The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) teamed up with the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul (SVP) yesterday (Saturday December 1) to take around 100 parents and children on a magical journey that stretches from Belfast right along the scenic coastline to the seaside town of Whitehead.
The team behind the Santa Special trains brought festive cheer to families who are supported by the two charities. Each child met Santa and his elves on the train and received a specially-chosen Christmas gift. The Salvation Army and SVP also arranged for food and drink to be served to passengers and there were opportunities for photos next to the steam locomotive.
Don Wildy, from the RPSI, said: "Our Santa Special trains bring a lot of delight for children throughout December and we are pleased to be working with the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul to give these families the chance to enjoy a magical experience this Christmas. We know that as with all our passengers this is a day that will live long in the memory.
“We are grateful to our own volunteers for getting the steam train ready and to Translink NI Railways for facilitating the operations and providing the professional crew to drive the steam engine. We also appreciate the generous donations of benefactors who are sponsoring this new initiative with the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul.”
Kirsten Hewitt, the Salvation Army's regional homelessness manager, said: "We're grateful to everyone at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland for making this experience possible for the parents and children we support.
“I have spoken to some of the families and they had a magical day. Christmas is ultimately about love. To bring children and families together is special and we are so grateful to everyone involved today, we simply could not do the work we do without the generous support of others."