Kids visit railway museum for breakfast, train ride with St. Nick

DULUTH - For weeks, 5-year-old Emily Hitt had been dying to wear her Christmas outfit.

Her mother, Dunwoody resident Susan Hitt, said she told Emily that she had to wait until after Thanksgiving was over to put on the red dress with white faux-fur trim.

On Saturday, Emily was wearing it and a pair of antlers to meet Santa for breakfast at the Southeastern Railway Museum.

"The day after Thanksgiving, she came downstairs in her Christmas outfit," Hitt said. "I thought, 'She's in the spirit; it's time to go.'"

Almost 150 people came to have Krispy Kreme doughnuts and ride a train with Santa Claus on Saturday morning, museum Administrator Randy Pirkle said. This is the fourth year the museum has held the event, which will happen at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. every Saturday through Dec. 16.

Hitt said she brought Emily, along with 3-year-old Joshua and 14-month-old Austin, because Joshua loves trains and the two oldest adore Santa Claus.

"We come out here some anyway, but when we found out Santa was going to be here, it was over the top," Hitt said. "It's been great, they loved it."

It was the first time 2-year-old Liam Blackledge rode a train, which he loves, but also the first time he met Santa, who wore a train engineer's overalls and cap underneath his hat and had a white beard tinged with gray.

Liam's grandmother, Flowery Branch resident Becky Snyder, said Liam has stood on a caboose near her home before but never got to ride in a "choo-choo" before.

"He liked it," said his mother, Duluth resident Tonya Blackledge. "It needed to be longer."

Melissa DeBow and Joelle McCollum were among a group of Alpharetta neighbors who all brought their children along for the ride. Both said they came last year and that their children enjoyed climbing on the trains and sitting on Santa's lap.

"It's such a laid-back museum," DeBow said. "It's fun, and the kids kind of go crazy. It's definitely fun for the kids to have their buddies here."

Pirkle, the museum administrator, said they also have a lot of fun with the event.

"It's just a good way to start the Christmas season," he said. "Getting to see those kids have a good time and ooh and ahh over Santa (is the best part)."

For more information about the event, see www.srmduluth.org.