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At Polar Express kickoff event, children bask in holiday joy

At the Saratoga Springs rail station, children and their families wave Nov. 11 to elves transporting letters to Santa on the Saratoga-North Creek Railway toward the legendary North Pole. The event was staged by the railway as a kickoff of their extremely popular Polar Express holiday storybook excursions which start Nov. 15 and continue through December.

At the Saratoga Springs rail station, children and their families wave Nov. 11 to elves transporting letters to Santa on the Saratoga-North Creek Railway toward the legendary North Pole. The event was staged by the railway as a kickoff of their extremely popular Polar Express holiday storybook excursions which start Nov. 15 and continue through December. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Accompanied by his grandfather, Kai Fronk — a 12-year-old boy from Wilton — gazed wide-eyed at a bright-red caboose as it was pulled out of the Saratoga train station Monday Nov. 11.

The caboose’s porch was filled with young adults dressed as elves, bearing bags full of letters penned by area children and addressed to Santa. The youngsters who wrote the letters were on the station’s platform, cheering and waving at the train as it sounded its horn, fired up its locomotive and headed off for the legendary North Pole.

The event was a promotion to kick off the Saratoga-North Creek Railway’s Polar Express storybook holiday excursions, running several trains six days per week through Christmas.

Minutes after the train’s departure, Kai Fronk’s expression was transformed into a gleeful smile, as he was one of three children chosen from among dozens of contestants to be a “Junior Conductor” on a Wednesday run.

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Chosen Nov. 11 as Junior conductors for upcoming Polar Express excursions on the Saratoga-North Creek Railway were (center three, left to right): Kevin Hilt, 8, of Troy; Kai Fronk, 12 of Wilton and Jasmine Fitzgerald, 8. of Wilton. Introducing them to families attending the Polar Express kickoff event were (left) State Sen. Kathy Marchione, a celebrity guest conductor for the Polar Express trips (left) and official conductor (right) Ed Sakos of Saratoga Springs.

The random choice could not have been more appropriate. Since he was a toddler, the boy has played with model trains with his father and grandfather, building extensive train layouts in his family’s basement, the boy explained after his selection was announced.

“I’m obsessed with trains,” Kai said, noting he was given his first train model set just months after his birth.

The family’s enthusiasm for trains has extended to taking quite a few trip on the Saratoga-North Creek Railway, explained Kai’s grandfather, William Fronk Sr.

“We’ve had a wonderful time,” he said, hugging Kai.

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Kendall Jones of Moreau, 4, exhibits a shy expression a moment after handing a Santa letter to a holiday elf portrayed by Lucille Montano of Ballston Spa. The delivery of letters to Santa is a promotion in the Capital Region conducted by the Saratoga-North Creek Railway, which is operating Polar Express storybook excursions this week through Dec. 29.

Hillary Izzo of Stillwater and her young children Daniel and Isabella were among those delivering holiday letters to the elves for delivery to Santa.

“This is a great event to find out about the Polar Express — my kids are really excited — and we’ll be taking our first trip this year,” Izzo said.

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