previous   |   view all   |   next



Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) will honor the late John Lahoski on Saturday, July 31 with a car-naming ceremony. Lahoski made many contributions to the historic railroad and helped shape it into what the community knows today. He was the driving force behind the growth of the North Pole, the destination for families on board CVSR`s Christmas Train Ride.

"We are excited that we can honor John by renaming one of our historic train cars in his name," said CVSR President and CEO Joe Mazur. "John was the driving force behind the growth of the North Pole and his vision helped shape our Christmas Train Ride and make it an annual holiday tradition for families all over Northeast Ohio and beyond."

The ceremony is open to the public and will take place on Saturday, July 31 at 5:00PM. at Terry Lumber on the lawn next to the tracks located at 1710 Mill Street. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite elf costume. After the ceremony, guests are invited to take a one-hour train ride on CVSR`s historic train cars where they will enjoy drinks and light snacks. To claim your complimentary ticket for the train ride please visit and type in the passcode NORTHPOLE (ALL CAPS). All tickets MUST be claimed by Monday, July 26 at 5:00PM. and all guests MUST have a ticket to ride the train.

Just as CVSR`s Christmas Train Ride has grown, the North Pole has come a long way, too. In the beginning, Santa came to the train on a horse-drawn sleigh and boarded the train in Peninsula [the "North Pole"] to give the children the "first gift of Christmas" on the return trip. Soon the folks at Terry Lumber & Supply Co. and Peninsula Hardwoods – companion family businesses headed by Lahoski and located along the tracks where Santa boarded in Peninsula – thought the North Pole should be better. Volunteering their time and providing their own costumes, John and his family and colleagues soon livened up the North Pole with toy soldiers, "Frosty," Christmas fairies, "Father & Mrs. Christmas" and elves of many types and sizes. The lumber warehouses and shops were decorated and, eventually, back-lighted shadow workshops had elves hammering away on toys and gifts.

From the beginning, John was the "Lead Elf" in a shirt with huge polka-dots, bilious-colored shorts and tights and a 3-bell tasseled jester`s hat, he used to say "You can`t miss me … I`m the ugliest elf here!" The crew as well as the kids loved him and his contribution to the North Pole; John and his team provided between ten and twenty elves each night!

In 2004, John wanted a bigger elf showing at the North Pole and set a goal of 100 elves on the last day. He invited his neighbors and other community members, and when the response was less than he wanted, he called, then knocked on doors to roust out the "elves." When the trains rolled into the North Pole on the final day, more than 130 elves spilled out from behind the buildings at the lumber yard to the delight of the kids as well as the train crew and volunteers on board.

John set a higher goal for the 2005 ride - 200 elves!! CVSR`s Trustees, community members and many others were planning to be there. The second-to-last evening, before the "200 Elf Night" [as it began to be known], John and his wife Judy, a leader of the Peninsula Garden Club, were lighting holiday luminaries on the Route 303 bridge in the center of Peninsula when John collapsed and passed away.

All the people in the community and at the railroad and the park, particularly those involved with the train ride, were stunned and heart-sick for Judy and her family and loved ones. That second-to-last night, the elves were not up to being at the North Pole, although Santa boarded the trains and rode with the children as planned. The morning of the final night in 2005 was somber. At the elf briefing later that evening at Terry Lumber`s hardware store – an old-fashioned set up with countless tools, nails by size in tin tubs, etc. people jammed the store aisles for the traditional briefing from one of John`s colleagues – "smile `n wave" … "don`t clump up" … "no sudden moves or sharp sounds so as not to spook the horse" … then "let`s do this one for John!"

When the trains came in that night, packed with kids wide-eyed at the wonder of the North Pole, close to 350 elves greeted them. They were spread out three and four deep along the trains` 600 feet or so, waving and cheering Santa. Members of the community, park supporters and fellow railroad board members and volunteers had turned out to honor John`s selfless contributions and inspiring character. For those who were privileged to know John and his contributions to this experience, being at the North Pole has a truly special meaning.

John`s tireless efforts to create a festive North Pole continue today. On most nights during the Christmas Train Ride more than 100 elves take part in the magical display at the North Pole. Terry Lumber continues to support CVSR`s efforts in providing a magical experience for thousands of families who take part in the holiday train ride.