Shining Time Station: 'Tis a Gift

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'Tis a Gift
Written byBrian McConnachie
Directed byGregory Lehane
  • Ringo Starr
  • Didi Conn
  • Nicole Leach
  • Rachel Miner
  • Brian O'Connor
  • Jason Woliner
  • Lloyd Bridges
Theme music composer
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
  • Britt Allcroft
  • Rick Siggelkow
Editor(s)Michael Belanger
Running time56 minutes
Production company(s)Quality Family Entertainment
Original networkPBS
Original release
  • November 25, 1990 (1990-11-25) Logo.png Search Shining Time Station: 'Tis a Gift on Amazon.

'Tis a Gift is a Christmas special of the PBS television series Shining Time Station. It was first broadcast on November 25, 1990.

Synopsis and television cast change[edit]


It is Christmastime at Shining Time Station. The scene opens with Mr. Conductor (Ringo Starr) carrying a freshly cut Christmas tree into his signal house.

The station is filled with people trying to catch trains to take them to see their families. Even Schemer (Brian O'Connor) is in a good mood, because the Indian Valley committee is putting on a Christmas pageant and he is almost certain to get the part of Santa's helper. The kids, Matt (Jason Woliner) and Tanya (Nicole Leach), write letters to Santa Claus and Mr. Conductor sends them on their way.

An old man, Mr. Nicholas (Lloyd Bridges), enters the station carrying a Christmas tree with Harry's cousin, Tucker Cooper (Ardon Bess), and immediately knows everything about Stacy Jones (Didi Conn) from when she was a little girl. Mr. Nicholas says he is there to catch the Northern Star, a train that doesn't run on that railway, but Mr. Nicholas is confident it will come.

Meanwhile, Stacy agrees to watch Claire's (Judy Marshak) daughter, Vickie (Rachel Miner), a bratty little girl, at the station. Matt and Tanya dislike her because of her attitude. She meets Mr. Nicholas, who teaches her to be nice to people and it soon begins to work. Schemer's mother has made him a Santa's helper costume and he begins his campaign against Stacy by telling Midge Smoot (Bobo Lewis), J.B. King (Mart Hulswit) and the Mayor (Jerome Dempsey) untrue things about her.

Mr. Nicholas (actually Santa Claus) is still waiting for the Northern Star. To everyone's surprise, the train pulls into the station as he had predicted. Meanwhile, the fighting continues over who will play the part of Santa's helper. Mr. Nicholas encourages Vickie to use her gift of song to quell the conflict. Her singing of the 1848 Shaker song "Simple Gifts" reminds them all of the true spirit of Christmas. Harmony is restored as all gather around the tree to celebrate the power of believing and everyone gets to play Santa's helper and Vickey reconciles with her mom Claire.


The second-season casting change from Ringo Starr to George Carlin as Mr. Conductor would be explained by Starr's character having left Shining Time Station to go with Mr. Nicholas to the North Pole. While there is a brief encounter at the end of this program between Mr. Nicholas and Mr. Conductor, nothing in the story actually mentions Mr. Conductor's departure.

The snowy winter footage used for the opening and closing sequences was filmed at the Grand Canyon Railway between Williams, Arizona and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The final filmed scene of the title sequence shows the train pulling into the former Santa Fe Railway station at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. The historic Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar Hotel are in the background nearby. The steam locomotive shown is #18, a 2-8-0 type. Number 18 appears again during the third musical number, "It's Christmas Time at the Railway Station", and also contributes the sound of its whistle, a Southern Pacific six-chime, for Mr. Nicholas' heard-but-not-seen "Northern Star." This locomotive later operated the Mount Hood Railroad in Oregon for 2006 & 2007 only, And from 2008 onwards, it is operating at the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad in Colorado.


  • Ringo Starr as Mr. Conductor
  • Didi Conn as Stacy Jones
  • Brian O'Connor as Schemer
  • Jason Woliner as Matt Jones
  • Nicole Leach as Tanya Cupper
  • Lloyd Bridges as Mr. Nicholas
  • Ardon Bess as Tucker Cooper
  • Bobo Lewis as Midge Smoot
  • Jerome Dempsey as Mayor Flopdinger
  • Mart Hulswit as Mr. J.B. King Esquire
  • Judy Marshak as Claire
  • Rachel Miner as Vickie

The Jukebox Band

  • Jonathan Freeman as Tito
  • Olga Marin as Didi
  • Vaneese Thomas as Grace
  • Alan Semok as Tex
  • Craig Marin as Rex

See also[edit]

  • List of American films of 1990
  • List of Christmas television specials

External links[edit]

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