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Signal Mountain Lions Club members Ken Abel, right, and Jay Casavant check out the wooden train while touching up paint on Friday, December 4, 2015, on Signal Mountain. The Lions Club has been repairing the train, which has suffered from the elements, and the locomotive was rebuilt this year.
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Signal Mountain Lions Club member Ken Abel puts away paint after doing some touch up on the wooden train Friday, December 4, 2015, on Signal Mountain. The Lions Club has been repairing the train, which has suffered from the elements, and the locomotive was rebuilt this year.

For another year, residents of Signal Mountain will see the colorful Santa Express train as they drive into the city.

The train was built 13 years ago by Stanley Crewe and Glenn Showalter, who wanted more holiday decorations when people rolled into town. After Crewe died a few years ago, the train wasn't put out one Christmas season at its customary location, just across from CVS on Signal Mountain Boulevard.

"And then everybody fussed about it," said John Wynne, one of the town's historians.

The Signal Mountain Lions Club has been in charge of the project ever since. This year, the club refurbished the train to its former glory, putting on new wood pieces with coats of the brightly colored paint that's made the train so iconic in the mountaintop community.

"So the idea was, no one would really know we renovated it," said Ken Abel of the Lions Club. "Except us."

Abel is a retired handyman who's donated his time to help restore the old train. The Santa Express was taken out of storage last Thursday.

Abel said it's popular in the community with kids who act out their conductor fantasies and families that take pictures by it.

Wynne has a framed picture of the train taken the day after Christmas last year. The two inches of snow the town got contrasts with the choo choo's bright pastel colors.

The train, which began as an idea to provide decoration to the town, has become one of Signal Mountain's symbols of the Christmas season.

"It sure didn't start out as much," Wynne said.

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer @timesfreepress.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.

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