The Oxford Court Christmas Train is back in town after a two-year hiatus, giving longtime fans of Turlock’s beloved holiday tradition reason to celebrate.
Two decades ago, former Oxford Court residents Carl Thornton and Randy Sangster created the novelty train and its elevated track from scratch, using hundreds of pieces of conduit piping and plenty of electrical wires. The train, made up of an engine and Santa in his sleigh, travels around the court on 700 feet of track elevated eight feet into the air, making its way around 10 different homes on the route.
The 10 properties have seen changes in the past few years, said Oxford Court resident Michele Jaggers, and when Thornton and Sangster eventually moved out of the neighborhood, the Christmas Train tradition fell apart. While remaining residents Tony Romero and Jeff Jaggers inherited the train when its creators left, its unique construction left the pair scratching their heads when electrical issues arose.
The train operates using various parts, including a motor from a children’s electric car, Rubbermaid trash cans and lids, windshield wiper motors and a rotisserie-style spit.
When the Oxford Court group ran into problems operating the Christmas Train, the maintenance issues coupled with a lack of manpower forced a temporary shutdown of Santa’s train station.
“The last time the train operated was in 2014, but our little cul de sac has gone through a lot of changes over the past 20 years,” said Michele. “We didn’t have the man power to put the train up and we didn’t have the brain power to figure out how to fix it.”
Everything changed this year, however, when Romero retired from his position as a teacher at Hughson High School, resulting in more free time which he could spend working on the Christmas Train. More willing participants have also moved into the court this year, said Michele, and “really stepped up to the plate” to provide the man power that was needed to build the massive track.
In a weeks-long process, the neighbors worked together to assemble the 61 poles, 65 pieces of track, 120 pigtail wire connections and approximately 600 feet of wiring that create the train’s path.
“This year, everybody wanted to do it,” said Michele. “Everyone has been so kind coming by to thank us for bringing it back.”
In addition to the cheery train that chugs its way around the court every evening, visitors can also enjoy hot cocoa with Santa Claus this Friday and Saturday. There are also some new features at Oxford Court this year courtesy of new neighbors, added Michele, including a particular yard that went all-out when it came to Christmas decorating this year.
“We have a new neighbor who said he really likes Christmas, and he was not exaggerating. His display is mind-boggling,” said Michele. “Everyone stepped their game up this year.”
The Oxford Court group is excited to not only bring Christmas cheer back to their neighborhood, but to also continue the tradition of spreading joy to the rest of Turlock through the cul de sac’s giving tree, which has been hung with gift tags for children served by Turlock Together.
The court has served as a Turlock Together collection point for food and toys since the train’s inception, and the organization has come to expect significant donations from visitors to the court, said Michele.
“We usually donate a lot of stuff, and we haven’t been able to over the past couple of years so that was sorely missed,” she said. “It means a lot to bring this tradition back. People are so vocal in thanking us and are really enjoying it. Now their kids and bringing their kids, and so on. We’re happy to do this.”
The Oxford Court Christmas Train will run every night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Dec. 25.