You can track Santa and his sleigh via GPS, but the CTA’s Holiday Train is off the grid.
The Holiday Train is operating in stealth mode this season, delivering moments of Christmas cheer in a spontaneous fashion more reminiscent of its early pre-Train Tracker days than the highly orchestrated photo-op people have grown accustomed to in recent years.
Though CTA has shared a list of dates the train will appear on specific rail lines, and has said, in general, it’ll run during afternoons, that’s as much detail as the agency is providing.
Because the train is running out of service, with no passengers allowed, estimated arrival times at stations aren’t showing up in CTA’s Train Tracker feature, according to a CTA spokeswoman. (A candy cane icon has typically indicated the train’s movement.)
That’s led to frustration among some Chicagoans, who were hoping to plan a train sighting.
"Give us the schedule, Go******it," one irritated person posted to social media.
The agency is remaining vague on purpose in order to avoid drawing crowds due to the coronavirus pandemic, the spokeswoman said.
"While the Holiday Train — like so many other regular fixtures of our lives — has been impacted this year, we are hopeful it still helps spread joy throughout the city," she said.
That seems to be the case among those who’ve been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the festive train, many of whom have excitedly shared video on Twitter.
Said one: "I just saw the holiday train and it brightened my day."
We got lucky and caught the @cta #HolidayTrain!!! They aren’t posting the schedule this year, so we decided to just head out with the dog & only had to wait around 6-7 minutes before Santa & crew rolled by! #CTAHolidayTrain pic.twitter.com/Rqk4jA9Sl2
— Kevin Irvine (he/him/his) (@KevinIrvineChi) December 3, 2020
— elisabeth (@its_elisaboo) December 3, 2020
— Denice B Nice (@chicityvegan) December 2, 2020
@cta My 4 year old was watching trains out the window and started freaking out just now as the Holiday Train went by! So happy to see it, even if we can’t ride this year.
— Grafumbly (@Grafumbly) December 2, 2020
@cta I just saw the holiday train and it brightened my day!!
— Sequoia Xmas Tree-maine (@haikuforfilth) December 2, 2020