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

Last revised: October 25, 2023

By: Adam Burns

There are currently two locations hosting official "The Polar Express" train rides in Maryland; the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland, which operates over the former Western Maryland Railway to Frostburg, and at the B&O Railroad Museum.  More information about these events may be found below.

Other Activities

Interested in other Christmas events in Maryland the entire family can enjoy?  If so the following are popular events throughout Maryland.

Merriweather Symphony of Lights

This drive-through light display in Columbia, Maryland, features more than 100 animated and stationary light displays. The event benefits the Howard County General Hospital.

Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple

This annual event in Washington, D.C. features a beautiful display of lights, an outdoor nativity scene, and live musical performances. The event is free and open to the public.

German Christmas Village in Baltimore

This German-inspired Christmas market in Baltimore features vendors selling unique gifts, traditional German food, and holiday crafts. The event also includes live music and entertainment.

Winterfest of Lights in Ocean City

This event transforms Ocean City into a winter wonderland with more than one million lights. Visitors can drive through the light display, take a ride on the Winterfest Express train, and enjoy hot chocolate and holiday treats.

Train Garden at the B&O Railroad Museum

This annual event in Baltimore features model trains winding through a holiday landscape. Visitors can also meet Santa Claus and enjoy other holiday activities.

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at the National Cathedral

This beautiful service, held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., features Christmas carols and a reading of the Christmas story. Visitors can also view the cathedral's beautiful holiday decorations.

Miracle on 34th Street

This block of row houses in Baltimore is known for its over-the-top Christmas decorations. Visitors can drive or walk through the street and enjoy the festive displays.

48710098743388774xnhhy364.jpgBaltimore & Ohio E8A #1435 dashes through the snow near Germantown, Maryland with train #11, the "Metropolitan," on March 2, 1969. Roger Puta photo.

Overview

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

This is one of the preeminent railroad museums in the country and a must see.  Its entire existence is thanks to the company whose name it bears, the Baltimore & Ohio, our nation's first common-carrier railroad. 

It was founded by the B&O in 1953 to house its growing collection of historic equipment and archival material which had been preserved over its 126-year history (up until that time). 

Several pieces came from the 1927 Fair of the Iron Horse, which had included replicas of original pieces never preserved (such as the "Tom Thumb" locomotive). 

The B&O Museum is about more than just railroads; it tells the history of a young nation transformed by a revolutionary technology capable of moving people and goods at previously unheard of speeds. 

Many of the pieces you will see are priceless and would otherwise be on display at the Smithsonian.  The museum now offers official The Polar Express train rides during November through early December.

The organization also hosts several other different Christmas-related events and activities during the holiday season, including short train rides, story-time with Mrs. Claus, and breakfast with Santa. 

The Polar Express Dates: 

  • November 24-26
  • December 1-3
  • December 8-10
  • December 15-19

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

(Cumberland): The WMSR is one of the East's noteworthy tourist trains, operating 15.3 miles of the former Western Maryland's main line between its old terminal of Cumberland and Frostburg, including the famous "Helmstetter's Curve." 

Launched in 1988 many come to ride its trains for the incredible scenery the Appalachian Mountains afford, especially during the fall. Aside from entertaining passengers, WMSR's mission is to preserve the memory of the Western Maryland (WM). 

The line you will travel was the last major component built by the railroad, the concept of George Gould (son of noted tycoon Jay Gould) to extend the line west where it would connect with his other properties near Pittsburgh. 


His ultimate goal was to link the nation by rail, creating the first coast-to-coast railroad.

Unfortunately, Gould overextended his finances and lost control of the WM in 1910 but the railroad nevertheless went on to complete the extension to Connellsville where it linked up with the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie. 

For decades it was a vital corridor handling high-priority freight trains.  However, when the WM joined the Chessie System in 1972 the line was largely abandoned (1975) in favor of the nearby B&O, save for the section operated by the WMSR. 

The Polar Express Dates: 

  • November 24-26
  • December 1-3
  • December 8-10
  • December 15-24
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