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Home News-Telegram News New bridge and train will mean shorter wait times at Screws’ Pickton wonderland

New bridge and train will mean shorter wait times at Screws’ Pickton wonderland

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The North Pole of Texas Friday night will officially roll out its newest additions for the first time this season, and both are designed to cut down nightly wait times.

The free train rides through the Pine Forest Christmas wonderland on the Alan and Kim Screws property will feature both a new bridge and a new train. That makes four trains with a few cars each to carry riders through the display.

The new bridge, like the original “Happy Birthday Jesus” bridge, spans from the Screws’ front yard across the county road to the dairy property across the street. This will allow one bridge to be used exclusively to transport trains across to the other side of the road and through the usual sites, the other will be used exclusively to transport the trains back across the road for departure. 

That means more riders accommodated at a time on the trains, and no waiting for one train to return on the bridge before the next fully loaded set of cars can begin its journey.

While it shouldn’t take anything away from the experience, it should mean more people riding at a time, which means not having to stand in line as long.

Generally, as the season wears on, the lines of people waiting get longer and longer as people gather their families for the Christmas tradition. Thus, people are encouraged to arrive early in the night and in the season if they don’t want to wait as long.

But, for some, the wait is part of the fun, talking with family and friends, taking pictures in the trains, warming up with a cup of cocoa from Kim’s Hot Chocolate Factory, and simply taking the time to appreciate each piece carefully constructed by the Screws family and friends as their Christmas gift to the community.

The tradition actually started in 1997 with a hay ride on Kim and Alan Screws front lawn. In 1998, they built their first train, the Christmas Cannonball, and invited family and friends. Roughly a dozen years ago, they got permission from the county to build the 40-foot “Happy Birthday Jesus” bridge over CR 3310 and opened the display to the community.

According to the Screws family, that sign sums up what the North Pole of Texas is all about.

“The Nativity depicts the birth of Jesus, in Bethlehem, and serves as a reminder to celebrate His life as Savior, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Jesus is absolutely the reason for this season,” the Screws family notes on their website www.northpoleoftexas.com. “The Toy Shop focuses on the joy and simple pleasures found in living. The elf pond reminds us to dream big and laugh. Kim's Hot Chocolate Factory provides a delightful sense of homemade warmth and comfort for all to enjoy. All the lights remind us of the beauty of Christmas and help us celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 

That’s why in addition to the rides, a trip through Santa’s Toy Shop and past the Elf Pond, Santa’s post office and North Pole fire station, cow and other fun cut-outs, there’s also a Bethlehem scene, complete with a manger featuring volunteers from various churches and organizations, live animals and even an angel, plus three crosses. While people wait in line, a video of Alan reading the Christmas story from the Bible is played on TVs placed through the front yard. 

Each year, Alan and family add a little something, whether it’s to rebuild the trains so they are bigger and hold more people or adding displays. It’s a labor of love, however, and one the Screws family along with a few friends spend several months preparing for each year. This year, a team of six has been working since the end of August to get everything ready. It took from the end of August and all of September to build the bridge, then all of October on the new train. Of course, there’s the routine maintenance to everything. All of November and this week was spent getting everything put back out and ensure it’s all in working order for this week’s kick off.

The Screws family and friends are joined each year by local church and school groups, and Pickton-Pine Forest Volunteer Fire Department generally has members help staff the North Pole.

While everything is free, donations are accepted to help with costs of upkeep and running the free rides. Monetary donations may also be made to Fruitful Harvest International Ministries, and children are encouraged to donate new school supplies to go toward the ministry.

For a few years now, a number of local businesses have generously contributed financially to help absorb some of the costs so the ride can continue to be open and offered at no charge to everyone.

Last year, at least 12,000 made the trek out to Pine Forest to visit the North Pole of Texas. Many area schools also schedule special day visits.

The train rides will offered from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. each Friday and Saturday Dec. 6-7 and 13-14, as well as nightly Wednesday, Dec. 18 through Monday, Dec. 23, giving the Screws family two days to celebrate and prepare for their own family Christmas. The train will not run during inclement weather, however, for safety of North Pole volunteers and visitors. A notice will be put on www.northpoleoftexas.com’s home page if the train is halted any scheduled night due to inclement weather.

The North Pole of Texas is located at 227 County Road 3378, Pickton 75471 (for those who want to plug it into their GPS). 

To get to The North Pole of Texas from Sulphur Springs, take Interstate 30 east to Weaver exit 136. Turn right on FM 269 and continue heading south for about 4 miles to Pine Forest; turn left on County Road 3310 at the North Pole of Texas sign. Continue on CR 3310 for about 2 1/2 miles; look for staff guiding people to the parking area. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a glow of lights that initially makes one wonder if perhaps they’ve stumbled onto Clark Griswold’s home.

 

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