiday Train around the Loop on Monday afternoon, Dec. 20, 2021.
Kooper Andringa and Tara Gutzman ride the CTA Holiday Train around the Loop on Monday afternoon.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The CTA required all riders to socially distance and wear masks while aboard the train due to COVID-19. Photos with Santa weren’t allowed this year.

The six-car holiday train is lit up like a Christmas tree with thousands of lights and features holiday scenes and a flatbed carrying Santa Claus and his reindeer. The holiday bus is decorated like a miniature village with lights and holiday-themed seating.

Last year, the holiday train and bus made their rounds but riders weren’t allowed to board.

Torrey Price, a CTA worker on the holiday train, wears his festive gear on the holiday train as it circles the Loop Dec. 20.
Torrey Price, a CTA worker on the holiday train, wears his festive gear on the holiday train as it circles the Loop Dec. 20.
Katie Anthony/Sun-Times

Torrey Price, who’s on his fifth year being a CTA elf, said he does it for the kids.

“It lights up your heart,” said Price, 49. “Hopefully everyone else’s as well.”

Price said the train doesn’t only bring joy to its riders, but the entire city.

“When you look down on the street level people are waving and excited,” Price said.

Joey Park, 10, and his mom, Sungmin Kim, came from Schaumburg to grab a ride on the holiday train. Kim said the holiday train is a highlight for them every year.

Joey Park eats a candy cane while aboard the CTA Holiday Train around the Loop Monday afternoon, Dec. 20, 2021.
Joey Park eats a candy cane while aboard the CTA Holiday Train on Monday.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“He loves trains, first of all, and he likes Christmas,” Kim said. “Every year he gets to see the same elves.”

Joey, who was wearing a Christmas tree hat, festive sweater and jingle bell necklace, said his favorite parts of riding the train are the holiday music and seeing Santa. He also got to catch up with the elves, including Price.

The holiday train’s last run is Dec. 22, when it will run on the Yellow Line from 3 to 7 p.m. The holiday bus will finish its season Dec. 23 on the No. j14 Jeffery Jump route.