By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
EVERETT — Arlington girls Emily Egenberg, 7, and her friend Kenzie Miller, 6, giggled as they scrambled aboard and took seats in the train’s vintage dome car.
The stately silver cars of Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s Holiday Express train rolled into Everett Station on Friday evening, loading up Army National Guard and Navy personnel and their families for a round trip to Stanwood and a visit with Santa Claus.
No one would say if BNSF owner and renowned philanthropist Warren Buffett had sent the train out to Washington, but Santa had been on board the Holiday Express, he said, since Nebraska, Buffett’s home state.
Emily and Kenzie didn’t give a jingle bell about Buffett, one of the world’s richest men. They just wanted to look out the curved windows of the dome car, walk up and down the aisles and wait for Santa to make his way to their seats.
Emily’s dad, Petty Officer 1st Class Winston Egenberg, is serving aboard the USS Momsen, and Kenzie’s dad is Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Miller.
This is the third year that BNSF has fired up the company’s Holiday Express for military families, but it’s the train’s first time rolling through the Northwest. The Holiday Express started this trip in Idaho and will make other stops in the state before heading down the coast to California.
“The sole purpose is to recognize military personnel and their families,” BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. “It’s the company’s way to offer a thank you for all they do for our country and the world.”
In addition to the train ride, the railroad company gave a $10,000 check to Andy Leech, director of the Marysville-based Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The money will be used to benefit military families in need, Leech said.
The Holiday Express train consists of 12 vintage 1950s-era business class cars pulled by two new BNSF diesel locomotives. Each car is decorated for Christmas. Families on board were allowed to check out the executive sleeper cars and lounges, complete with wood paneling and all the comforts of a fine hotel room.
BSNF employees handed out goodies to the 350 people on board Friday, and Santa distributed gifts for all.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Dorn; his wife, Heather; and their children, Isabella, 19 months, and Dylan, almost 3, came from Lake Stevens to board the train.
They found out about the trip on the Navy Family Support Center’s website.
“We are very impressed with the appreciation shown to us here,” Dorn said. “The Burlington Northern folks are great and the Everett community is wonderful.”
The sun was setting and Cascade Range turned purple as the train pulled out of Everett Station.
Army National Guard Sgt. Grace Campbell of Everett was on board with her grown daughter, Alisha Bedient, and grandchildren Isaiah Bedient, who was celebrating his 12th birthday, Ilease Ortiz, 8, and Evelyn Garth, 3.
“It’s so beautiful,” Campbell said. “We’re having a lot of fun.”
Navy Reserve Lt. Jared Hopfauf and his wife, Abby, of Everett, grew up in Snohomish County riding the trains. Abby Hopfauf’s father worked as an engineer for Burlington Northern in Seattle when she was growing up in Edmonds.
Their children, Tyler, 3, Cole, 5 and William, 9, love trains, she said.
William said he liked the Christmas tree ornament he received from Santa. It features a train locomotive.
“It’s the Holiday Express,” he said. “This way I will always remember this train ride.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.