The 13th annual Holiday Express, a six-car Christmas-light adorned train carrying Santa Claus, reindeer and elves, is making four stops in the Crossroads between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nichole Boots, 33, of Victoria, said she brought her family to the train in 2011 and plans to bring them again this year. "The rail cars are decorated 360 degrees with Christmas," Boots told the Victoria Advocate. "The train is magical to toddlers and small children."

The Holiday Express will be open to the public in 20 communities in six states on 24 dates, according to a news release from the railroad. Access to the train is free.

As part of the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Program, gift cards are given to The Salvation Army in each community that the train stops. The gift cards are for children's warm clothing and other necessities for underprivileged children. This year, the program will give away $174,290 in gift cards along the route, 61 percent more than it gave out last year and a record-high for the program, according to the news release.

The Holiday Express began in 2001 and was inspired by the Santa Train, which ran on a railroad purchased by Kansas City Southern in 1997. The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express project has donated more than $1.3 million in gift cards since its inception.

The Holiday Express schedule is as follows;

  • Dec. 1 at 4 p.m.Business U.S. 59 and Burroughsville Road, VictoriaDec. 2 at 4 p.m.Wells Street, Edna

    Dec. 3 at 4 p.m.Evans Park, El Campo

    Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, 100 N. Sunset St., Wharton