CTA Holiday Bus

2016 CTA Holiday Train & Bus

This year marks 25 years of the CTA Holiday Train – a holiday tradition unique to Chicago. In celebration of this milestone, this year we introduce and welcome you aboard the new Elves’ Workshop Train.
Just as dazzling and decked out as the Holiday Train, this six-car train will follow the Holiday Train on Saturdays, which are the busiest days, to help ensure everyone has an opportunity to experience this one-of-kind and joyful tradition.
Complementing these two festive trains is the CTA Holiday Bus, which brings the same holiday spirit and joy to bus riders as it travels throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods.


On this page:



holiday train and elves workshop train wrap preview
Holiday Train & Elves' Workshop Train

What few may realize is that the CTA Holiday Train serves two very important purposes: to deliver joy and the holiday spirit to thousands of riders and also to deliver food baskets to various charitable agencies throughout the city.

The CTA Holiday Train began on the Blue Line in 1992 when a “Season’s Greetings from the CTA” sign was placed on the front of an out-of-service train that was used to deliver food to various charities. Over the years, this holiday tradition has evolved from its modest and humble beginnings to a spectacular, joyous sight to see – in daytime or nighttime.

Today, as the CTA Holiday Train pulls into each station, Santa waves to the boarding riders from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar carrying his reindeer and decorated holiday trees.

Both the Holiday Train and the Elves’ Workshop Train are wrapped with holiday and seasonal images. Thousands of twinkling lights outline the shape of the train and windows, with even more lights running across the tops of the cars.

Strands of multi-colored lights are strung inside the two trains along with red bows, garland, red and green overhead lighting and hand poles wrapped to look like candy canes. Riders will be greeted by Santa’s elves with plenty of candy canes for good boys and girls.

Charity food delivery

The “CTA Family” continues its 25 year tradition of supporting Chicago communities. Each year employees donate their time and money to purchase groceries and assemble food baskets for delivery to community organizations across the city. This year, we'll donate approximately 300 food baskets to local community organizations.

Each food basket contains all the ingredients for a complete meal including a canned ham, potatoes, mixed vegetables, muffin mix, macaroni and cheese, fruit cocktail, green beans, corn and dessert.

Holiday Train Schedule

The CTA Holiday Train will travel all 'L' lines in late November and December as part of regular rail service. Normal CTA fares apply.

The train generally operates from about 1pm to 8pm on weekends and 3pm to 7pm on select weekdays (schedules for each rail line will vary), and will make stops at all stations along the respective routes. And every Saturday the Holiday Train is in service, the new Elves' Workshop Train will follow to allow more to enjoy this one of a kind holiday experience.


2016 Detailed CTA Holiday Train Schedule
Click the dates below to see full details.
Red Line 11/19 - Sat
Green LineOrange Line 11/25 - Fri
photo dayGreen Line 11/26 - Sat*
Green LineOrange Line 11/29 - Tue
Orange Line & Brown Line 11/30 - Wed
Orange Line & Brown Line 12/1 - Thu
Orange Line & Brown Line 12/2 - Fri
photo dayOrange Line & Brown Line 12/3 - Sat*
Pink Line 12/6 - Tue
Pink Line 12/7 - Wed
Blue Line 12/8 - Thu
Blue Line 12/9 - Fri
photo dayBlue Line (+ photo-only stop on Pink Line) 12/10 - Sat*
Red Line 12/13 - Tue
Purple Line 12/14 - Wed
Red Line 12/15 - Thu
Purple Line 12/16 - Fri
photo dayRed Line & Purple Line 12/17 - Sat*
Purple Line 12/22 - Thu
Yellow Line 12/23 - Fri

photo day = Photos with Santa;
*Elves' Workshop Train in service and directly following the Holiday Train

holiday bus wrap
Holiday Bus

Day or night, the commutes of thousands and the streets of Chicago’s neighborhoods are made merry with the CTA Holiday Bus. Now in its third year of operation, CTA employees transformed this 60-foot bus into a winter wonderland as a way to say “thank you” to customers and bring added cheer this holiday season.

The exterior wrap features “Ralphie the Reindeer” leading the way with his crimson nose aglow and Santa’s sleigh in tow. Strings of lights outline the bus and its windows, while Ralphie is brought to life with 3-D antlers atop the bus and a ruby light affixed to the front of the bus.  

Inside, the bus features multi-colored lights, holiday-themed seating, candy-cane striping, artwork created by students from Charles H. Wacker Elementary. In the very back of the bus is Santa and his sleigh, which serves as the perfect setting for the scheduled photo sessions with Santa.

The CTA Holiday Bus will travel 13 CTA bus routes throughout the city between November 29 and December 23, as part of regular service. Normal CTA fares apply.
The bus will generally operate from early afternoon through early evening on select weekdays and weekends (schedules for each route will vary), and will serve all posted stops along the respective routes.

We strongly encourage you to use the CTA Holiday Bus Tracker to track the whereabouts of Ralphie and Santa along the scheduled route. This information will only be available while the bus is in service on the dates and times listed below. 

2016 CTA Holiday Bus Schedule

NOTE: schedule times are approximate and subject to change.


Date in Service

Departure Times
(unlisted times coming soon)

#56 Milwaukee


Tue 11/29

UPDATED: 12:20p
SB from Desplaines/Lake to Madison/Wabash, then continuing back NB

photo dayWed 11/30 12:20p
SB from Jefferson Park Blue Line station

Photo session:
@ Jeff. Pk. Blue Ln.
approx. 3:30p-4:30p

#92 Foster
#91 Austin

Thu 12/1

WB as #92 from Berwyn Red Line

SB as #91 from Jefferson Park Blue Line station

#22 Clark

photo dayFri 12/2

SB from Howard Red/Purple/Yellow lines

Photo session:
@Howard R/P/Y lns.
approx: 3:40p-4:40p

#22 Clark /
#97 Skokie

photo daySat 12/3

WB as #97 from Howard Red/Purple/Yellow lines

SB as #22 from Howard Red/Purple/Yellow lines

Photo session:
@Old Orchard
approx: 1:40p-2:40p

#66 Chicago

photo dayTue 12/6

 EB from Chicago/Austin

Photo session:
@ Navy Pier
approx. 4:15p-5:15p

Wed 12/7

EB from Chicago/Austin

#12 Roosevelt

photo dayThu 12/8

EB from Harrison/Central

Photo session:
@ Harrison/Central
approx. 3:30p-4:30p

Fri 12/9

WB from 15th Place/Indiana

#126 Jackson

photo daySat 12/10

EB from Jackson/Austin

Photo session:
@ Jackson/Austin
approx. 4:30p-5:30p

#31 31st Mon 12/12 12:25pm
EB from Ashland Orange Line Station

#29 State

photo dayTue 12/13

NB from 95th Red Line

Photo session:
@ Navy Pier
approx. 5:30p-6:30p

Wed 12/14

NB from 95th Red Line

#28 Stony Island

photo dayThu 12/15

NB from Olive Harvey College
to 47th/Lake Park

NB from Olive Harvey College
to Union Station

Photo session:
@ Union Station
approx. 4:50p-5:40p

#62 Archer

Fri 12/16

SB from Kinzie/State

photo daySat 12/17

NB from Midway Orange Line
to Kinzie/Sate

Photo session:
@ Midway Orange Line
approx. 3:10p-4:10p

#X49 Western Exp.

photo dayTue 12/20

NB from 79th/Western

Photo session:
@ 79th/Western
approx. 4:20p-5:20p

#79 79th

photo dayWed 12/21

EB from 79th/Western

WB from 79th/Lake Front
to Ford City Mall

Photo session:
@ Ford City Mall
approx. 3:20p-4:20p

#3 King Drive

Thu 12/22

NB from 95th/Chicago State U. 

photo dayFri 12/23

SB from Ontario/Fairbanks

Photo session:
@ 95th/Chicago State U.
approx. 3:30p-4:30p

photo day indicates scheduled date for photos with Santa


Travel Tips

Both the CTA Holiday Train and Bus are in-service vehicles that operate as part of regular service; therefore, they cannot dwell at stations/stops for long periods of time. While every effort is made to accommodate riders, space is limited and boarding is not guaranteed.

To ensure everyone has an opportunity to see and take part in this annual tradition, here are a few suggested tips to make the most of your CTA Holiday Train experience:

  • Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. You can also track the whereabouts of Santa using CTA Train Tracker, which will indicate the Holiday Train with a candy cane, or by using the dedicated CTA Holiday Bus Tracker.
  • Travel light: with many families making the train a part of their holiday traditions, small collapsible strollers are encouraged so that you and others have an opportunity to board the train.
  • Boarding: the train/bus will become more crowded as it travels down its route; therefore, we recommend customers consider the following:
    • Board at a station/stop close to the beginning of the route. Unlike other in-service trains/buses, many people who board the CTA Holiday Train or Bus often stay on board until it reaches the end of its route—and will then take it back home if it is scheduled to make a return trip.
    • Train (Only): rail cars toward the front or back of the train will be less crowded compared to those immediately adjacent to Santa’s sleigh.
  • Taking photos: see schedules for scheduled photo sessions with Santa. When taking photos while the Holiday Train and Bus are in service, we recommend the following:
    • Train: if you are planning to ride the train and take photos from a station platform, don’t miss your opportunity to board the train! Board the train first and then plan to take photos of Santa or the train when exiting at your destination.
    • Bus: riders who wish to take photos with Santa on board the bus are encouraged to do so only when the vehicle is stopped and ideally just before exiting the through rear doors.  


Photos & Video

Photos from 2015 Holiday Train

2015 Sprint CTA Holiday Train

Photos from 2014 and 2015 Holiday Bus

CTA Holiday Bus


Happy Holidays from the CTA - 2015 Holiday Video


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