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Behind The Scenes Of Santa's SEPTA Workshop

Kristin Geiger
SEPTA Press Officer

The morning after Thanksgiving, Philadelphia area families boarded specially decorated trains throughout SEPTA's system to take part in an annual Black Friday tradition-the Santa Express extravaganza.

The annual train rides transport passengers, Santa, and his elves from various City and suburban communities to the Gallery at Market East in Center City Philadelphia.

While waiting to board his festive Market Frankford Line train at the Frankford Transportation Center, he paused to take photos with families and listen to the children's wish lists. "Santa! Hi Santa. Sit here Santa, I saved you a seat," children exclaimed from all directions. Somehow, Santa heard them all. Once on board, he traveled to each train car with his elves in tow while his band played the crowd's favorite holiday tunes and everyone sang.

Long before Santa made his way from the North Pole to Philadelphia for the annual event, his elves, also known as SEPTA employees began preparing for his visit.

One of their major tasks was to stuff bright red bags with goodies. Over the course of four days, SEPTA employees filled more than 1,500 goody bags to make sure that each child traveling the Santa Express received one. In order to reach this goal, the group came up with a system. They placed large boxes filled with toys,"Santa helper hats", coloring books, crayons and candy canes in the center of a conference room table. As music played in the background, they moved around the table quickly stuffing bags. Once the bags were stuffed, they lined them up in a hallway where the bags were counted and compiled for transport to each Santa Express departure location.

"This is such a nice event," a SEPTA employee said. "I've volunteered to help out since the first Santa Express took place and I look forward to it each year."

That's not the only employee who seems to feel this way. Each year, Sam Kobielnik, SEPTA's Assistant Director of Maintenance and his team at the Fern Rock facility prepare the trains for Santa's journey to the Gallery at Market East. After cleaning each train, the team decorates them according to the guidelines set forth for each year.

"This year they wanted snowmen," Kobielnik said. "I found a place that had the wreaths, snowflakes and snowmen that we needed. We placed wreaths on the front and rear of each Santa Express train. Three to four of us decorated the trains and it took us about seven to seven and a half hours to get the job done."

Charlotte Brown, administrative assistant to SEPTA's Marketing and Promotions department coordinated the annual event. As event coordinator, she ensured that each train line supervisor from the five different Santa Express departure locations were in sync, ordered items for the goody bags, printed fliers to promote the event and recruited volunteers.

And, despite all the preparation that took place beforehand, the SEPTA elves still had work to do on the big day. At each event location, the SEPTA elves arrived one hour before the special express trains were scheduled to depart. While excited passengers waited anxiously for Santa to appear, the volunteers made sure Santa stayed on-time and gathered the goody bags to distribute to the crowd. As each child received their goody bag, the SEPTA elves rang a bell and said "Merry Christmas!"

SEPTA employees also patrolled each platform to ensure that everyone boarded trains safely paying close attention to make sure that no one was left behind and once the trains reached the Gallery that everyone exited safely.

While Santa, his elves, band and hundreds of families marched from all directions toward the gigantic Christmas tree, volunteers were there to make sure no one was lost along the parade route.

This year's Santa Express event was made possible by a partnership between SEPTA, The Gallery at Market East and the Kimmel Center.

Many employees volunteer on their days off to make this event possible. Brown says it's the SEPTA employees' enthusiasm and dedication that make the Santa Express event so successful.

SEPTA employees filled over 1,500 goody bags to distribute to children at the annual Santa Express event.

Patricia Miller-Evans,a SEPTA constituent/community relations coordinator, compiles the goody bags for transport to each Santa Express departure location.

SEPTA employees decorate a Broad Street Line train at the Fern Rock Maintenance Facility.

Just before Santa appears, the SEPTA elves pose for a photo at the Frankford Transportation Center.

Santa makes his way through the crowded Santa Express train.