SHE was once a little girl who couldn’t understand Christmas, but watching Niamh O’Brien greeting Santa you would never know. It is the first time that the severely autistic six-year-old from Erdington can enjoy the magic of Christmas, and that’s mainly down to specialist treatments and therapies at her school, The Pines. Niamh was one of 25 children from across Birmingham, who were taken on a magical ride to London on the Santa Express – a special service organised by train provider London Midland. The youngsters, aged from three to 13, were all nominated for the special treat by relatives to reward them for facing and overcoming various challenges in their young lives. “It is you, it is you, Santa, I love you very much,” said an excited Niamh as the children were greeted by Father Christmas in the platform waiting room at Birmingham New Street station. Not only was it a special moment for the schoolgirl, dressed in a princess costume, it was a moment to cherish for mum Tracey. “Niamh struggles with the things that seem so easy to everyone else. She didn’t understand imagination so she didn’t understand Santa. I have been waiting for this moment for so long. This is the magic of Christmas.” said the 37-year-old nurse. Ten of the children were chosen from nominations by Birmingham Mail readers in print and online in a competition run by the newspaper in conjunction with London Midland. Another ten were chosen by BRMB listeners and five nominated by Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The children, accompanied by parents, boarded the London Midland Santa Express bound for London Euston for a day out at tourist attraction Madame Tussauds and to see the sights of the capital. So eager to board that he dragged his mum onto the train, was Robbie Palin. His family were told he would never walk due to bleeding on the brain which caused epilepsy after he was born at 25 weeks weighing just one lb 10 oz. Now almost aged four, Robbie still requires oxygen at bedtime but his remarkable progression has defied medics. Mum Claire, said: “He was so excited, about Santa but also going on the train.” It was a first time trip to London for many of the children, including five-year old Isabel Boate. The Chilcote School pupil was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and since then she has had to have hundreds of injections. “I like Santa because he is funny, he is kind because he gives presents all night,” she wrote as Christmas songs played on the fun-filled carriage. Dad Gavin, a teacher from Hall Green, said: “She needs five injections a day but she doesn’t let it bother her, she has been so good. “She was so excited about the Santa Express and kept asking how many sleeps to go.” It was also a first time trip to London for six-year-old Evie Goan from South Yardley. Dressed to impress in red, Evie, who was born with a chronic lung disease but has made a miraculous recovery, was excited to have her picture taken with waxworks pop superstar Lady Gaga. Meanwhile nine-year old Jacob Ellis, from Sutton Coldfield, saw David Beckham, Johnny Wilkinson and lots of other sports personalities. He said: “I had my picture with the Queen and Prince Philip and one with Jack Sparrow. “The 4D show was excellent and it poked you in the back and sprayed water on you.” Jacob has scoliosis – curvature of the spine – since he was a baby. He attends the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital every six months to have an operation to have the metal rods in his back lengthened. The brave youngster was nominated by mum Sarah Dorsett after a family holiday in August had to be cancelled when Jacob’s back became infected and he needed more surgery. The Christmas treat remained a surprise for Jacob until the last minute. “I had no idea where we were going, mum didn’t tell me until we got to the station.” Speaking after the trip he said: “I went to Camden Market and bought some Christmas presents for my sisters. “After that we went on the tube to Regent Street and looked for Hamleys. It was very exciting there as I loved all the lights. I went on all five floors and it was time to go home. The day went quickly. “We got the last train home from Euston at 9.26pm and my dad and sister collected us after midnight at New Street. While Jacob went on the lookout for football stars and members of the Royal family, Joshua Sargant, aged five, made a beeline for actress Kate Winslet. “I want to marry her.” beamed the five-year-old. Joshua, was nominated bymum Lisa Stokes and dad Paul, to reward him for being so supportive after younger sister Millie was born with Down’s Syndrome. One of the youngest children on the trip was four-year-old Liam Tapp, who was diagnosed with a type of cancer called Wilms Tumour earlier this year. Grandmother Jan from Great Barr said: “He has been through a lot, we wanted to give him a special day out.” Keane Goldingay, who has been a hero for mum Andrea McLoughlin, since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, was more excited about the train journey. The five-year-old, who knows exactly what to do if his mum is ill, is a keen train spotter. The group’s eldest member was teenager Ryan Jones, who has had a tough year after his grandmother died and his father emigrated to New Zealand. The 13-year-old, from Streetly, was excited about spending the day in London, especially hitting the shops in Oxford Street. “I just want to look around, my mates have been and said it’s really good.” The Birmingham Mail winners were completed by sixyear-old Callum Edgington, who was recently diagnosed with brain damage. The youngster, who despite his challenges likes helping others, has a great love of trains. Richard Brooks, head of station services at London Midland, said: “What better way to celebrate our new service of a train to London every 20 minutes for £20 than with these 25 amazing kids? “They have incredible stories and we wanted to do something special to make Christmas magical for them.” Whatever you need this Christmas, go to LocalMole.co.uk - the fast, accurate local business directory.