For all the kids — young and old alike — who’ve been asking since the first whiff of turkey and drop in temperatures, the Christmas train will ride again this year. And as is the tradition, the winter wonderland will include a new exhibit at the holiday lights and Christmas displays at the North Pole of Texas.
The lighted wonderland, which spans from Alan and Kim Screws’ front yard in Pine Forest to the dairy property across the road, is the Screws’ gift to the community. The ride in the homemade trains is completely free of charge to the public. Donations are accepted to help with utility and upkeep expenses, but not required.
The ride started years ago as a simple hay ride for family and friends grew into a train made from a tractor, which pulls wooden cars on a homemade track from his yard across a bridge (he had to get special permission from county officials to build it) to a Bethlehem scene which he opened to the public. He saw this as a way to show his love of the holiday and to spread the message oft what it’s all about. On both sides of the bridge in bright Christmas lights is written “Happy Birthday Jesus” and of course there’s the traditional Christmas manger scene, which often at night includes live animals and church groups who volunteer to pose as Mary, Joseph and other biblical people involved in the birth of the Christ child.
Screws said he sees it as an opportunity to share his faith along with a bit of holiday spirit to any who ask, and perhaps plant a seed of thought for someone who has never heard the Christmas story.
“If we can plant a seed in them, get them talking about what they see here, that’s great. A lot of kids don’t know anything about Jesus. They have no sense of him, what he’s done for us and that breaks my heart,” Alan Screws said.
Today, the Christmas train ride includes dozens of cow — what else in the heart of dairy country? — and reindeer cut-outs, Santa’s Workshop where the jolly old elf himself is usually on hand to greet children, an elf pond, live nativity and Bethlehem scenes, a North Pole Fire Station, two to three operational trains with several passenger cars and more. And of course, there’s plenty of steaming hot chocolate to help warm you up while waiting your turn, thanks to Kim’s Hot Chocolate Factory. Again, donations are accepted but not required. Also, donations can also be made to the Screws charity of choice usually a ministry of some sort — in the past that has included Fruitful Harvest ministry.
Each year, family members and friends begin work no later than early fall checking the literally thousands of lights and displays to make sure the North Pole of Texas is up and running by the first weekend in December. And, each year, they make modifications and generally add one new display, which for the thousands who make it a family tradition to visit every year is always fun to try to anticipate what they’ll build next. This year, they started work on Oct. 1.
This year, loyal riders will want to keep a close eye on the elf pond. No longer do they have to take their breaks on the pool on a paddle boat. This year, they’ll make a splash on a wave runner.
Also new this year is the North Pole Post Office, where school kids who visit during the day with school and other scheduled groups can leave their letters for Santa. Just put it in the designated location and watch it go up on a conveyor belt to the top.
“My youngest son built a tree house this summer between some trees. We incorporated it into the North Pole of Texas. We decided it’d be a post office, with a conveyor belt to take the letter up to the post office,” Screws explained. “Kids can bring their letters to Santa during the day.”
And, if the schedule slated prior to Thanksgiving is anything to go by, there will be quite a few kids visiting the North Pole of Texas during the day. Last week, 1,600 kids were scheduled for train rides.
Of course, that’s not the only time people visit. To get the full effect, one has to visit during the evening rides. The train will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 4-6 and Dec. 11-13, and Friday-Wednesday Dec. 18-23, weather permitting. Last year, 8,000 riders took the train ride through the Pine Forest Christmas wonderland, and the numbers continue to increase. To avoid longer lines and wait times, Screws recommends visiting early during the first weekends.
With the numbers increasing each year and the event getting so big, the Screws enlist as many family and friends as possible who want to help. They often work with local churches and farmers to ensure the live nativity has animals and people. They’ve even had a few carolers along the way. The local volunteer fire department has also helped out, too. Several businesses have also gotten in on the act the last few years, so that the Screws family won’t have to bare the financial burden of hosting the North Pole of Texas. Especially helpful this year have been Tracey Hankins and Trey Thompson, Screws noted with thanks.
“We wouldn’t be able to get this done if it hadn’t been for help,” Alan said “This got way too big for Kim, me and the family a few years ago. If we ever have time where it looks like we’re not going to have help, we won’t do it. I’ll know the Lord doesn’t want me to do it. Every year people volunteer. It works really great. “
All are welcome and invited by the Screws and friends to visit the North Pole of Texas and bring the kids and friends. If the weather’s looking especially inclement the train rides will be grounded for safety reasons. To find out if a ride is being canceled, visit the website: www.northpoleoftexas.com.
Be sure to bring your camera. There’s plenty to see and even a train set up for picture taking opportunities either before or after the ride. If it’s cold, be sure to bundle up. Blankets welcome, provided you keep up with them.
To find the North Pole of Texas from Sulphur Springs take Interstate 30 east to Weaver, take exit #136 ad turn right on FM 269, continue on FM 269 four four miles to Pine Forest. Turn left on County Road 3310 at Betty’s Store; look for the North Pole of Texas sign. Travel about 2 1/2 miles on CR 3310. You’ll know you’re there when you begin seeing the glow from the lights, which line the road leading up to the location. Park at the dairy barn; usually there’s someone to direct traffic if there’s a big crowd.
From Winnsboro, go north on FM 3019 (tGreenwood Road). Turn left on FM 3105. Turn right on the third oil road (County Road 3385). The North Pole of Texas is 3/4-mile on the left.
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