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Shortline's Santa Train visits three western Minnesota towns

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 01/02/2013 3:31 PM

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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Santa Claus recently traveled aboard Otter Tail Valley Railroad's Santa Train recently making stops in Barnesville, Rothsay and Fergus Falls.

This is the first year for the shortline's Santa Train, said Rick Oeltjen, assistant general manager for OTVR. More than 400 children told Santa their Christmas wishes during the successful event.

Oeltjen has worked with other railroad lines that have had Santa Trains. He considered adding it to OTVR's events when some people painted the line's cars without authorization. The individuals wanted to make the situation right and Oeltjen had them repaint the line's caboose red.

"We decided to turn it into a positive," he said of the incident. The caboose made a great addition to the Santa Train.

Oeltjen visited chambers of commerce and developed the Santa Train visit. Workers placed lights on the engine and caboose, added a decorated tree at the caboose door and attached speakers, which played Christmas music throughout Santa's visit.

It took almost two hours to complete the Fergus Falls stop, he said.

Oeltjen hopes that residents become aware that a shortline runs in their area.

"We serve the community and businesses," he said. "We hope this gives us greater visibility and that people aren't just aware of us because we may cross a road causing them to stop."

Another Santa Train is planned for next year. Oeltjen is looking forward to it. The date will be Dec. 14.