This year, I didn't really get a chance to get a Holiday Train. The closest I got was seeing the Holiday Train going in the opposite direction on Saturday, December 20, when I was taking the Red Line north.
I thought that was going to be it. But the next Monday, I had to take the Yellow Line to Skokie (to transfer to the bus that would get me to the Village of Niles). I had a vague memory that there was going to be a Holiday Train on the Yellow Line, but for some reason, I was still surprised to see one pull up on the other side of the station.
Now, for those of you who've never taken the 'L' this far north, one of the things that makes Yellow Line unique is that the Yellow Line trains are only two train cars long. The Holiday Train has the standard eight. The Yellow Line train platforms could technically fit three cars, maybe four, but certainly not all eight.
So, I thought, they simply truncated the train. That made sense.
It would take a few minutes for the train to turn around and arrive at the platform I was standing on. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the beautiful view of Chicago's northern edge, and the sunset-tinged skies above it.
Here's the train pulling up to the platform.
And here's what the train looks like inside.
The woman in the red vest and Santa hat is one of the "elves" - volunteer CTA employees who handed out candy canes and Holiday Train schedules.
As I've said earlier, the Holiday Train has Christmas-themed, tongue-in-cheek ads in place of the regular CTA ads.
And this time - I don't think I've seen this one before - they had ads of CTA employees wishing riders Happy Holidays. Which I thought was a nice touch.
The Holiday train also had these glass things by the doors - something that many families gladly took advantage of.
Another thing that makes the Yellow Line unusual is that it was designed to be a quick express line. So the 'L' trains actually run at something much closer to full speed without much interruption. It wasn't long before we reached the first of the line's two Skokie stops - Oakton-Skokie station.
Which is where I got off to catch my bus.
When I got back to Skokie, it was pretty dark - but I was pleasantly surprised to see the Holiday Train at the northbound side of the platform.
It was the opposite of where I was going, so I didn't board - but I figured I might as well take some pictures.
I figured that was it for the Holiday Train. After all, there was only one of them, and the train tracker indicated that there was another train, a southbound train, approaching the station in a few minutes.
So imagine my surprise when I saw a Holiday Train approaching.
There was no way it was the same Holiday Train. I know how long it takes the Yellow Line train to reach its final destination at Dempster-Skokie, turn around and head back to Oakton-Skokie.
And then, I saw another train coming in from the southeast, heading towards Oakton-Skokie. And it was - guess what? - another Holiday Train.
Remember how I said that the Holiday Train had the standard eight cars? I realized than that the CTA probably split the Holiday Train into three pieces (leaving out the platform-like cars with Santa's sleigh). I don't know why CTA did it like this, but it meant that the Holiday Train was running more or less continuously on the Yellow Line for the entire evening rush hour for several hours. And no other 'L' line could say that.
I got inside the Howard-bound train... And I realized that I've never, ever seen the Yellow Line train this crowded. Not in the 10 years I've been riding the Yellow Line. Not even during the Cubs games.
Here's the train dropping passengers off at Howard 'L' station.
As I was waiting for the Red Line train that would take me home, another Holiday Train pulled into the station.
Because of course.