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Santa Express Comes To Town

Using a Market Frankford Line train as his sleigh, Santa whisked into town on the morning after Thanksgiving to officially start the holiday season.

It was all part of SEPTA's Santa Express extravaganza, a Black Friday tradition that provides passengers traveling in from different parts of the city and suburbs with a festive train ride to the Gallery at Market East.

Santa began his trip into Center City at the Frankford Transportation Center. But the party started before the Big Guy even made his appearance.

Santa's helpers led dozens of kids - and their parents - in song, filling the station with holiday cheer.

Mary Thompson and her 5-year-old daughter, Sarah, were among those joining in the fun.

"It's kind of a tradition," Mary said as the crowd warmed up for Santa. "It gets us in the Christmas spirit."

Then, the big moment arrived. Sarah and the other kids erupted with cheers as Santa appeared on a balcony overlooking the station lobby.

"Santa! Santa, come down!" they shouted.

After bellowing a few hearty "Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas!" wishes from above, Santa joined his fans to get this holiday show on track.

"You're all getting on the train, right?" Santa asked. He promptly received a resounding "Yes!" from the crowd, who followed him up to the platform and onto the train.

Even though Mr. Claus himself rode in from the Frankford Transportation Center, the Santa Express experience covered a number of areas throughout the transit system. In addition to another Santa Express on the Market-Frankford Line that departed from 69th Street, the holiday vehicles ran on the Warminster and Media/Elwyn Regional Rail lines. Broad Street Line trains also got in on the action.

The Santa Express experience is made possible by dozens of SEPTA employees and their family members. They volunteer to be Santa's Helpers, riding Santa Express trains and spreading cheer to customers, who are given goodie-bags packed with trinkets and coupons. There is also plenty of onboard fun, courtesy of magicians, face painters and costumed characters.

When this merry bunch converged on Center City this Black Friday, Santa led a parade through the Gallery at Market East, to Center Court. There, they were joined by SEPTA and mall officials for a memorable celebration, which has now marked the beginning of the holiday season here for over 15 years.

Santa gets ready to board the Santa Express at Frankford Transportation Center.

It was a festive scene aboard the Santa Express.

Santa celebrity: Mr. Claus is mobbed by fans and TV news cameras upon arrival at 11th Street.

Santa leads the holiday part at the Gallery at Market East.