Nevada State Railroad Museum officials in Boulder City reported today that the Santa Train holiday excursion rides during the first two weekends in December set records for ridership, ridership revenue and gift shop sales. The Santa Train is in its seventh year.
Museum Director Greg Corbin said that 8,950 riders — a 41 percent increase over last year’s record number — ticket sales of $17,900 and gift shop sales of $5,700 all eclipsed previous highs for the Boulder City holiday event. Corbin, who runs the museum, reported that during the two weekends of the running of the Santa Train, a record 8,950 riders generated $17,900 in ticket sales.
The Santa Train operates during the first two weekends of December at the railroad museum. Santa Claus rides aboard the excursion train, visiting with young riders as the train makes a seven-mile roundtrip along the Boulder Branch Line. Museum gift shop revenues of $5,700 for the four days this year eclipsed previous Santa Train weekend records, with the $2,100 rung up on Dec. 13, setting a one-day sales record.
"This has been unbelievable," Corbin said. "The response was overwhelming. All rides sold out long before the engineer blew the first whistle to leave the depot."
For the first time this year, the railroad museum pre-sold the $2 tickets, starting Nov. 1.
According to Laura Henning, an administrative assistant at the museum, by Dec. 5, the day before the first load of passengers boarded the Santa Train, 3,000 of the 7,200 available tickets had been sold. By 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, the first day of running, 12 of the 24 scheduled rides that carried 300 passengers on each ride had been sold out.
Corbin even added four extra rides to handle the flood of customers, but ticket sellers still had to turn away hundreds of potential customers who came to the train station thinking they could show up minutes before a scheduled ride and buy tickets.
Disappointed customers told Corbin he should add more cars to the ride to handle the overflow, but he said that wasn’t an option.
"Increasing the number of cars would diminish the quality of the event," he said. "The ride is only so long and Santa really can’t get from one end of the train to the other in time to give the kids the attention they deserve if there were more cars."
Corbin attributed the large number of customers to advertising, published news stories and word of mouth from previous riders who enjoyed the holiday event.
In contrast to this year’s 8,950 paid riders, ridership was 6,350 in 2007 and 3,400 in 2006, according to NSRB figures.