Santa Claus and his elves surprised some very excited children from Birmingham Children’s Hospital on Saturday 16 December as they embarked on a magical journey from Birmingham Moor Street station to London Marylebone on board the Chiltern Santa Train.

The festive train, which was unveiled by Chiltern Railways as the UK’s fastest sleigh earlier this month, was used as a special charter service on Saturday for families from Birmingham Children’s Hospital as well as Home-Start Banbury and Bowel Cancer UK.

Filled to the brim with decorations, games and Christmas music, there were children’s entertainers and Chiltern Railways staff dressed as elves to spread the festive cheer throughout the train. Smiles and laughter filled the air as it made its way towards the capital where the families got to spend a few hours exploring the city before Santa’s sleigh departed the station once more.

Chiltern Railways’ Customer Services Director, Alan Riley, transformed into Santa Claus, donning the red suit and welcomed the guests on board. He visited every child at their seat, posed for photos and presented everyone with a gift. He said: “Sharing the day with such a special group of families made it one of the most rewarding of my career.  Spending time with each child and seeing them filled with happiness and pure joy was an experience I’ll never forget.”

One year old Arlo Watson, a patient at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and the face of the charity’s £2 million Critical Journeys Appeal in which Chiltern Railways are supporting, took the special journey with his family and loved every minute of it, especially his cuddly bear from Santa Claus.

Laura, Arlo’s mum said: “It was a really lovely day, full of excitement from start to finish. The on-board elves couldn't do enough for us all and worked their socks off to make sure the boys were happy and entertained throughout. The bears they received from Father Christmas are beautiful and they all love them. We all had an amazing day and one we'll never forget. A huge thank you to everyone who made it possible.”

Find out more about the appeal by visiting, or make a donation by texting TIME18, followed by your donation, to 70070 (e.g. TIME18 £5).