On Sunday morning, Dec. 12, the temperature was on the cool side but there was warm sunshine as a large crowd gathered in the former Chase Bank parking lot to welcome a diesel locomotive pulling 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, Campbell Hall and Middletown, ending in Port Jervis at the Transportation History Center.
Except for 2020, 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.
The train was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020, but nevertheless, the organization and the Marines still met their goal of collecting more than 20,000 toys.
In Warwick members of the Volunteer Fire Department also help to organize the event.
And on Sunday Santa was on board with the elves and a Marine Corps detachment. They spent almost an hour posing for photographs with children and families.
This was the ninth 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 distributed locally.
- Roger Gavan