Forth the fourth consecutive year Operation Toy Train has been met with enthusiasm and generosity! We added a third day this year, visiting the Middletown & New Jersey Railroad for the very first time with great success. The passenger car this year was the URHS’s NYC#43 Tavern Lounge car, and after some complications with the camo boxcar the URHS also allowed us to borrow PRR Baggage Car #9286 for the first two days. This worked out superbly as there was more than enough room for toys and the MTA members in charge of the toy counts and loading had ample space for themselves as well. The simple addition a string construction lighting and we were all set!
Saturday, December 8th got off to a bit of slow start on the NYS&W Railway at Rochelle Park. This was a new stop for us and we had some difficulty getting the town involved. The guys from Bergen County Harley-Davidson showed up however, with a pickup truck with toys and a beautiful Harley. They pulled the motorcycle right up behind the station and took numerous photos with Santa and members of our volunteer crew. They are looking forward to being much more involved in 2013! From Rochelle Park the train moved on to an extremely enthusiastic welcome in Hawthorne. Members of the Boys and Girls Club came out with boxes of toys, as did the local Daisy Scout troupe. The VRA donated several boxes full of toys as well. Wortendyke and Wyckoff were great stops again this year. The Hot Dog Caboose is always so excited to have us, and the Wyckoff Fire Department seems to get a kick out of lining the road with trucks each year. Oakland was a new stop this year as well and did not see many donations, but the train certainly attracted attention sitting right off route 202. Then it was on to Pompton Lakes, historically a huge stop. Once again the town did not disappoint having the local radio station on hand as well as the Mayor. Finally it was on to Butler for the final stop of the day. We collected toys in Butler and then were met by a truck donated by UPS to bring the toys to Picatinny Arsenal. Lakeland Bus also made a donation, having provided the bus to get our volunteers back to their vehicles in Ridgefield Park. The train continued up the NYS&W to spend the night in Warwick, NY.
Sunday, December 9th was spent in a new area for us on the M&NJ. Frank Eichenlaub of the M&NJ and his wife Justina did a wonderful job of promoting the train to the small towns in upstate New York. The crew boarded in Warwick and toy collection commenced at 9 am. Volunteers and visitors were given a chance to see the Warwick Chamber of Commerce’s office located in the former NYS&W# 0119 caboose. From Warwick the train moved on to Sugar Loaf, a beautiful artists village. The original train station has been restored and is now a deli & country store. We were delighted to pull in to a large crowd here! Many families had come out to see the train, the deli had set up a table outside with hot chocolate and snacks, and the people were all friendly and excited. On to Campbell Hall and the Hamptonburgh Caboose Museum. Volunteers and visitors were able to tour the museum while the crew collected toys, then we moved on to Montgomery. This was a huge stop for Operation Toy Train. The town was out in force! A local DJ had a music trailer set up with Christmas carols playing, refreshments were being sold, and the Town Council was there to thank the residents for their support. The last stop of the day was in Walden, where several of the MTA’s members brought large trucks to offload the toys and deliver them to Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, NY. Overall our first visit to the M&NJ was very successful and we are looking forward to being able to do it again.
Our final run was Saturday, December 15 over the Morristown & Erie’s High Bridge Line and Dover & Rockaway Branch. The crew boarded in Dover that morning and the train made its way to Flanders. Once again the Flanders Fire Department went all out for the event with bagels & donuts, hot chocolate, tea & coffee for all the visitors and volunteers alike. Santa took his annual photo with the fireman and their ladder truck as well as numerous children. We were met by a donor who drove his van all the way from Old Bridge, NJ full of toys just to be able to see the train and give to this great cause! From Flanders the train rolled on to Route 10 in Ledgewood at the Sleepy’s parking lot. A local Girl Scout troupe came by with a large donation, and as usual Santa made quite the sight hanging on the end of the caboose right next to route 10. A short, 5 minute hop to Morris Marine in Kenvil and the Girl Scout troupe who has been working with us each year was waiting once again with pile of toys. The local Police department also came with a pickup truck loaded with donations. Next was Dover and a stop in the middle of town. The people of Dover were very supportive once again. From there we moved on to Rockaway, but not before a car had to be towed away from the right of way for the second year in the row! Once the car was moved it was on to our final stop at Potbelly’s Cafe in Rockaway. The local Boy Scouts came out with quite a few toys again this year and the town of Rockaway was happy to see us again as well.
Overall, Operation Toy Train collected roughly 14,000 toys over three days of operation. While this is slightly less than in past years, considering the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the region we were very pleased overall. Thank you again to all of the VRA members who donated or came out to help for Operation Toy Train’s 4th successful run!!