Christmas and trains just naturally go together. In many homes, a model railroad surrounded the Christmas tree. Railroad enthusiasts remember how when they were boys they would look at the model trains in the Christmas catalogues of Sears, J.C. Penny or Montgomery Ward and ask Santa to bring them a train.
Countless thousands of packages moved by rail during December and many took the train to go home for Christmas. Railroads offered extra sections to handle the crush of business.
Today the Christmas catalogue has been all but replaced by websites. Far fewer homes put up model train displays around the Christmas tree and Santa doesn’t get as many requests for trains for Christmas.
The long strings of baggage and express cars carrying Christmas season parcels are only a memory. Select Amtrak train still carry baggage cars, but the carrier handles few packages now. FedEx and UPS have long since supplanted Railway Express Agency as a primary delivery service of Christmas packages.
Amtrak trains continue to be full with travelers going home or traveling for the holidays, but most people travel by air or highway.
Still, the romance of Christmas and trains continues, if only in memories and imaginations. It has been more than four decades since passengers and packages got off at the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Orrville. Indeed, no scheduled passenger trains pass by here anymore.
Depot owner Orrville Railroad Heritage Society keeps the Christmas spirit alive at the station with decorations and an open house earlier in the month in conjunction with the Santa Claus trains that it sponsors.
Still, on Christmas eve night, all will be quiet here. But if you happen to venture down to this station, or any station, and listen carefully, the ghosts of passengers, conductors, engineers and ticket clerks will be trading stories about days past when this was a busy place at Christmastime.