The Hadden Express carrying children and other passengers through a neighborhood
(Photo courtesy of The Hadden Express)

‘Train Lady’ Brings Happiness to Hamilton County Neighborhoods During Pandemic

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — All aboard the Hadden Express!

Ashlin Hadden is a mother from Noblesville. Like all other parents, 2020 has been rough. She was tired of being sad and bored during the pandemic. So one day, she asked her children what makes them happy.

“My 8-year-old son, Gavin, was like ‘Remember when we rode that train over the winter?’ and I was like ‘Oh, the Polar Express?’ and he said ‘Yeah, I had so much fun on that train,” Hadden told WIBC’s Terri Stacy. “So I was like, let’s just go Google and see what does it cost to buy a train.”

She found that a zoo in North Dakota was trying to sell a 53-foot-long train that they used to carry visitors around on the streets and sidewalks of the zoo.

Hadden purchased it — a 20-year-old Italian train — and most of it was shipped back to central Indiana in a semi. However, the entire train could not fit, so her father drove all the way to North Dakota with a truck and trailer, and brought the rest of the train back to Hamilton County.

Then, the hard work began.

“We put different wheels on it,” Hadden said. “Many, many hours of TLC, cleaning this thing and re-painting it and getting it ready for children to be on it.”

Hadden and her family then began to offer free rides in her neighborhood.

“Everybody was loving it, and I was just like, this is so good,” she said. “The kids love it, we loved it, we love seeing the smiles, and it’s just kind of expanded from there.”

More and more neighborhoods started asking for the Hadden Express to make a stop in their areas, and Hadden answered the call, offering rides to kids and spreading happiness.

Each weekend, they come up with different themes for the children to enjoy when they hop on board.

“This weekend, we did National Talk Like a Pirate Day, so we dressed up in pirate costumes, and I handed out eye patches,” Hadden said.

Now, Hadden has become simply known as “Train Lady” in many neighborhoods across Hamilton County.

With the pandemic still going on, each ride can carry up to 40 people, and they wipe and clean the train after every ride. At full capacity, Hadden says they’ll be able to carry about 100 people on a single ride.

“My heart is just full to the brim,” she said.

For photos and more information on the train, go to www.thehaddenexpress.com.

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