MIDWAY — Move over Polar Express.
The Chicago Transit Authority's holiday train, "Santa's Express," officially debuted for its 22nd year Friday afternoon at the Midway Orange Line stop.
Santa Claus and his elves waved to riders as they pulled into the station Friday. The six-car train is complete with decorated seats, lights, garland and Christmas tunes to help passengers get into the spirit.
Children posed for pictures in front of Santa and his reindeer, who sat on an open flat car in the center of the train.
Cecilia Romero and Stephanie Perez said they brought their daughters to Midway just so the two could ride the train.
As riders climbed aboard to head into the Loop, Santa's elves passed out candy canes. After she was handed a candy cane, Romero's daughter, Nayeli, said she approved of the train.
"It's awesome!" she said.
Romero said she felt the same way.
"It's cute...It's for the kids. I mean, look at their faces," she said, gesturing to the two little girls beaming.
Romero said she felt the train ride was a way to mark the beginning of the season.
"I think it's official now," she said.
And Perez agreed.
"Thanksgiving is over. It's officially Christmas season, so get the tree up, eggnog, all of it," she said.
The holiday train will operate across the eight rail lines through late December, CTA officials said. The train typically operations from about 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on some weekends. The schedule, which may change, can be found here.
The holiday train will provide regular rail service, but will also offer a chance to take photos with Santa on four days between now and Christmas.
William and Patricia Jones were getting off a train with their son and nephew when they heard some Christmas music on the other side of the tracks and saw the holiday train pulling into the station.
Jones said he has seen the train around the city over the years but has never had the chance to actually ride it.
"It smells like candy canes," Jones said of the peppermint scent wafting from the train as he walked inside one of the cars. "It smells good."
Patricia Jones said she thinks the train is a "great idea," especially for children.
"I think it's really nice for the kids," she said. "The seats are decorated really nice. I like it."
When asked if the Christmas season had arrived, William Jones, whose birthday is Christmas Eve, did not hesitate.
"Of course," he said.
His wife said they did not wait for Thanksgiving to get started either.
"The Christmas tree was already up," she said.
Below is a general schedule which may change. Detailed schedules for the holiday train are available on CTA's website:
•Friday, 11/29 — Green Line
•Saturday, 11/30 — Green Line
•Tuesday, 12/3 — Green Line
•Wednesday, 12/4 — Orange and Brown lines
•Thursday, 12/5 — Orange and Brown lines
•Friday, 12/6 — Orange and Brown lines
•Saturday, 12/7 — Orange and Brown lines
•Tuesday, 12/10 — Pink Line
•Wednesday, 12/11 — Pink Line
•Thursday, 12/12 — Blue Line
•Friday, 12/13 — Blue Line
•Saturday, 12/14 — Blue Line
•Tuesday, 12/17 — Red Line
•Wednesday, 12/18 — Purple Line
•Thursday, 12/19 — Red Line
•Friday, 12/20 — Purple Line
•Saturday, 12/21 — Red and Purple lines
•Monday, 12/23 — Yellow Line