On Dec. 12, the train traveled around Lake Okeechobee to donate gifts to Toys for Tots organizations in the area with assistance from members of the United States Marines Corps and a little help from Santa Claus. The train made stops in Moore Haven, Clewiston, Belle Glade and Martin County.
“We’re gonna give out a lot of toys to a lot of children in these Glades farming communities,” said Ryan Duffy, U.S. Sugar’s director of corporate communications, shortly before the Sugar Express embarked on the trip. “As everyone knows it’s been a tough year. The last thing we want to see is our children not having a present on Christmas. Could not be happier to be doing what we’re doing today.”
Parents can sign up to receive toys later in December directly from the program at toysfortots.org.
“The fact that U.S. Sugar wants to dive in with us to ensure our kids are caring, productive, and responsible citizens means a lot to me,” said Anthony Davis, director of operations for Boys and Girls Club of the Palm Beaches. “The fact that they want to make sure that our families and our kids are having a great time this holiday season is amazing.”
Santa was along for the trip to wave at children on the route from the train. At each of the four stops, children were able to drop off a letter for Santa to take back to the North Pole.
The train carrying Santa, the Sugar Express, was recently restored this year. U.S. Sugar had been working to restore the steam locomotive since 2016. The train, which the Florida East Coast Railway originally received delivery of in June 1920, ran throughout their system, including on the fabled Key West Extension. The Florida East Coast Railway, the only rail system along the east coast of Florida, maintained the locomotive until 1952, when it was acquired by U.S. Sugar.
The restoration of the steam locomotive was completed just before U.S. Sugar began its 90th harvest season this year.