Newport resident and Holiday Train volunteer Emily White takes 'sentimental' ride
In 2002 Emily White and her husband Tom drove from their Newport home to Tinucci's Restaurant for a view of the passing Canadian Pacific Holiday Train.
It was the first year the Holiday Train, adorned with Christmas lights, traveled through the U.S. but there wasn't yet a south Washington County stop on the route.
So that year they just watched as the train passed through town.
"That was the last thing we did together," White recalled.
Within two days her husband had a massive heart attack and died.
Eleven years later, on the anniversary of her husband's death, White took a special ride on the rails. She was among local residents selected to travel a leg on the Holiday Train before its Cottage Grove stop last Tuesday.
"It was just kind of a sentimental thing for me," White said.
The following year, in 2003, White offered to volunteer for the first Holiday Train stop in Cottage Grove. White has served on the Holiday Train Committee ever since. She has been in charge of organizing volunteers but said she never really gave any thought to riding the train herself.
This year there were extra tickets so organizers drew names of committee members to decide who would ride the train. White was picked.
"My name is never drawn for anything," she said. "It was hard to believe."
White brought along her eldest "grand-nephew," who is 5, for the ride from Red Wing to Hastings. She said he enjoyed when the train was moving, but admitted to Santa aboard the train that it was "boring" when the festive train had to stop to allow freight trains to pass.
White said she enjoyed the ride through rural Goodhue and Dakota counties. It was not yet dark, so she could see open fields covered in a fresh snowfall.
"It was beautiful," she said.
White said she wants to continue volunteering with the Holiday Train Committee. The Holiday Train stop, which raises money for the Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park, is a fun event for a great cause, she said.
"It's just a real meaningful thing for me," White said.