Holiday Express train stops in Ashdown Dec. 5

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The 15th annual Holiday Express train of Kansas City Southern Railway Co. will stop in 20 communities in seven states on 24 dates — including one stop in Ashdown, Ark.

The Holiday Express will stop at 4 p.m. Dec. 5 near U.S. Highway 71 and Main Street in Ashdown.

At each stop, guests can board the train, visit with Santa and his elves and tour the inside of three cars of the festive, six-car train. Each event is free and open to the public.

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“In addition to free, public events, KCS’ Holiday Express has a charitable component. Over 15 years, the project has raised well over $1 million to purchase gift cards, which are donated to The Salvation Army at each scheduled stop.” said C. Doniele Carlson, KCS corporate communications and community affairs spokeswoman.

The 2015 fundraising effort is in memory of a special member of the KCS Holiday Express family, Willis F. Kilpatrick, who died in June. Kilpatrick was among the founders of the Holiday Express in 2001 and was its head elf through 2012, retiring in early 2013, she said.

“It was Willis’ leadership, inspiration and tremendous heart that made the train and the charitable initiative the wonderful experience that communities enjoy today,” CEO David L. Starling said. “It is with gratitude for Willis’ contributions that we honor his memory.”

The train’s theme this year is Darby Bear. This year’s bear is called Darby, a nickname given to Kilpatrick by his family, and the bear is yellow, his favorite color. In recent years, one of the toys in the free gift bags for children has been a small teddy bear in the colors of a KCS locomotive.

Led by KCS’ Southern Belle business train, the Holiday Express includes: a smiling tank car, Rudy; a flatcar carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a gingerbread boxcar; a newly remodeled elves’ workshop; the reindeer stable; and a little red caboose. Each car is dressed in lights.

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