Chicago Holiday Train
Chicago O'Hare

All aboard! One of the most wildly anticipated holiday activities is finally here. Now boarding…. the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Holiday Train!

Photo Credit: CTA Website

The CTA Train has been Chicago’s main public transit artery connecting the North to the South side, the Lakefront to the heart of the Loop, and everything in between, since its founding in October, 1947. For more than 70 years, commuters have depended on the CTA’s trains and buses to help them navigate an otherwise large, congested city with ease. Every December, the CTA treats its customers to a special holiday event when it transforms an entire train into Santa’s Sleigh, fully adorned with ornaments and lights, and featuring the bearded man himself.

Photo Credit: Joan Conlisk

Obviously, the festive sight makes for great photo opps but what makes the Holiday Train so magical isn’t the idea of creating a viral or Insta-worthy post; it goes deeper than that. The tradition is actually rooted in the idea of people helping people in a truly special way. Back in 1992, two employees of the Chicago Transit Authority took it upon themselves to make a sign that read, “Season Greetings from the CTA,” and hung it from the front of an out-of-service train that was set to deliver food to various charities in Chicago. It was a simple enough gesture, but one that would grow and inspire the launch of what we now know as the Holiday Train.

Photo Credit: Elayne Hanert | They even light up the CTA buses as well!

Over the years, there have been highs and lows for the Holiday Train. One former CTA President felt that the funds used for the festive decor could be used elsewhere. Thankfully, he was overruled, and today the cost of the decorations is minimal, thanks to kind donations from employees and members of the public. Each year, the collection gets larger and larger, as the city reuses the donated decorations much like the way families dress their Christmas trees with ornaments collected over decades and handed down from one generation to the next.

Photo Credit: Jenna Musil

Whether you’re arriving at O’Hare International Airport and taking the train into the city, or meticulously planning your Chicago commute around the Holiday Train appearances, you’ll find the cheer hard to resist. For the full Holiday Train Fleet Schedule visit the CTA website here.

Happy Holidays!

Kelly