KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Santa Train made a triumphant return to Kingsport around 3 p.m. Saturday, marking its 80th run since the Santa Claus Special began in 1943.

The route hadn’t been run in its classic form for two years after COVID-19 prevented mass gatherings at the tracks or in the train. In 2022, however, the event returned in force with a 13-stop run throughout Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and Tennessee.

“We come every year except the last two years because of the COVID,” said Brittney Williams, a longtime attendee who brought her two-year-old for his first Santa Train. “But now we’re here and enjoying him throwing things out and it’s a fun environment.”

Over 100 different volunteers, crew members and CSX executives were aboard the 80th Santa Train. To celebrate the occasion, organizers held a dinner on Friday night to share safety and schedule information.

Starting around 5 a.m. on Saturday, the 80th Santa Train took off from Shelby, Kentucky and completed a 9-hour journey to Kingsport, Tennessee. A News Channel 11 crew was aboard for the ride and shot never-before-seen footage that will air on Thanksgiving day at 7 p.m.