People wait as the Holiday Train stops at Sedgwick

Allstate CTA Holiday Train & Bus

Note: This page contains information from the 2019 season.

The Allstate CTA Holiday Train is a holiday tradition unique to Chicago, which, due to popular demand, is now accompanied by the Allstate CTA 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.

Jump to:


2019 Allstate CTA Holiday Train
& Allstate CTA 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.

NEW: Bonus train trip Monday, December 23!

We want to say "thank you" our customers, we’ve arranged for Santa to make one final, very special run aboard the Allstate CTA Holiday Train on Monday, December 23. Santa will turn the Holiday Train into a “Loop Shuttle,” continuously making his way around the Outer Loop track (Brown Line side) and making all Loop stops between 11am and 2pm. Travel time around the Loop is about 15 minutes, so hop on, hop off and join us to see Santa off for 2019!


2019 Allstate CTA Holiday Train regular schedule

Click the dates below to see full details.

Green LineOrange Line Fri 11/29
photo dayGreen Line Sat 11/30
Green LineOrange Line Tue 12/3
Orange Line & Brown Line Wed 12/4
Orange Line & Brown Line Thu 12/5
Orange Line & Brown Line Fri 12/6
photo dayOrange Line & Brown Line Sat 12/7
Pink Line Tue 12/10
Pink Line Wed 12/11
Blue Line Thu 12/12
Blue Line Fri 12/13
photo dayBlue Line (+ photo-only stop on Pink Line) Sat 12/14
Red Line Tue 12/17
Purple Line Wed 12/18
Red Line Thu 12/19
Purple Line Fri 12/20
photo dayRed Line & Purple Line Sat 12/21
Yellow Line Skokie Swift Bird Mon 12/23

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


2019 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 since 2014, CTA employees have 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 of the bus features Chicago's skyline one snowy evening with “Ralphie the Reindeer” leading the way, his nose aglow and Santa’s sleigh in tow. Festive strings of lights outline the bus and its windows, along with sparkling snowflakes that light-up at night.  

Inside, the bus features multi-colored lights, holiday-themed seating, candy-cane striping, artwork created by students from Perkins Bass Elementary School. 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 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.

2019 Allstate CTA Holiday Bus schedule


NOTE: schedule times are approximate and subject to change.


Date in service

Departure times 

#56 Milwaukee


Tue 11/26

NB from Madison/Wabash

Wed 11/27
photo day

SB from Jefferson Park Blue Line
Photo session:
@ Jefferson Park Blue Line
approx. 4:20p-5:20p

#22 Clark
#97 Skokie

Fri 11/29
photo day

WB as #97 from Howard Terminal to Old Orchard

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


EB from Old Orchard

SB as #22 from Howard Terminal to Harrison/Clark

#22 Clark

Sat 11/30
photo day

SB from Howard Terminal (Red/Purple/Yellow lines)
Photo session:
@Howard Terminal
approx: 4:10p-5:05p

#92 Foster
#91 Austin

Sun 12/1

WB as #92 from Berwyn Red Line to Jefferson Park Blue line

SB as #91 from Jefferson Park Blue Line

EB as #92 from Jefferson Park Blue Line to Berwyn Red Line

#66 Chicago

Tue 12/3
photo day

 EB from Chicago/Austin

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

Wed 12/4

EB from Chicago/Austin

#126 Jackson

Thu 12/5

EB from Jackson/Austin

#12 Roosevelt

Fri 12/6
photo day

EB from Harrison/Central

Photo session:
@ Harrison/Central
approx. 4:10p-5:10p

Sat 12/7

EB from Harrison/Central

#62 Archer


Wed 12/11

SB from Kinzie/Sate

Thu 12/12
photo day

NB from Midway Orange Line

Photo session:
@ Midway Orange Line
approx. 4:05p-5:05p

#49 Western

#X49 Western Exp.

Fri 12/13
photo day

NB as #49 from 79th/Western

SB as #X49 from Berwyn/Western


Photo session:
@ 79th/Western
approx. 4:25p-5:40p 


NB as #X49 from 79th/Western

SB as #49 from Berwyn/Western

#79 79th

Sat 12/14
photo day

EB from 79th/Western

WB from 79th/Lake Front 
to Ford City Mall


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

#3 King Drive

Wed 12/18
photo day

SB from Ontario/Fairbanks

Photo session:
@ 95th/Chicago State U.
approx. 3:20p-4:20p

Thu 12/19

NB from 95th/Chicago State U. 

#28 Stony Island

Fri 12/20
photo day

NB from Olive Harvey College 
to 47th/Lake Park

NB from Olive Harvey College 
to Union Station

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

#29 State

Sat 12/21
photo day

NB from 95th Red Line

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

Sun 12/22

NB from 95th Red Line

#J14 Jeffrey Jump

Mon 12/23

NB from 103rd/Stony Island

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 through the rear doors.  
System status snapshot
‘L’ route status
Red Line
Normal Service
Brown Line
Normal Service
Green Line
Normal Service
Orange Line
Normal Service
Pink Line
Normal Service
Purple Line
Normal Service
Yellow Line
Normal Service
Bus routes w/alerts
Elevator alerts