Depot adorned with Christmas lights

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Taira Landavere, director of marketing for the Elkins-Randolph County Tourism CVB, left, and Ben Duvall-Irwin, AmeriCorps for the Elkins Depot Welcome Center, work to put up one of the 96 Christmas light pieces that will fill up the Elkins Town Square during the Durbin and Greenbrier Railroad ‘Polar Express’ excursion train season.

ELKINS — With the Polar Express preparing to start chugging down the tracks, the Elkins Depot Welcome Center staff is doing their part to make it a magical experience.

Following this year’s contributions to the Christmas light project, the Elkins Depot Welcome Center has been transformed into a winter wonderland with a total of 96 lit-up pieces, comprising 22 total displays in the Elkins Town Square.

Kevin Tingler, of K&K Collision and Towing, supplied a new truck light as well as a new “wagging dog” light that he donated in honor of the Randolph County Humane Society, Anne Beardslee, Elkins Depot Welcome Center executive director, said.

The Snowshoe Foundation also contributed $1,500 and six new lights.

Beardslee said the annual tradition was started by Ed and Elaine Griesel and the Elkins Depot Welcome Center took it over four years ago.

She added the project could not be done without assistance from the city of Elkins and a Huttonsville Correctional Center inmate work crew.

“Without the help of the city and the prison work crew, we couldn’t do this,” she said. “I mean, there is no way we could possibly do this.”

All of the lighting displays have been donated to the Elkins Depot Welcome Center from area businesses, organizations and individuals.

“Individuals, businesses, the county commission — over the years it has really been a variety and many of them were donated by Ed and Elaine,” Beardslee said. “They have the largest group of donated lights. We’ve had a lot of people who have really stepped up over the years and donated.”

Beardslee explained the reason the lights are being set up so early is because the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad “Polar Express” excursion train kicks off today. The excursion train runs at 5 and 7:15 p.m., Thursday through Sunday from today through Nov. 25, with the exception of Nov. 22; and Wednesday through Sunday from Nov. 28 to Dec. 16.

“We’re trying to get everybody on board and the city has promised to put their lights up on the poles before Nov. 8 so we will really have a Christmas town when the kids come. That’s why we do it so early,” Beardslee said.

She added she believes the lights give passengers on the train the feeling they are in a winter wonderland setting.

“One of the main reasons we put the lights up so early is so that every child that rides the Polar Express has the same experience. We want them all to feel like it’s a wonderland,” Beardslee said. “We find that the lights not only enhance the experience for Polar Express but it brings a lot of people from outside of town into the community to drive around the lights once they are lit at night.”

Beardslee added she believes the project shows a strong sense of community support and working together.

“One of the reasons this is so important is because so many people contributed and community people feel so strongly about the lights being here that it’s one of the community projects that we can undertake that benefits everyone,” she said.

“We’re not going to light them until Polar Express,” she said.