While Christmas/holiday train rides have been around for quite some time, interest spiked after Warner Brothers Pictures released The Polar Express in November, 2004. The movie is based from Chris Van Allsburg acclaimed children's book by the same name, originally published in 1985. Today, numerous organizations host officially licensed trips featuring his work and these usually sell out months in advance. However, not all have chosen this route and instead offer their own Christmas-themed excursions. Many are also quite popular and some, too, sell out quite quickly! Featured below is a 2018 schedule of such events which are expected to operate. If you would like to learn more about officially licensed The Polar Express events please click here. Please Note! While I have striven to make sure the information presented is accurate to the best of my knowledge, I cannot say-so with 100% certainty. Please contact each individual organization regarding available trains, specific dates, times, and ticket pricing.
Please Read!!! All of Christmas events featured below are for the 2017-2018 season. Information regarding next season's (2018-2019) schedule will be presented here as it becomes available throughout the 2018 calendar year. Please continue to check back. Thanks!
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum: The North Pole Express/Santa Special is offered exclusively by the museum with kids able to meet Santa during a one-hour train ride and receive a small gift from the Jolly Man. The Santa Special is offered on select dates from late November through mid-December while the North Pole Express is available most Fridays through Sundays from late-November through mid-December.
North Alabama Railroad Museum: The Santa Train
carries a Christmas theme with the kids meeting Santa. Overall the
ride lasts for about 40 minutes and runs during select dates in December. They now also offer a second holiday-themed train, the North Star Limited. A bit similar to The Polar Express, the kids can enjoy a train, meet Santa, receive a small gift, and enjoy a snack upon arrival.
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No events known.
Arkansas & Missouri Railroad: This short line freight system also offers a number of
Christmas-themed activities after Thanksgiving including a Children's Christmas Train,
the Holiday Express, and even Pajama Trains similar to The Polar Express. Please visit the railroad's website for more information about these trips.
Fillmore & Western: The North Pole Express
is the Fillmore & Western's own Christmas train offered from late
November through late December. It is quite a spectacle with the entire
grounds decorated, Santa greets
passengers as they board, and a story is read during the ride. The
railroad also hosts several other activities such as the Christmas Tree Train, Santa Shopper, Return Santa To The North Pole, and Dinner With Santa.
Max's Miracle Ranch: This ranch is located in Biggs and offers a number of activities for the public along with being a working farm. On the grounds they also operate a scale railroad which hosts train rides, including their Christmas Light Extravaganza. They also sell Christmas trees and wreaths for the holiday.
Napa Valley Wine Train: The Santa Express Train is offered only by the railroad during December and features a one-hour ride with the kids able to meet Santa during the trip.
Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum: Based in Nevada City this organization hosts excursions on its property. While these do not include any type of Christmas or holiday train ride they do offer "Christmas At The Railroad Museum" allowing the kids to visit Santa and receive a gift.
Niles Canyon Railway: Offers the Train Of Lights through late November and during much of December with the train decorated in Christmas lights for the holiday season.
Pacific Southwest Railway Museum: The North Pole Limited is operated in late November through mid-December on the weekends. It lasts for about an hour and a half with elves serving kids hot chocolate and cookies followed by a story reading and finally meeting the Big Guy himself.
Roaring Camp: The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train is a unique experience offered during late November through December where riders can ride through the streets of Santa Cruz enjoying treats, listening to music, and visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus. They also host the Holiday Tree Walk, where a daytime train trip to Bear Mountain allows guests to disembark and view the beautifully decorated Christmas trees.
Sacramento RiverTrain: The Magical Christmas Train is a 90-minute ride during November where kids and adults are both able to experience a whole host of activities from meeting Santa to enjoying treats and listening to live music. Quite an experience!
Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway: This relatively new operation has been growing in popularity, based in Santa Cruz. The railroad is a division of Iowa Pacific and is expected to host its very own event for the holidays, The Train To Christmas Town.
Skunk Train: The Skunk Train is based in Fort Bragg and offers the Magical Christmas Train throughout much of December. It is a 90-minute train ride with music, hot chocolate, music, and a visit from Santa himself.
Western Pacific Railroad Museum: Based in Portola, the WPRM offers their Santa Train excursion during select weekends in December this year.
Georgetown Loop Railroad: The Santa's North Pole Adventure
is offered weekends from late November through early January. While aboard the train
kids get to meet Santa and enjoy candy, cocoa, cookies, and receive a
small gift. They have also added Santa's Lighted Forest Trains, which run from late November through the end of December. This railroad also offers authentic steam locomotives
further enhancing the ride.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad: The Santa Express offers different classes of service and begins in late November with trips usually run daily throughout much of December. Trains travel to the North Pole to see Santa and during the ride kids are able to enjoy treats and a story reading. They also now host the Holiday Train from late December through early January.
Danbury Railway Museum: This organization, which features both displays of historic equipment as well as train rides, offers Santa Trains during December.
Essex Steam Train: Their Santa Special offers Christmas train rides behind steam locomotives. Trains run from late-November through late-December, during an hour long where the kids able to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as receive a souvenir gift. They also now host the North Pole Express. To learn more about their trips please click here.
Naugatuck Railroad: The Santa Express allows kids to see Santa during the hour and a half train ride. Additionally, the railroad offers two similar trains the Northern Lights Limited and Santa's Train Workshop. Visit their website to learn more.
Shore Line Trolley Museum: This museum operates historic streetcars and trolleys, offering rides throughout the year. They also host special events, including the Santa's Trolley Winter Wonderland from late November and throughout much of December.
Wilmington & Western Railroad: The W&W's Santa Claus Express offers an 1 1/2-hour trip from late-November through much of December. The railroad also offers the uniqueness of steam-power and the train features chocolate and, of course, a meet-and-greet with Santa. The railroad also now hosts the Holiday Lights Express, using their restored Doodlebug railcar. The car is decorated in lights and a 45-minute trip allows passengers to see the decorated private homes near the railroad. Finally, as early celebration of the holiday season they host the "Christmas In July" specials.
Florida Railroad Museum: The popular North Pole Express offers kids the chance to meet Santa, the latter of which runs only during the day.
Seminole Gulf Railway: The Christmas Rail Boats is an interesting train ride/boat trip that showcases the Christmas lights around Punta Gorda. It is offered a few times in December. They also feature a special play for the Christmas Eve this year entitled "Noel Noir."
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway: The railroad's popular self-proclaimed Santa Express runs from early November to nearly Christmas with daytime and nighttime trips to see Santa available. During the one-hour ride the kids get to see Santa and his elves, sing songs, and hear a Christmas story. Also during December they host a longer excursion known as the Night Train To Santa's Pavilion. To learn more about their holiday trips please click here.
SAM Shortline: This tourist line, based in Cordele, offers one-time event on the first Saturday in December known as the Christmas In Plains, providing a train ride to Plains where passengers can enjoy the sights of area Christmas lights and decorations along with a parade and seasonal music. They also hope to book Santa for the trip! Finally, they offer Candy Cane Express, Mistletoe Express, and Breakfast with Santa Train during December.
Southeastern Railway Museum: The Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth offers their Day With Santa during late November and select dates in December. It is not an excursion train ride but kids can hang out with Santa all day and watch The Polar Express movie inside a coach passenger car later that night. Finally, they host an event known as Santa's Arriving on November 19, 2016 where St. Nick arrives by train to the museum amid a big party.
St. Marys Railroad: The St. Marys Railroad is a historic short line freight carrier based in St. Marys. They now offer excursions, including their Santa Express during late November as well as a few dates in December. The train journeys to Santa's Village and Santa himself rides the rails during the return trip.
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Illinois Railway Museum: The museum offers the Happy Holiday Railway during select dates during late November and into December allowing kids to experience a 40-minute train ride while enjoying treats on-board and meeting St. Nick himself.
Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum: The museum's popular Santa Trains are offered on select dates in December and feature a 45-minute train ride while the kids get to see Santa who gives each a small gift.
Midwest Central Railroad: This tourist line runs its North Pole Express
during late November through mid-December departing North Station usually
behind one of two steam locomotives, a Shay and 2-6-0 Mogul. During the trip kids can meet Santa and receive a small gift.
Midland Railway: This railroad hosts the Santa Claus Express from late November through mid-December. The train offers live music on board and, of course, a visit with Santa. Please note that their trains offer all open-air cars so dress accordingly.
Big South Fork Scenic Railway: Their South Fork Santa Express is offered during late November through much of December featuring a one or two hour trip to meet St. Nick and receive a small gift.
Bluegrass Scenic Railroad: This tourist line, part of the Bluegrass Railroad Museum offers their Santa Claus Train ride during a few weekends in mid-December. They also host a Home For The Holidays train on November 25th.
Kentucky Railway Museum: Very similar to official The Polar Express train rides the KRM's Santa Express and North Pole Express offer an hour train ride while allowing kids to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies during their trip to see Santa all while wearing their PJs! Trains are offered throughout December up until the weekend before Christmas. Please visit the museum's website for more information.
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Boothbay Railway Village: This organization is located in Boothbay, Maine with a heritage dating back to 1965 when the museum first opened for the purpose of displaying railroad memorabilia collected by George McEvoy. Today, it includes a great many other transportation artifacts, such as historic automobiles. Finally, they host short train excursions on the grounds, including special events for the holidays. To learn more please visit their website.
Seashore Trolley Museum: The museum's Christmas Prelude, held on select dates in early December,
is actually just a trolley ride with a Christmas theme offering patrons
hot chocolate, hot cider, tea, coffee and other snacks while aboard.
Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum: The recently rebuilt WW&F offers a Victorian Christmas on December 19th only with free rides, a visit from Santa, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Walkersville Southern Railroad: The little Walkersville Southern in Walkersvill, during the holiday season beginning in late November the railroad offers its Santa Trains, allowing the kids to see the Big Guy and enjoy treats during the trip.
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad: The popular Western Maryland Scenic in Cumberland offers their North Pole Experience during late November and into December. These holiday rides take visitors on a journey to Frostburg, usually steam-powered, with Santa riding along too.
Cape Cod Central Railroad: The Cape Cod Central, located in Hyannis, hosts The Train To Christmas Town rides during select dates in November and December. To learn more please visit their website.
Edaville Railroad: Based in South Carver, this tourist line hosts used to host official The Polar Express train rides. Today, they offer the "Christmas Festival Of Lights" from November 18, 2016 through January 1, 2017.
Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum: This museum offers their Moonlight Magic Friday on November 25th. The town is bedecked in holiday lights, stores throughout the town (Shelburne Falls) are open late, and the museum gives trolley rides in equipment dressed with holiday lights.
Coopersville & Marne Railway: Beginning in late November and throughout much of December this excursion train features its Santa Train. While Santa is, of course, aboard the train their version is a bit unique in that a princess reads the kids The Polar Express.
Huckleberry Railroad: The popular Huckleberry Railroad, part of the Genesee County Parks system, is part of their popular Christmas At Crossroads Holiday Magic festivities that begin in late November and last throughout most of December. The train is decorated for the holidays and offers nighttime rides.
Little River Railroad: Featuring real steam locomotives decorated for Christmas their Christmas Express offers kids on board treats and typically runs in late November through mid-December.
Steam Railroading Institute: The SRI offers their North Pole Express
beginning in late November before Thanksgiving and lasting throughout most of December. Another long trip that lasts four hours
riders and kids get to see Santa, enjoy cocoa and other live musical
entertainment. They also offer a Cocoa Class for an extra fare which
includes unlimited cocoa, a cookie, and a souvenir mug. Please note! The SRI owns the actual steam locomotive used in "The Polar Express"
movie, Pere Marquette 2-8-4 #1225 which often pulls the train.
Southern Michigan Railroad: This little tourist line offers the Santa Special excursions during the holiday season in December. To learn more please visit their website or call the railroad.
Minnesota Streetcar Museum: This museum, based in Chisholm, offers rides in historic streetcars throughout the year while also hosting special events. This includes their Holly Trolley, running during select dates in late November, where the kids can ride with Santa and the car is decorated for the holidays. They also run their Vinternatt on December 3rd where the trolley is decorated for the holidays, Christmas lights along the route, and perhaps a special appearance from Santa.
North Shore Scenic Railroad: The railroad, part of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, hosts their Christmas City Express running between Fitgers and the Duluth Depot from late November and throughout much of December. During the trip guests can enjoy the reading of the Christmas City Express story and a visit from Santa.
Grenada Railway: The Grenada Railway is a revived short line freight railroad owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings which utilizes 176 miles of the former Illinois Central main line between Southaven and Canton (it was along this stretch that famed IC engineer Casey Jones lost his life in a collision at Vaughan). They will host The Train To Christmas Town during select dates in November and December.
St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway: This excursion line, based in Jackson, offers their Santa Express from late November, throughout much of December where kids can see Santa and The Polar Express is read to all during the 2-hour trip.
Charlie Russell Choo Choo: Montana's only excursion line offers guests splendid views of northern Montana aboard their North Pole Adventure, which lasts for 40 minutes and is offered several weeks after Thanksgiving.
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Conway Scenic Railroad: Their Santa's Holiday Express is offered from Thanksgiving Weekend through the weekend of mid-December. Trips last nearly an hour with kids enjoying cocoa, cookies, seeing Santa, and receiving a small gift. They also now host their Journey To The North Pole trip from late November through late December.
Hobo Railroad/Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad: They host Santa Trains from late November through mid-December. The trains operate between Lincoln to Woodstock during the daytime only and last over an hour with kids able to enjoy treats along the way and see Santa.
Black River & Western Railroad: The North Pole Express and Candy Cane Limited take visitors to the North Pole Station and is operated from late November through mid-December with kids able to enjoy treats, sing Christmas carols, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and receive a small gift. The railroad has also added a new event, entitled, "Victorian Christmas Special," that includes carolers and Biblical characters aboard the train. To learn more please visit their website.
Pine Creek Railroad: Operated by the New Jersey Museum of Transportation, the Pine Creek Railroad offers the Christmas Express where kids get to ride with Santa and trains depart all day from around Thanksgiving Weekend through mid-December. For more information please visit their website and plan ahead as this ride, which has been offered now for more than 30 years, usually sells out quickly.
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Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad: The Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley operates Christmas Lights Trains and the Santa Express during the holiday season, the former in early December and the latter from late November throughout much of December.
Arcade & Attica Railroad: The North Pole Express operates most weekends from late November through December with kids encouraged to dress in their PJs while visiting Santa and enjoying hot cocoa and cookies. Please be aware that these trains use open-air cars so be sure to dress accordingly.
Saratoga & North Creek Railway: The increasingly popular Saratoga & North Creek will host The Train To Christmas Town during select dates in November and December. They offer four classes of tickets so please visit their website to learn more.
Trolley Museum Of New York: This museum, based in Kingston, operates historic trolleys and streetcars on 1 1/2-miles of track. The organization hosts a number of events throughout the year including their Annual Santa's Run during December where the kids can meet Santa.
New Hope Valley Railway: They usually offer Santa Trains during select dates in early December each year. To learn more about these trips lease visit their website.
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Hocking Valley Scenic Railway: Operates Santa Trains during late November and much of December with several runs made on each day these special events run. They have remained a popular event on the railroad for many years!
Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad: The North Pole Express allows kids to experience a half-hour train ride to see Santa and Mrs. Claus at LM&M Junction while enjoying treats along the way and entertainment from the elves. It is usually offered from late November through mid-December.
Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation Inc.: This organization, based in Findlay, operates a 1/4-scale railroad and hosts several special events, including the North Pole Express during the holidays from late November through early January.
Oklahoma Railway Museum: This museum, based in Oklahoma City, hosts their Christmas Train a few times in December among their many other excursions offered throughout the year.
Mount Hood Railroad: The Mount Hood Railroad, located in Hood River, will host Iowa Pacific's very own The Train To Christmas Town during select dates in November and December. They also offer three classes of tickets so please visit their website to learn more.
Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation: The ORHF, which maintains two operating and historic steam locomotives in Portland, Southern Pacific 4-8-4 #4449 and Spokane Portland & Seattle 4-8-4 #700, hosts The Holiday Express (pulled by #4449) during select dates from late November through mid-December. For complete information please click here.
Sumpter Valley Railway: Offers steam-powered Christmas Trains during December where kids can meet Santa.
Colebrookdale Railroad: A relatively new tourist railroad, the Colebrookdale Railroad, also known as the Secret Valley Line, began service in 2014 and operates 8.6 miles between Boyertown and Pottstown. They currently offer three different holiday excursions including the Night Before Christmas Train, Santa Claus Train, and Winter Starlight Express. For more information please visit their website.
Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad: The Milk & Honey Line offers the Polar Bear Express and Santa’s Surprise Trains from late November through mid-December with kids able to see the Big Guy. Please visit their website to learn more.
New Hope & Ivyland Railroad: Running from late November through early January, the North Pole Express includes an over one-hour train ride where kids are able to see Santa, listen to live music on board, and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies where they also receive a gift during the trip. These trains are also usually pulled by authentic steam locomotives.
Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad: The Oil Creek & Titusville, based in Titusville, operates Santa Trains during a few weekends after Thanksgiving where the kids enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while riding along with Santa himself.
Strasburg Railroad: The second most popular tourist railroad in the country offers their own version of a Christmas train, the Santa Paradise Express. The train runs from late November through the weekend before Christmas and operate between Lancaster and Paradise. The kids get to see Santa and the trains are always pulled by steam locomotives. The railroad also now hosts the Night Before Christmas special during the holiday season. Finally, they host a Christmas Tree Train in early December. To learn more about these events please visit their website.
Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern Railroad: The WK&S is based in Kempton and offers their Santa Claus Special during the first weekend in December where kids are able to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. The railroad also offers Story Time With Mrs. Claus hosted on December 4th.
Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad: Based in Newport hosts a themed-trip called the "Dickens Christmas Dinner Train." Guests will enjoy a meal while enjoying a retelling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" by the Marley Bridges Theatre Company. To learn more please visit the railroad's website.
South Carolina Railroad Museum: The state's largest railroad museum also operates excursions on its premises including Train Rides With Santa during select dates in December. That same month they also host the Twilight Santa Express during which time the kids can meet Santa, enjoy hot cocoa, cookies, and enjoy a Christmas story.
Black Hills Central Railroad: The state's only notable excursion train, featuring live steam locomotives, hosts the Holiday Express; a Christmas-decorated train allowing kids to see Santa and
receive a small gift. It is offered on select dates in November and December
Tennessee Central Railway Museum: This popular museum in Nashville also hosts excursions, including the North Pole Express on select dates in November and December.
The train also offers three different classes of seating; regular, first
class, or dome.
Tennessee Valley Railroad: Another popular excursion, the Tennessee Valley Railroad offers their North Pole Limited (November and December dates), usually pulled by a live steam locomotive and giving kids the chance to see Santa, listen to story, sing songs, and enjoy refreshments. They also offer a special holiday dinner train known as the Christmas Special and now also run the new Summerville Santa Special during late November and into December. To learn more about these events please visit their website.
Three Rivers Rambler: Their Christmas Lantern Express is just that, festive holiday trains pulled by a live steam locomotive. These trains typically operate every weekend from Thanksgiving until just before Christmas. Please visit their website to learn more.
Austin Steam Train: The North Pole Flyer is another Christmas train pulled by an authentic steam locomotive and offers a very long 2+ hour train ride while the kids get to see Santa, enjoy cookies/hot chocolate, and receive a small gift. It operates from late November through late December
Grapevine Railroad: The railroad's most popular Christmas train is the North Pole Express for the kids run for only a few weekends following Thanksgiving. However, they also host Christmas Wine Trains for the adults as well as After Christmas Trains through the end of December. Please visit their website to learn more.
Heber Valley Railroad: The North Pole Express takes kids on a magical ride to see Santa aboard the train. During the trip they can listen to choir-performed Christmas songs, play games, enjoy refreshments, and take in the beautiful scenery. The train is hosted from late November until Christmas Eve.
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Buckingham Branch Railroad: New! The Santa Train operates several times on select Saturday’s in December. As the train journeys through the Buckingham County countryside, Santa and Mrs. Claus will pass through the seasonally decorated cars and visit with the children. Make sure to plan your trip in advance as these trips always sell out quickly!
Chelatchie Prairie Railroad: This tourist line is based in Chelatchie and hosts their Christmas Tree Specials during a few weekends following Thanksgiving. Please visit their website to learn more.
Lake Whatcom Railway: The Christmas Train takes passengers on about a 1 1/2-hour journey during which time everyone can enjoy on board refreshments, listen to live music, and have a visit from Santa. For more information please visit their website.
Northwest Railway Museum: The Santa Train has been in operation for more than 40 years now offering a 20-minute train ride to the Snoqualmie Depot to see Santa and receive a gift. Kids also receive refreshments during the trip. The train operates every weekend from after Thanksgiving until just before Christmas. To learn more please visit their website.
Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society: New for 2017! In conjunction with Amtrak and CSX, the society will host the Huntington Holiday Express from December 14-17. The train will make a 25-mile round trip from Huntington to Barboursville, lasting about one hour. During the trip, everyone can partake in hot cocoa, cookies, and a visit from Santa.
East Troy Electric Railroad: The East Troy Electric, based in East Troy, hosts excursions in restored trolley and streetcars. They offer a number of special excursions throughout the year including Christmas Trains during the holidays from late November through mid-Decenber. To learn more please visit their website.
Mid-Continent Railway Museum: This museum, located in North Freedom, also offers excursion train rides including the Santa Express during the weekend following Thanksgiving. The historic cars used on this trip are heated with old-fashioned wood stoves during the 7-mile round-trip that lasts about an hour.
Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad: The Santa Pizza Train is usually offered between late November and late December with a 2 1/2-hour train ride for kids to enjoy pizza while riding with Santa. The kids also receive hot cocoa and cookies along with a small gift.
No events yet known.
Dartmoor Railway: The Dartmoor Railway, a division of American-based Iowa Pacific and located in Okehampton, United Kingdom will host The Train To Christmas Town excursions throughout most of December.