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

Published: December 8, 2022

By: Adam Burns

Official "The Polar Express" events are magical train rides which attract thousands annually.  Unfortunately, only a handful of these trips are offered across the country, largely due to the licensing costs involved.

Nevertheless, for those railroad which do, the train rides usually sell out very quickly.  The events, of course, are tailored towards children and usually last just over an hour.  During the ride, patrons are treated to a retelling of Chris Van Allsburg's tale, The Polar Express.  During the trip, children and their parent(s)/guardian(s)/relative(s) can enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, and receive a small gift from Santa Claus himself.

The experience also closely follows the 2004 Warner Brothers' movie which brings the book to life by having actors and actresses dance through the aisles while delivering refreshments!  

The information presented here briefly highlights the organizations hosting these trips in Missouri.  In addition, links to their websites are also provided for booking, scheduling, and more about their particular "The Polar Express" trips. 

Guide Information

Branson Scenic Railway

The Branson Scenic Railway is a true tourist attraction thanks to its location in Branson, Missouri, a major draw by itself with a wide array of country-themed venues. 

An excursion train here sprang up following a new short line's launch in late 1992.  That year the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad began freight service over former Missouri Pacific (MP) trackage in Arkansas and western Missouri purchased from Union Pacific (MP's successor). 

The Branson Scenic Railway debuted the following year, whisking passengers on a 40-mile round trip through the beautiful Ozark Mountains.  The scenery, coupled with line's many tunnels, cuts, fills, and bridges continues to bring people back year after year. 

If you are considering a train ride in the near future the railroad is a good choice; you can ride in dome cars for maximum viewing or enjoy dinner during your trip. 

The rides depart from Branson's restored wooden depot, originally completed by the White River Railway in 1905 (which later joined Missouri Pacific).   

The Polar Express Dates: 

St. Louis Union Station

One of a few locations where official The Polar Express events are hosted by Amtrak.  Today, St. Louis Union Station has been transformed from a major passenger terminal into an entertainment/shopping venue. 

However, it's still worth visit just to see the station itself; inspired by the grand chateau's of France the terminal was the work of architectural firm Link & Cameron.  After several years of construction it opened in 1894. 

Perhaps the facility's only drawback was its stub-end design requiring the 22 railroads serving it to squeeze into its 16 platforms (32 tracks) beneath its massive train shed. 

This made for an awe-inspiring sight from ground level as a web of steel rails headed in every different direction; main lines, a coach yard, storage tracks, a small freight yard, an express yard, and of course the approach and platform trackage. 

All of this was managed by the station's own railroad, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA), which remains an operating freight line.  The St. Louis Union Station will host official The Polar Express train rides in 2022. 

According to the organization the trip will "depart from St. Louis Union Station for a 45 minute adventure to the North Pole filled with magic, songs, and cheer."  

The Polar Express Dates: 

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