Santa's Magical Workshop and Wonderland to open this weekend

Betty Waters/Staff John Price of the Texas State Railroad Society shows an exhibit about railroads, which is a new attraction at Santa’s Magical Workshop in downtown Palestine this weekend.

PALESTINE — In addition to Christmas trees, a visit with Santa Claus and other Christmas sights, Santa's Magical Workshop this year provides exhibits about the Texas State Railroad and the beauty of an excursion through the piney woods.

Santa's Magical Workshop and Wonderland Depot at 201 W. Oak St. will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

It represents a partnership presentation by the Main Street program, Friends of Main Street and the Texas State Railroad Society.

As in the past, the workshop features a visit with Santa Claus in his parlor, beautifully decorated Christmas trees, coloring and candy cane lane.

There also is a wooden train set displayed, a small layout featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, an electrically-run model train in the window, a train that small children can ride, interactive play stations for multiple children and the Polar Express movie.

New attractions this year include a booth set up by Palestine Fire Department and Palestine Police Department. There also is an information center where parents can learn what's going on downtown.

The largest new additions are an interpretive exhibit by the Texas State Railroad Society of railroad photographs usually on display at the railroad's Palestine depot, photographs of the Neches River provided by the Texas Conservation Alliance in partnership with the Museum of East Texas Culture and an exhibit about forestry from the Texas Forestry Museum in Lufkin.

Organizers said volunteers spent many hours setting up the various displays and provided personal items to supplement the exhibits.

John Price, president of the Texas State Railroad Society, said they wanted to provide an exhibit that would extend the experience of riding the Polar Express of the Texas State Railroad.

For instance, a model train in the window is one of the versions of the Polar Express train ride, Price said.

The top of the exhibit cubicles reflects the appearance of Main Street and skyline of downtown Palestine.

Price said he booths convey the romance of the rails and the beauty of the East Texas piney woods, Price said.

The booths also show the early days and origin of the Texas State Railroad as well as give information about the train engines. For example, one picture shows a locomotive built about 1870 and another engine built in 1901.

"When people claim this (the Texas State Railroad) is a historical ride, here is the evidence that you are in fact returning to the early 1900s and go back to the times when your grandparents and great grandparents were travelling to and from Palestine," Price said.

An exhibit by the Texas Forestry Museum and the Texas Forest Service depicts the lumber industry in the early 1900s and provides a history of how logging was done at the beginning of the last century.

The display shows a cross section of trees and explains how to determine the age of a tree.

The Texas Conservation Alliance in partnership with the Museum of East Texas Culture present photographs of the Neches River that emphasize what can be seen in rural East Texas along the 45-mile round trip on the Texas State Railroad between Palestine and Rusk.

The railroad society furnished prizes for a raffle conducted by the Friends of Main Street: a DVD, the Polar Express book and a battery operated large model of the Polar Express valued at $400. Proceeds will benefit Santa's Workshop.





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