Almanac

Community - October 27, 2010

Caltrain 're-invents' Holiday Train

by Sandy Brundage

After raising fares and cutting service, Caltrain also recently announced that the Holiday Train of yesteryear is no more. But a scaled-down version will appear in time for Christmas.

The annual toy donation drive had its budget slashed from $38,000 to $12,000, said Caltrain spokesperson Tasha Bartholomew.

Last year the train collected approximately 4,400 toys for the Salvation Army and U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. "If we could get at least half that, that would be really good," Ms. Bartholomew said. "It's really hard for everyone this year."

Trying to preserve the holiday spirit as much as possible, the agency decided to reduce the number of stops the train makes from eight to four, and to skip the decorations this year. The train will stop in San Francisco and Redwood City on Dec. 4, and then visit Menlo Park and Sunnyvale on Dec. 5. Each stop will include music and appearances by Santa Claus.

Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Thomas, who leads the Marine Corps toy drive, isn't worried, and praised Caltrain's efforts to make the smaller event great despite the bad economy.

"Even the Marine Corps has ordered us as Toys For Tots coordinators to rein in spending money that hasn't come from donations. We all try to be good stewards of the tax money collected from the citizens, the USMC, and CalTrain alike, but I believe on a purely personal level that most taxpayers don't mind seeing their taxes spent in this fashion," he said.

All donations of unwrapped toys are welcome, according to Ms. Bartholomew, but the toy drive especially needs items appropriate for teenage girls.

"This would've been [the train's] tenth year. If we're able to pull this off with the small budget we have, it'll be a miracle," Ms. Bartholomew said.

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