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Clinchfield 100 gets new life

Former Clinchfield Railroad car 100 brings up the rear of southbound CSX manifest Q693 as it passes by the former Clinchfield offices in Erwin while en route to Jacksonville to be prepped for this year’s Santa Train. (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

New life has been breathed into a famed former Clinchfield Railroad relic, and it will soon be on display on the rear of CSX’s premiere public relations train.

According to a press release from the organization, the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum in Johnson City recently announced that the group’s former Clinchfield Railroad car No. 100 will be the “Santa car” on this year’s CSX Santa Train, set to make its 77th run on Saturday, Nov. 23. The newly refurbished Pullman-built coach will be placed on the rear of the train where Santa Claus will throw gifts of food and toys to the massive crowds which turn out each year for the event.

Watauga Valley volunteer Mike Tilley tells Trains News Wire the century-old railcar was a frequent part of past Santa Trains.

“I remember when it was on there years ago, and I actually helped load supplies for the Santa Train onto that car when it used to be on there, so it means a lot to me because I had a key part in seeing it on the train before,” Tilley said.

The 100 replaces CSX business car West Virginia on the rear of the train, but that car is still slated to be in the train’s consist.

The Clinchfield No. 100, commonly known as the railroad’s “Superintendent’s car,” was rebuilt over the past year by nearly 20 Watauga Valley volunteers who worked eight-hour shifts six days per week. The inclusion of the 100 on the Santa Train is the latest effort by CSX to celebrate the Clinchfield heritage of the train. It follows the 2016 train, when the lead SD40-3 had a “Clinchfield” sticker applied to the nose of the locomotive, and the 2017 Santa Train – the train’s 75th running – which featured rebuilt and restored former Clinchfield F7 No. 800 leading the train. The 2017 Santa Train also had EMD SD45 No. 3632, which was re-lettered “Clinchfield,” leading the train along with the 800.

Built in 1911 by Pullman Car Co., the Clinchfield 100 entered service as coach No. 985 for Atlantic Coast Line before being converted to the dining car Orlando in 1921. The car was purchased by Clinchfield in 1951 and was rebuilt to include three bedrooms, a kitchen and a restroom. Tilley said the bedrooms were removed and the interior was completely renovated during its recent restoration. The kitchen and restroom were left intact, he said.

“We had the choice of keeping it as-is and using it as just a museum piece or rebuilding it to be able to be used everywhere,” Tilley added. “We decided to go ahead and redo it all and hopefully have it ready for not only Santa Train, but for other excursions and events later on.”

The Santa Train originates from CSX’s Shelby Yard near Pikeville, Kentucky., and travels south through Southwest Virginia en route to Kingsport. The train distributes gifts at 13 locations along the route. For information on the CSX Santa Train, visit,