On Sunday morning, Dec. 1, the National Weather Service was suggesting it was a good time to stay home.
But by 9:30 a.m. and in spite of cold temperatures and a snowstorm warning, a large crowd had gathered in the Chase Bank parking lot as a diesel locomotive pulled a train of railroad freight cars into its first stop, the Village of Warwick.
The Middletown & New Jersey Railroad’s Toys for Tots train journey that day originated in Warwick with stops at Sugar Loaf, Middletown, Cambell Hall and Montgomery.
Every year since 2009, special trains have operated on the first two weekends of December in northern New Jersey and southern New York to collect donated toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation.
At each stop volunteers help load the train with gifts that have been collected locally by organizations and individuals in each community since October.
In Warwick members of the Volunteer Fire Department also help to organize the event.
And on Sunday Santa was also on board with the elves and a Marine Corps detachment. They spent almost an hour posing for photographs with children and families.
Parents and their children also had an opportunity to enjoy free refreshments provided by Kuiken Brothers.
This was the eighth annual “Operation Toy Train” in the Hudson Valley area.
In previous years, by traveling throughout northern New Jersey and New York, more than 25,000 toys were collected on the train. And all the toys are locally distributed.
- Roger Gavan