Chelatchie Prairie Railroad rides into the holidays


The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad is bringing holiday magic to riders of its Santa Trains. 

The historic railroad is running Santa Trains for the next three weekends in the month of December. 

After taking a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the railroad was able to restart the holiday tradition in 2021. 

“It’s a very popular thing,” Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Station Master and Treasurer Douglas Auburg said. “A number of families do this as a regular thing and come back year after year.” 

The diesel locomotive used is 81 years old, one of its passenger cars is 110 years old and other pieces of equipment are between 50 and 70 years old. But they’re still full of use as 140 people fill the train during the Santa excursions. The railroad has to run three trains on the weekends instead of the usual two they utilize from spring to the beginning of December. 

“It’s the most popular event of the year,” Auburg said. 

Reservations for the upcoming train rides have all been claimed, but there are still many seats available on the train in unheated cars. Those tickets can be purchased at the station just before departure. Those ticket holders will board last after those who made prior reservations. They will probably be seated in an unheated but covered car. 

All passengers are encouraged to dress for the weather as the Santa stop will be in an unheated structure. Once the train gets going, it’s a two-hour ride through farm and timberland with views not afforded by roads in Clark County. There is also a 330-foot tunnel the train travels through. 

Seating is “first come, first served” so those who reserve their seats get priority over others who decide to ride at the last minute.

The railroad was constructed in the late 1800s, and after ownership changes through the 1900s, the railroad was purchased in the 1980s by Clark County in order to preserve the rail corridor for future freight and potential passenger service. 

The county currently leases the south end of the line to the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad, which serves freight customers as far north as Battle Ground, and the north end was leased to the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association to operate a tourist train.

On the train’s return trip to Moulton there will be a stop so kids on the train can see Santa. The group offers light refreshments like cocoa and hot cider. Kids can talk with Santa during the visit and will be able to pick a gift from one of his elves. 

Around 14 volunteers help make the event a reality over several weekends. The volunteers also do a charity run for foster kids on the final weekend of the Santa Trains to bring them some holiday spirit as well. 

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Station is located at 207 N. Railroad Ave. in Yacolt. 

Those who want to volunteer are encouraged to fill out a form at the train station. They can also call Auburg at 360-686-3559, send a letter to P.O. Box 1207, Battle Ground, Washington, or visit the website online at