Dozens of excited children and their parents attended the launch of this year’s Santa Express at the Assembly Hall on Saturday.
On hand to greet them was Santa himself, Bing the polar bear and the cast of this season’s pantomime.
The children flocked to speak to Dani Harmer, the actress who portrays CBBC favourite Tracy Beaker and is playing the lead role of Cinderella this year.
They also got to meet television favourites Jamie Rickers from CITV, who is playing the role of Buttons, and Louise Jameson from Doctor Who, as the Fairy Godmother.
Other guests attending the launch included Councillor Jane March and Polly Taylor of the Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre, one of two charities, along-side the Bridge Trust, which is set to benefit from Santa Express donations.
The first passengers aboard were children and families of the Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre.
Mrs Taylor said: “It was an absolutely amazing day. I am so glad I was there to see their happy faces when they were meeting Santa, Cinderella, Buttons and Bing the bear. It really has been a great start to their Christmas.”
Nick Moore, commercial director at Markerstudy Leisure, which has provided the train, said: “Despite the strong winds, this year’s Santa Express services started right on time on Saturday and the train crew is poised and ready to transport Christmas shoppers around the town in the run-up to Christmas Eve.”
After initial services at the weekend, the land train will run every day from this Saturday until Christmas Eve between 10 and 4.
It is operating between The Pantiles and the Assembly Halls, via the High Street, with passengers able to embark and disembark at either end of the route.
As part of the festivities another Santa Express will take visitors past the Elf village and reindeers between 21 and 24 December at Salomons Estate, near Southborough. Salomons House will play host to a traditional Santa’s grotto and a mini market.