People wait as the Holiday Train stops at Sedgwick

Allstate CTA Holiday Train & Bus

The Allstate CTA Holiday Train is a holiday tradition unique to Chicago, which, due to popular demand, is now accompanied by the Elves’ Workshop Train. Two trains provide twice the amount of fun and festivities to make your holiday extra special.

Just as dazzling and decked out as the Holiday Train, the Elves’ Workshop Train is a six-car train of magic and memories, just like its popular counterpart. It follows the Holiday Train on Saturdays, which are the busiest days, to help ensure everyone has an opportunity to experience this one-of-kind, tradition.

Complementing these two festive trains is the Allstate CTA Holiday Bus, which brings the same holiday spirit and joy to bus riders as it travels throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods.

On this page:

 

2018 Allstate CTA Holiday Train
& Elves' Workshop Train

What few may realize is that the 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 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 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 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 trains 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. Santa’s elves greet riders with plenty of candy canes for good boys and girls.

Charity food delivery

The CTA family continues its decades 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 500 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.

Train schedule

The 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 Elves' Workshop Train will follow to allow more riders to enjoy this one of a kind holiday experience.

2018 Allstate CTA Holiday Train schedule

Click the dates below to see full details. (Unlinked dates will have detailed schedules added soon.)

Green LineOrange Line Fri 11/23
photo dayGreen Line Sat 11/24
Green LineOrange Line Tue 11/27
Orange Line & Brown Line Wed 11/28
Orange Line & Brown Line Thu 11/29
Orange Line & Brown Line Fri 11/30
photo dayOrange Line & Brown Line Sat 12/1
Pink Line Tue 12/4
Pink Line Wed 12/5
Blue Line Thu 12/6
Blue Line Fri 12/7
photo dayBlue Line (+ photo-only stop on Pink Line) Sat 12/8
Red Line Tue 12/11
Purple Line Wed 12/12
Red Line Thu 12/13
Purple Line Fri 12/14
photo dayRed Line & Purple Line Sat 12/15
Purple Line Thu 12/20
Yellow Line Fri 12/21

instantpic = Photos with Santa; Elves' Workshop Train in service and directly following the main holiday train

 

2018 Allstate CTA Holiday Bus

Day or night, the commutes of thousands and the streets of Chicago’s neighborhoods are made merry with the Allstate CTA Holiday Bus. Now a part of our holiday tradition for years, 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.

Schedule

The bus will travel multiple CTA bus routes throughout the city between late November and late December, 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 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.

2018 Allstate CTA Holiday Bus schedule

NOTE: schedule times are approximate and subject to change.

Route

Date in service

Departure times 
 

#56 Milwaukee


 

Tue 11/27

12:45p
NB from Madison/Wabash

photo day
Wed 11/28

12:30p
SB from Jefferson Park Blue Line

Photo session:
@ Jefferson Park Blue Line
approx. 3:30p-4:30p

#92 Foster
#91 Austin

Thu 11/29

12:25p
WB as #92 from Berwyn Red Line to Jefferson Park Blue line

1:25p
SB as #91 from Jefferson Park Blue Line

6:45p
EB as #92 from Jefferson Park Blue Line to Berwyn Red Line

#22 Clark

photo day
Fri 11/30

12:30p
SB from Howard Terminal (Red/Purple/Yellow lines)

Photo session:
@Howard Terminal
approx: 4p-5p

#22 Clark
#97 Skokie

photo day
Sat 12/1

12:40p
WB as #97 from Howard Terminal to Old Orchard

Photo session:
@Old Orchard
approx: 1:35p-2:30p

3:40p
SB as #22 from Howard Terminal to Harrison/Clark

#66 Chicago

photo day
Tue 12/4

 12:00p
 EB from Chicago/Austin

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

Wed 12/5

12:25p
EB from Chicago/Austin

#126 Jackson

photo day
Thu 12/6

1:50p
EB from Jackson/Austin

Photo session:
@ Jackson/Austin
approx. 4:20p-5:20p

#12 Roosevelt

photo day
Fri 12/7

1:05p
EB from Harrison/Central

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

Sat 12/8

1:10p
EB from Harrison/Central

#31 31st

Tue 12/11

2:00p
EB from Ashland Orange Line

2:40p
WB from 33rd Place/Lake Meadow

3:15p
EB from Ashland Orange Line

NOTE: the final trip will depart at 4p from
33rd Place/Lake Meadow to Sox-35th Red Line

#29 State

photo day
Wed 12/12

12:50p
NB from 95th Red Line

Photo session:
@ Navy Pier
approx. 5:25p-6:25p

Thu 12/13

12:50p
NB from 95th Red Line

#28 Stony Island

photo day
Fri 12/14

1:10p
NB from Olive Harvey College 
to 47th/Lake Park

3:05p
NB from Olive Harvey College 
to Union Station

Photo session:
@ Union Station
approx. 4:45p-5:45p

#62 Archer

photo day
Sat 12/15

12:20p
NB from Midway Orange Line

Photo session:
@ Midway Orange Line
approx. 3:05p-4:05p

Sun 12/16

1:10p
SB from Kinzie/Sate

#49 Western

#X49 Western Exp.

photo day
Wed 12/19

12:30p
NB as #49 from 79th/Western

2:30p
SB as #X49 from Berwyn/Western

Photo session:
@ 79th/Western
approx. 4:25p-5:25p
 

5:40p
NB as #X49 from 79th/Western

7:25p
SB as #49 from Berwyn/Western

#79 79th

photo day
Thu 12/20

12:40p
EB from 79th/Western

1:55p
WB from 79th/Lake Front 
to Ford City Mall

Photo session:
@ Ford City Mall
approx. 3:25p-4:25p

#King Drive

Fri 12/21

12:20p
NB from 95th/Chicago State U. 

photo day
Sat 12/22

1:45p
SB from Ontario/Fairbanks

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

#87 87th

Sun 12/23

12:05p
EB from 88th/Cicero to 91st/Commercial

photo day indicates scheduled date for photos with Santa

 

Travel tips

Both the 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 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 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 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 train or 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.  

Happy Holidays! (Video)