Colorado Polar Express Train Rides: A Complete Guide (2023)

Last revised: February 15, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Officially "The Polar Express" events have exploded in popularity since the 2004 release of the Warner Brothers movie starring Tom Hanks.  In Colorado, there are two organizations hosting these popular trips, the Colorado Railroad Museum and Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge.

As an officially licensed production, the main offices for these rides are based at the Durango & Silverton.  This heritage railroad operations over the former Rio Grande's famous Silverton Branch, a narrow-gauge line running from Durango to Silverton.

It has been in use since 1970 and has grown into one of the most popular such operations throughout the country, carrying thousands of patrons annually.

The Durango & Silverton is also one of the few places in the in the nation to host The Polar Express behind authentic, and historic, steam locomotives.  The railroad currently has a fleet that totals nine 2-8-2 "Mikados," most of which are regularly rotated in and out of service as their overhauls come due.

The Colorado Railroad Museum, based in Golden, is the other organization hosting The Polar Events in the state.  The organization was formed in 1959 and has grown considerably over that time. They currently feature two replica depots and preserve thirteen steam locomotives of either standard or narrow-gauge.  A few of these steamers are operational and pull excursions during the year.

The information presented below highlights more about each organization and their official The Polar Express events.  You can also visiting their official websites be clicking on the hyperlink for tickets and planning your trip.

Guide Information

Colorado Railroad Museum

In most instances, only the largest and most prominent rail preservation groups host official The Polar Express events due to the licensing expenses involved. 

This is the case at the Colorado Railroad Museum, one of the West's finest organizations.  Founded in 1959 they do a wonderful job highlighting the state's incredible history with trains, from narrow gauge lines and steep mountain passes to gleaming streamliners and fast freights. 

Among their collection:

  • A replica depot which depicts those found along the Denver & Rio Grande in the 1880's.
  • A library/archive wing, numerous steam locomotives (many of which are narrow-gauge types).
  • Several period passenger cars.
  • A handful of historic diesels.
  • A handsome five-stall brick roundhouse with accompanying turntable.
  • Three of Rio Grande Southern Railway's unique "Galloping Goose" rail cars.

The museum is unique in that they host official The Polar Express events utilizing historic steam locomotives, notably Denver & Rio Grande Western 2-8-2 #491 (narrow-gauge).  Ticket options available include either standard or deluxe class.  

The Polar Express Dates: 

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Durango & Silverton is not only one of the nation's most popular tourist trains but it is also home to Rail Events, Inc., the company responsible for licensing all official The Polar Express events. 

The headline of Michael Boldrick's article from the September, 1981 issue of Trains Magazine says it best about the D&SNG, "Living Museum." 

The railroad is truly a time capsule.  It maintains 45 miles of the former Denver & Rio Grande Western's narrow-gauge Silverton Branch, which was also part of the railroad's larger "San Juan District" (all narrow-gauge trackage) serving southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico (until 1941 these lines also reached Santa Fe). 

Public excursions along the route date back to the 1950's, which likely saved it from total abandonment.  Its popularity has been incredible, having enjoyed at, or over, 100,000 riders annually since 1971 thanks to its collection of historic steam locomotives and breathtaking scenery. 

Naturally, its Polar Express trips are among the most popular thanks to the ambiance, history, and superb period accommodations. 

If there is one railroad you should ride in your lifetime it is the Durango & Silverton.  Ticket options available include coach, deluxe, or first class.  Please purchase your tickets early, they sell out quickly!  

The Polar Express Dates: 

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It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!