A Look Back at the Beloved Stone & Thomas Santa Special of ’58

Wheeling’s Christmas Parade is a much-adored tradition. So many of us have a tradition of bundling up along the sidewalk and waiting in anticipation for the grand finale of Santa, and later, Moondog. Personally, for me, it isn’t complete without hot chocolate. When I learned about the Stone & Thomas train ride though, I really wished my traditions could include a train ride!

On November 22, 1958, Stone & Thomas sponsored the parade and decided to add something a little special. It was their second year sponsoring the parade, and they wanted it to be bigger and better than the year before. To do so, they kicked off the parade at the Baltimore & Ohio station, where Santa would arrive via train, presumably from a long, winding journey from the North Pole.1

Santa was not the only one welcomed on the so-called “Santa Special” train ride. There were two cars operating on that day, each having 17 cars. The first car would carry Mrs. Claus and Santa’s helpers to the parade, the second would bring Santa himself. Each car would have teachers, principals, and the 1958 “Queen of Queens” candidates as hosts for the journey. There would also be entertainment onboard and waiting at the station, including magic acts, clowns, and music provided by Wheeling & Warwood high school bands. All this effort was for the lucky children who got tickets for the Santa Special train, a total of 2,600 children. “The store said it could have distributed 10,000 tickets if space was available, but space limitations prohibited it.” It seems like it was quite the hot ticket!2

Subscribe to Weelunk

Two children received an extra special honor on the Santa Special. Larry Nesbitt and John Krajcovic were selected as “co-engineers.” Larry was selected for Mrs. Claus’ train, and John for Santa’s. Each boy would get to ride in the front of the car with the engineer, and be able to wave to the welcoming crowd as the train pulled into the station. 3

I can’t help but think how much of a hit the Santa Special would be if it was still going on today – how very Polar Express it would be?!  Still, what a treat to be able to look back at all the lovely photos from this magical train ride!

  • Photo courtesy of the Ohio County Public Library Archives.

• Makayla Carney, a Wheeling native, is the 2023-2024 AmeriCorps member for Wheeling Heritage, where she will get to write all about the history and culture of her hometown. She has a B.F.A. in Film and Television from DePaul University in Chicago. She adores all kinds of art, a lavender latte, and the occasional performance on the Towngate Theatre stage.


1 “‘Santa Spectacular’ To Be Bigger, Better: Stone & Thomas 2d Yule Parade Set for Nov. 22.” Wheeling News Register, 9 Nov. 1958, page 1.

2Stone & Thomas Open House Christmas Season, Stone & Thomas Advertising Campaign Scrapbook, Joe A. Funk, Ohio County Public Library, 22 Nov. 1958.

3 Two Co-Engineers on ‘Santa Special’: 5 Youngsters Chosen For Yule Fete Roles.” Wheeling News Register, 19 Nov. 1958, page 17.