The Story of Train to Christmas Town
A new holiday tale sure to become a family favorite about Janice and her brother and their ride to Christmas Town for the first time alone. Grandma can’t make the trip this year and they miss her very much. On board they share seats with friends and woodland animals, meet elves serving cocoa and cookies and stop to welcome aboard a very special passenger, Santa Claus. Will all the holiday fun help calm their worries about their Grandma?
Get your very own copy of the book!
When you book your tickets, you will be given the opportunity to purchase a gift wrapped, hard cover copy of the book that will be waiting for you at the station when you pick up your tickets. Add to the joy of your child’s experience by having this surprise gift for them the day of the ride. Soft cover copies of the book will be available in the gift shop at the station as well. Enjoy this special book by author, Peggy Ellis, as a part of your holiday tradition.
New! Printable pattern for Bumblebee’s Scarf
Author Peggy Ellis said “When I wrote Train to Christmas Town, I knew that Janice’s grandmother was a knitter. And of course a bear named Bumblebee would be wearing a scarf with bold bumblebee stripes. But when I decided to design some knitting patterns based on the book, I was surprised at how many sweaters, mittens, and scarves Jeff added in his illustrations. It may be awhile before they all come to life!”
Peggy Bullard Ellis is an elementary special education teacher who has written for Trains Magazine and rides trains year round. Her three children grew up with trains and were wonderful inspirations for this book. Most of what she knows about writing she learned from her favorite high school English teacher, who also happened to be her mother and from the journalists on her father’s side of the family. She grew up in Oklahoma and has lived in Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, and Colorado, and she truly believes that “some things never change.” She graduated from the University of Oklahoma and earned a masters’ degree in special education from the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana. She has been married to Ed Ellis for almost 25 years.
Interview with author Peggy Ellis
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
The many different train trips that I’ve taken my three kids on gave me most of my inspiration for this particular story, but I also found myself looking back into my own childhood for characters and the feelings that the story reminded me of. Janice was my best friend when I was growing up. I intended to change her name to something else once the character developed, but the name seemed to fit, so she stayed Janice. I’m very glad about that, too, because my friend died quite young of breast cancer.
You state your three children grew up with trains, what part of that heritage do you want to share with other children?
The almost magical experience of moving through time and space with people who love you, in a safe, self-contained environment. Traveling with your family can be a great way to connect with each other, and so often families forget that in their rush to get somewhere. I remember traveling with my parents and my sister and feeling that strong connection.
What is so magical about pairing Christmas and trains?
Christmas is traditionally a time when families make an extra effort to connect with each other, and a train ride is a wonderful way to do that. The world outside seems so far away, and for a little while the inside of the train provides everything that we need.
Several times in the book there is talk about “just like always” and the comfort of that idea. Did you intend to contrast that aspect with the turmoil Janice feels with the big change of this year’s ride?
I was delighted when that phrase came to me. I was looking for exactly that contrast and hoping that the reader would also feel the comfort Janice felt when she realizes that even with big changes, some things do stay constant.
Tell us more about the relationship between Janice and her grandma and how that is central to the story?
Their close relationship is indeed central to the story, and Janice’s concern for her grandmother is something most kids can identify with. I’ve known several Grandparents (including my own mother) who’ve looked forward to doing things like an annual train ride with their grandchildren. I’ve seen how much it means to the children too. It was important to the story that Janice’s parents weren’t there, but I struggled a little with how to make it believable to adults reading the story. Kids don’t question where Mom or Dad are in a book, but some adults do!
There are a lot of animals on this train. What was your thought behind that and how did you choose each type?
The animals were part of the story right from the beginning. I actually tried taking them out, but they kept coming back! The story wasn’t much fun without them. I’m not sure which animal appeared first, but probably Bumblebee. Zephyr started as a small lizard on the wall of the depot. Jeff, the illustrator, apparently doesn’t care for lizards, so he asked me if I could make that change. My daughter then suggested the name Zephyr, which was the name of Jeff’s cat, and also the name of a famous train. The squirrel didn’t have a name for awhile, and I wanted another railroad name, which is why he’s Wabash. Bubble and Squeak were the names of two little dwarf hamsters my children had several years ago, named after an English cabbage and potato dish. (Not sure why!)
Janice forgets her own troubles when she thinks about helping and comforting others on the train. Is this a lesson about the giving spirit of the holidays?
Yes, I was hoping that would come through. I wanted Janice to find her own courage and strength, and that was the way she did it!
Jeff Lee (born 1952 in Elkhart, Indiana) is the original video artist at D. Gottlieb and Company. He is best known for creating the character of Q*Bert, the popular arcade game from 1982 and graphics for a number of other video games. He is also the illustrator of the folk story retelling “How The Turtle Got Its Shell”.
Interview with illustrator Jeffrey Lee
What was your inspiration for the illustrating a children’s Christmas story?
I mentioned to Ed and Peggy Ellis that I had published as an e-book a New Guinea folk-tale which I had illustrated many years ago, “How The Turtle Got Its Shell”. Ed said he meant to produce a book about a Christmas train and it kind of snowballed from there, with Peggy taking over the actual writing.
Did you view photos or an actual engine and train cars for your drawings?
Both. Ed provided many engine photos and blueprints. I took photographs and made some sketches on location.
Fans know you as the illustrator of the loveable Q*Bert character from the video game. What characters did you enjoy creating in this book?
In particular, Janice and Paul, Bumblebee the Bear, Bubble and Squeak.
Is there any characteristics of the book’s subjects that helped you visualize the illustrated characters?
I wanted the design of Janice to be expressive enough to convey the gamut of emotions she undergoes in the course of the story. The animal design is more cartoonish and anthropomorphized in the instances of the talking critters. But, their personalities are not centerpiece in this tale.
There are a lot of animals in this story. Did you enjoy adding them into places not typically found like inside a train car?
Yes, though I expect if a couple of mice were spotted on an ordinary passenger car, an alarm might be raised!
What holiday message in the book do you hope people will remember after viewing your illustrations?
The greatest gift afforded to us in life is sharing special times with those whom we love.