Officially licensed The Polar Express train rides have become an increasingly popular attraction across the country since Warner Brothers Pictures released the film in November, 2004. Numerous organizations, from museums to tourist railroads, now host such themed rides every November and December (some even run into early January). They feature a story-telling of Chris Van Allsburg's magical tale, The Polar Express, which comes complete with hot chocolate, cookies, and a small gift. When possible, and if available, a steam locomotive is used to pull the train. I have had the experience to enjoy these events on more than one occasion. If you have the means, I highly recommend taking your kids, grandchildren, or nieces/nephews! The productions are excellent and highly entertaining.
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.
The Polar Express is a children's book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, originally published in 1985. As the story goes a young boy is lying in bed on Christmas Eve awaiting Santa's arrival when he hears the sound of a train outside his home, The Polar Express. He is invited by the conductor to come aboard the train, which is filled with children and heading to the North Pole to meet Santa and the elves. During the journey the kids are treated to hot chocolate and cookies, which is what has inspired their serving aboard The Polar Express tourist trains today. The story concludes with the young boy being picked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas and he chooses a simple, silver bell from Santa's sleigh. Interestingly, though, once he returns home and awakes on Christmas morning he notices that the bell is still in his possession. Finally, please visit the Rail Events, Inc. website for complete information regarding locations that offer official The Polar Express events.
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Grand Canyon Railway: The Grand Canyon Railway operates the former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe's "Grand Canyon Branch" from Williams to the Canyon's South Rim (64 miles). The Santa Fe even had its own train named for the national park and the railroad hauled many tourists to the site annually. However, as highways improved and Amtrak took over intercity passenger service (1971), the line's need dwindled to the point it was sold to new operators in 1988, forming today's Grand Canyon Railway. While the scenery alone regularly draws tens of thousands its opulent services, where guests can travel back in time to experience the golden age of rail travel within climate controlled cars, does as well. The accommodations go beyond the train as lodging, an RV park, and even a pet resort is also available. You can also pick from a variety of packages that includes both lodging (at the Grand Canyon) and the train. For the Christmas season the railway operates official The Polar Express events from early, November through early January on select dates. The train departs Williams Depot and lasts about 90 minutes. Dates: November 8-10, November 14-17, November 20-25, November 27th, November 29-December 1, December 4-9, December 11-16, December 18-24, December 26-30, and January 2-4. (Updated For 2019)
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California State Railroad Museum: Located in Sacramento, the CSRM was created in 1937 to preserve the state's rich rail heritage. While California is perhaps best known the western leg of the Transcontinental Railroad (Central Pacific), the state thrived in later years as a major port, agricultural, and manufacturing center. Today's museum is one of the nation's finest with many special events held throughout the year, its own foundation to aid the railroad industry and its history, a library/archives wing, public train rides, and a vast collection of locomotives and rolling stock (such as Southern Pacific 4-8-8-2 "Cab Forward" #4294 and Central Pacific 4-2-4T #3 built in 1863). Their collection of steam locomotives, alone, is quite impressive and includes 20 examples which operated in California (a handful are also either operational or under restoration). For most organizations official The Polar Express events are their most popular events and this is no different at CSRM which hosts the trips on weekends from late November and throughout December. It lasts about an hour with trains comprising seven cars (pulled by historic diesel locomotives) offering first class, coach, or open air accommodations. Dates: November 29-December 1, December 4-8, December 11-15, and December 18-22. (Updated For 2019)
Fillmore & Western Railway: This attraction, located in Fillmore, has an interesting history; launched in 1991 by Short Line Enterprises over a 28-mile section of the Southern Pacific between Piru and Saticoy, it was initially envisioned as a location for Hollywood movies and commercials. However, it became so popular the group decided to launch regular public excursions, including dinner trains and murder mysteries. While the railroad remains best known for its films, television shows, and various commercials its wide array of train rides (including special trips for the major holidays, private charters, and even trains occasionally pulled by a restored steam locomotive [Duluth & Northeastern 2-8-0 #14 built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1913]) makes it one of California's most popular such attractions. Typically, one of two F7A streamlined diesels lead their trains, #100 (built for the Chicago &North Western as #4068-A in 1949) and #101 (built as Chicago & North Western #4083-A in 1949). In addition, the region's mild climate allows it to remain open throughout the year. One of their most popular venues is hosting official The Polar Express events each November and December. Dates: November 14-17, November 19-24, November 26-27, November 29-December 1, December 3-8, December 10-15, December 17-24, and December 26-29. (Updated For 2019)
Southern California Railway Museum: The Southern California Railway Museum, formerly known as the Orange Empire Railway Museum, is located in Perris and is one of California's most impressive such facilities. It was originally founded in 1956 as an interurban/streetcar museum, featuring equipment of Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Railway (LARy) lineage. Since then it has transformed itself to include historic cars, diesels, steam, and electric locomotives belonging to railroads that predominately operated in California. Among their operating locomotives is Ventura Company 2-6-2 #2 (built by Baldwin Locomotive in 1922), Santa Fe FP45 #98 (freshly repainted), and Southern Pacific U25B #3100. You can also see more than just trains here; be sure to check out the preserved Santa Fe brick depot in Perris (completed in 1892) and various types of restored railroad signals. Finally, the museum hosts many train rides throughout the year, including special events (such as Thomas The Train, Halloween rides, the Pumpkin Patch Express, "Terror In Train Town," the Ironhorse Steampunk Carnivale, trips with the Easter Bunny, and Civil War reenactments) like official The Polar Express trips during late November and throughout December. Dates: November 30-December 1, December 3-8, December 17-24, and December 26-29. (Updated For 2019. (Updated For 2019)
RailTown 1897: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park's primary focus is to preserve the logging industry of Northern California. Located in Jamestown, it was formally opened on May 8, 1971, operating over Sierra Railway's 57.43 mile line that linked Tuolumne (where it served West Side Lumber Company's large lumber mill) with Oakdale where it connected with the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe. Even before this tourist attraction officially opened it had been a popular location for Hollywood movie makers since the 1950's, garnering it considerable publicity. In fact, so many films have been featured here hat it became known as "The Movie Railroad." Today, along with the railroad, visitors can also tour the 26 acre yard and shop complex, including its six-stall roundhouse, and of course enjoy train rides behind preserved and restored steam locomotives. There are currently two operable, both of Sierra Railway heritage; 2-8-0 #28 built by Baldwin Locomotive in 1922 and 4-6-0 #3 built by Rogers Locomotive in 1891 (this locomotive is famous for being featured in Back To The Future III). One of their most popular special events is hosting official The Polar Express trips during select dates in December. RailTown's version features beautifully restored period passenger cars where kids can enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, a reading of The Polar Express, meeting Santa, and receiving a free gift. Ticket options available include coach and first class. Dates: November 29-30, December 6-8, December 13-15, and December 20-22. (Updated For 2019)
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 is 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, no less than three of Rio Grande Southern Railway's unique "Galloping Goose" rail cars, facility rentals for parties, and an audio tour. 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. Dates: November 9-10, November 13-17, November 20-24, November 29-December 1, December 4-8, December 11-15, and December 17-23. (Updated For 2019)
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 sicne 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! Dates: November 15-16, November 22-27, November 29-December 1, December 5-24, December 26-January 2. (Updated For 2019)
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Fort Lauderdale Polar Express: In recent years, large corporations have gotten involved with The Polar Express thanks to its immense popularity. One such location is the nation's newest railroad, Virgin Trains USA. Originally known as Brightline the railroad is geared towards passengers/commuters; conceived by Florida East Coast Industries (a division of Fortress Investment Group) in 2012, service opened between Miami and West Palm Beach on May 19, 2018. There are big plans for this new operation, including trains operating at speeds up to 125 mph as well as an Orlando extension. If successful, and ultimately profitable, similar commuter/passenger corridors will likely be built across the country in the coming years. If you would like to experience The Polar Express on an ultra-modern train, a trip aboard Virgin Trains USA is highly recommended. Virgin's The Polar Express events last roughly 1-hour with trains departing from the Fort Lauderdale Station at 101 Northwest, 2nd Avenue. as well as Miami. Dates (Fort Lauderdale): November 16-17, November 23-24, November 29-December 1, December 7-8, December 14-15, and December 21-24, and December 28-29. Dates (Miami): November 19-22, November 25-27, December 3-6, December 10-13, December 16-2o, and December 26-27. (Updated For 2019)
The Florida Train: Royal Palm: This new attraction, also known as the Orlando & Northwestern (O&NW), launched excursions during late summer of 2017 serving Tavares and Lake County. Previously, it had been known as the Tavares, Eustis & Gulf and utilized trackage owned by short line freight carrier Florida Central between Tavares and Mount Dora (historically this stretch was part of the Atlantic Coast Line). The TE&G was popular thanks in part to its use of an historic steam locomotive, 2-6-0 #2 which pulled the Orange Blossom Special. The railroad made its last run on January 29, 2017 following a dispute with the Florida Central (the locomotive, which has been featured in high profile Hollywood films, has since returned to its owner, the Reader Railroad, in Reader, Arkansas). Today's Royal Palm does not use steam power. However, the organization does feature a beautiful streamlined diesel, Clinchfield Railroad F7A #800, and a fine collection of passenger cars (another locomotive, Gp7 #1510, is painted in Atlantic Coast Line-inspired purple and silver). Thanks to its proximity to large population centers, the O&NW enjoys strong ridership and offers a number of different trips and special events, ranging from dinner trains to wine tasting trains. They also now host official The Polar Express rides. For 2019 these will take place on: November 15-December 30. (Updated For 2019)
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Chicago Union Station: Chicago Union Station's production of The Polar Express is arguably one of the highest profile events available nationwide. A joint effort of Rail Events, Amtrak, and the station it is hosted every day from late November and throughout December except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was originally launched in 2016 and due to strong demand has continued to run every holiday season since that time. Chicago Union Station is currently only one of three locations (St. Louis Union Station and New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal) where one can ride The Polar Express aboard Amtrak. Visitors can also experience passing through the historic terminal and its Great Hall, one of America's architectural masterpieces. The station is one of the Six Great Terminals to serve the Windy City (Grand Central Station, Central Station, LaSalle Street Station, Dearborn Station, and North Western Terminal). It was designed by Daniel Burnham in the Beaux-Arts style it opened for service in 1925. At the time the facility also included the main concourse which was demolished in 1969 to make way for a 35-story office tower. During its height the station was served by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Milwaukee Road, Chicago & Alton (Gulf, Mobile & Ohio), and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. Today, it is Amtrak's primary Chicago terminal. For more information about this trip please click here. Dates: November 23-27, November 29-December 1, December 2-December 24, and December 26-29. (Updated For 2019)
Fox River Trolley Museum: If you enjoy trolley cars and interurbans, particularly those which served Illinois and the Chicago area, a trip to the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin should be in your bucket list. The group was founded in 1961 as R.E.L.I.C. (Railway Equipment Leasing & Investment Company), a group dedicated to preserving these transportation entities. Those which remained at that time were rapidly disappearing across the country. R.E.L.I.C. opened to the public in 1966 and was renamed as the Fox River Trolley Museum in 1984. The organization boasts a huge collection of streetcars, switchers, and other rapid transit equipment. Many are of Chicago, Aurora & Elgin ("The Roarin' Elgin") or Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee ("The North Line") heritage. These two systems were once vital commuter operations for Chicago; the former linked downtown with the city's western suburbs while the latter extended north along Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. Alas, rising costs and declining numbers due to improved highways and automobiles led to the bankruptcy and ultimate abandoment of both. Other equipment to see at the museum are of Chicago, South Shore & South Bend; Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric (CA&E); and various local rapid transit agency cars. Fox River Trolley Museum's official The Polar Express productions are somewhat unique in that they are presented within some of these restored trolley cars. Dates: November 24, November 30, December 1, December 13-15, December 24, and December 28-29. (Updated For 2019)
Monticello Railway Museum: This museum has a fascinating history; like the Illinois Railway Museum it has largely been built from the ground up. It was founded as the Society For The Perpetuation Of Unretired Railfans, Inc. (SPUR) in 1966, a grassroots train enthusiasts group aimed at continuing steam excursions along the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. While steam ended over the railroad by the late 1950's, President Harry Murphy continued offering public excursions until his retirement in 1965. The trips proved quite popular behind 4-8-4 #5632 and 2-8-2 #4960. Despite SPUR's best efforts the new president was not interested in continuing the practice and the locomotives were parked in 1966. After a few years contemplating their next move the group decided to embark on a permanent home. It was provided a vacant lot in Monticello by the Illinois Pioneer Heritage Center to house its first locomotive, 0-4-0T #1. In 1970 it was renamed as the Monticello & Sangamon Valley Railway Historical Society, Inc. which was shortened to its current name in 1982. Soon after arriving in Monticello the group acquired 5 miles of abandoned Illinois Terminal right-of-way to White Heath, opening about 2.5 miles for excursions. In 1987 they acquired more property by picking up 7.5 miles of the former Illinois Central Gulf between the same towns. Today, the Monticello Railway Museum maintains a large collection of preserved and restored equipment, enabling them to host very nice trips along their property. The Polar Express Dates: November 15-17, November 22-24, November 29-December 1, and December 6-8. (Updated For 2019)
Indiana Railway Museum/French Lick Scenic Railway: When you have been around for more than 50 years you are bound to have an impressive collection. That is the case at the Indiana Railway Museum which, since its 1961 founding, has amassed over 65 pieces of rolling stock, including operational diesel locomotives. While the organization is primarily focused on the state's rail history their collection is a mishmash of equipment owned by railroads which never Indiana, such as the Chicago & North Western, Rock Island, Seaboard Air Line, and others. IRM was first able to offer excursions following the 1978 acquisition of a former Southern Railway branch between West Baden and Dubois (passing through French Lick and the Hoosier National Forest), which totaled 16 miles. Today, 10 miles are utilized for passenger trains while the remainder is operated for freight service as the Dubois County Railroad. The Polar Express Dates: November 8-10, November 15-17, November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 13-15, and December 17-23. (Updated For 2019)
Whitewater Valley Rail Road: This organization takes its name from the original company which opened along the Whitewater Canal between Valley Junction (west of Cincinnati) and Connersville, Indiana in 1867. The WWVRR would go on to join the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, a subsidiary of the New York Central & Hudson River (which later formed the modern New York Central System). The CCC&StL was also known as the "Big Four" and would comprise most of NYC's network in western Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. With the creation of Penn Central in 1968 many secondary routes like the current Whitewater Valley Rail Road were deemed redundant, unprofitable, and superfluous. After its formation in 1972, the preservation group was able to purchase 18 miles of the line between Connersville and Metamora in 1983. Today, they have a substantial collection of diesel locomotives and a few steam switchers. Despite its rural location the Whitewater Valley Rail Road puts on a fine attraction for the public offering several different rides and events throughout the year such as a mock train robbery, holiday specials, murder mysteries, and much more. Their version of The Polar Express lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours. Dates: November 15-17, November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, and December 13-15. This WWVRR also offers other Christmas-themed rides including the Santa Claus Limited and Metamora Holiday Special Excursions. (Updated For 2019)
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Midland Railway: The all-volunteer Midland Railway is based in Baldwin City and has grown into a popular attraction. The organization got its start in 1987 when a group of investors, looking to launch their own tourist railroad, acquired a secondary corridor of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe between Baldwin City and Ottawa, Kansas. At the time the AT&SF was attempting to offload a great deal of its branches and unprofitable routes, most of which were located in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Many had been built to serve the Heartland's agricultural needs but unfortunately railroads were heavily overbuilt throughout the Midwest. As a result, when trucks began grabbing increasingly greater market share during the 20th century thousands of miles became redundant and/or money-losing operations. The Midland Railway has acquired an impressive collection of equipment and maintain a railroad that stretches 11 total miles, allowing it to offer visitors 20-mile round trips. One of their locomotives is a rather unique RS3m with components from two different manufacturers. One of their special events is the offering official The Polar Express trips during November and December. These are held on the following dates: November 16-17, November 23-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 14-15, and December 20-23. (Updated For 2019)
Big South Fork Scenic Railway: One of Kentucky's best kept secrets is the Big South Fork Scenic Railway located in Stearns, Kentucky. It operates a 16-mile round-trip excursion through the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. For train enthusiasts, this line is of particular note. It had previously belonged to the historic short line Kentucky & Tennessee Railway. It was opened in 1902 by Michigan industrialists Justus S. Stearns who wanted a railroad to serve his timberland at the head of Kentucky's Rock Creek. Along the way the 25-mile line passed through the small community of Happy Hollow, which he renamed Stearns (where it connected with the much larger Southern Railway). In later years coal became the K&T's primary commodity. It attracted railfans for its propensity to use steam locomotives well after most other railroads had retired theirs. Its final three 2-8-2's were not retired until February, 1964. Freight operations survived until Blue Diamond Coal closed the last mine in October, 1987. By then, only 10.5 miles remained and excursions had been operated since 1982 when the Big South Fork Scenic Railway launched on July 1st that year. Its current operation is collection of open-air and enclosed cars pulled by historic diesel locomotives. Big South's version of The Polar Express departs from the Stearns Depot for the North Pole; during the trip kids can enjoy hot chocolate and cocoa, meet Santa, partake in caroling, and receive a small gift. Dates: November 22-November 24, November 29-December 1, December 6-December 8, December 13-December 15, December 20-December 22. (Updated For 2019)
New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal: This historic passenger station is one of three locations where Amtrak hosts official The Polar Express train rides. The immense success and critical acclaim of Warner Brothers' 2004 film spun-off an unexpected new market, excursion trains masquerading as "The Polar Express." It began as an impromptu experiment by a handful of organizations and became so popular Warner Brothers now requires licensing fees through Rail Events, Inc. for any railroad/museum wishing to host the event. As it continues to grow the production has branched out to major Amtrak terminals, such as New Orleans, and will likely continue to expand in the coming years. New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal was one of the last great facilities opened in America when completed in 1954. It was designed by architects Wogan & Bernard, Jules K. de la Vergne, and August Perez & Associates in 1949 as actual construction took three years. NOUPT replaced New Orleans Union Station (built in 1892, demolished in 1954) and served all of the major railroads serving the city including Illinois Central, Southern Railway, Southern Pacific, Kansas City Southern, and Louisville & Nashville. For complete scheduling information please click here. Dates: December 9-24 and December 26-January 1. (Updated For 2019)
Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad: The Maine Narrow-Gauge Railroad & Museum operates a two-foot narrow-gauge railroad using restored steam locomotives. It is the only "Two Footer" currently offering official The Polar Express events. The two-foot gauge was all but exclusive to the state of Maine; nowhere else could one find such a wide array of tiny railroads that weren't much larger than those found at a zoo. Loggers and timber operations came to love them. They were cheap, effective, and required minimum construction; three attributes perfect in an industry constantly on the move. There were a total of eleven Maine two-footers in operation at some point including the Bridgton & Saco River Railroad; Kennebec Central Railroad; Monson Railroad; Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad; Sandy River Railroad; Franklin & Megantic Railroad; Kingfield & Dead River Railroad; Phillips & Rangeley Railroad; Madrid Railroad; Eustis Railroad; and the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railroad (partially rebuilt by the museum of the same name). Through their hard work, the history of this unique aspect of railroading has been well document and preserved. In addition to its numerous pieces of static equipment, the museum operates a number of special events and trains throughout the year including The Polar Express on select dates in late November through Christmas. Dates: November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 13-15, and December 19-23. (Updated For 2019)
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. Dates: 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. Please visit their website to learn more. Dates: November 15-17, November 23-24, November 29-30, and December 1. (Updated For 2019)
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad: 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 (also an important location for the much larger Baltimore & Ohio) 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. In 2019 the railroad will host official The Polar Express events. Dates: November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 13-15, and December 20-23. (Updated For 2019)
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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). They host official The Polar Express train rides during much of November and December. Dates: November 1-3, November 7-10, November 14-17, November 21-24, November 27th, November 29-December 7, December 9-December 23. (Updated For 2019)
St. Louis Union Station: One of three 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 2019. 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." Dates: November 29-December 24 and December 26-30. (Updated For 2019)
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Virginia & Truckee: Nevada may not be the first state which comes to mind when it comes to railroads. However, not only was the historical western leg of the Transcontinental Railroad (Central Pacific) but also three major tourist attractions/museums can be found there today. The history of the Virginia & Truckee is quite fascinating. It's legend was born during the 19th and early 20th centuries when it handled copious of silver ore following the famous Comstock Lode's discovery in 1850 in Gold Canyon, Nevada (near present-day Dayton). As increasing volumes of silver (and some gold) were mined, a railroad was needed. This idea had been discussed since 1861 with a planned line linking Virginia City with Carson City; work was finally launched on February 18, 1869 and completed later that year on September 28. The V&T became one of the richest little short lines in the nation (it was earning $100,000 in profits each month in 1875) and would expand to Reno where a connection was reached with the Southern Pacific (31 miles from Carson City). It would also open a 15-mile branch to Minden in 1906. Following the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 the price of silver sharply declined and so did the V&T's fortunes. It failed to earn a profit for the first time ever in 1924 and ran its last train over the original trackage between Virginia City and Carson City on June 4, 1938. Following years of mounting losses, operations ceased entirely on May 30, 1950. The effort to rebuild the original line began in the 1970's and especially took flight in the 1990's. A great deal has been accomplished but is not yet complete. However, the work continues and the present-day V&T now hosts several excursions throughout the year, including special events like official The Polar Express train rides during November and December. These trains are pulled by historic steam locomotives and a diesel switcher. Dates: November 15-18, November 22-24, November 28-December 1, December 5-8, and December 12-15, and December 19-24. (Updated For 2019).
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Delaware River Railroad Excursions/New York Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society: The New York, Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society was launched in 1988 to preserve the memory of the railroad by the same name. The company, which remains in operation, has an interesting history that can be traced back to 1881. In an effort to help fund the group and continue its preservation efforts the NYS&WT&HS sponsors public excursions over freight line Black River & Western. These events have proven quite popular and very successful with trips departing from Phillipsburg, New Jersey; most the time the trips are led by an authentic steam locomotive, a former China Railways 2-8-2,#142, lettered for the "New York, Susquehanna & Western." They host many special events throughout the year including wine tasting trains, 'A Day Out With Thomas,' the Corn Maze Train, fall foliage specials, and the official The Polar Express from late November through most of December. Dates: November 29-30, December 1, December 6-8, December 13-15, and December 20-22. (Updated For 2019)
Morristown & Erie Railway: A private and historic freight railroad the Morristown & Erie Railroad was formed on August 28, 1903 through the merger of two smaller systems, the Whippany River Railroad and Whippany & Passaic River Railroad. This formed a 10.5 mile, east-west corridor linking Morristown (and a connection with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western) with Essex Fells (where interchange was established with the Erie Railroad). With two outlets to move freight and several online customers, the M&E flourished. Small short lines tended to struggle, however, as the 20th century progressed due to increasing competition from other transportation modes and larger railroads. When the Lackawanna and Erie merged in 1960 to form Erie-Lackawanna, the M&E could no longer enjoy the competitive freight rates offered by pitting one carrier against the other. Coupled with a declining customer base it fell into bankruptcy in 1978. Surprisingly, the M&E's story did not end there; a group of investors acquired the property and formed the Morristown & Erie Railway in 1982. The little short line has prospered since that time and now offers public excursions. The M&E will play host to official The Polar Express train rides for 2019. Dates: November 16-17, November 20-24, November 26-27, November 29-December 1, December 3-8, December 10-24, and December 26-30. (Updated For 2019)
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Adirondack Scenic Railroad: One of New York's most popular excursions, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad was launched in 1992 over sections of the former New York Central's old Adirondack Division between Utica and the resort of Lake Placid. During the NYC era this route had extended to Montreal, Quebec and was an important corridor for many years. With the Penn Central merger of 1968 the struggling new conglomerate, which entered bankruptcy in 1970, abandoned the line north of Remsen, New York in 1972. It was subsequently acquired by the state and rebuilt for passenger service. The new carrier was known as the Adirondack Railway, which operated between Utica and Lake Placid from 1979 to 1981, including serving the 1980 Winter Olympics. The line subsequently lay dormant until the Adirondack Scenic's debut. The organization has been successful in growing ridership but with only portions of the line in service train cannot run direct to Lake Placid. In addition, with the railroad unable to rebuild the dormant components plans are being finalized to convert a portion into a rail/trail. In spite of this the railroad provides a wonderful experience overall, including hosting official The Polar Express train rides within climate-controlled cars from late November through most of December. Trips depart from Utica Union Station. The railroad also hosts other Christmas-themed rides including the Santa Train (departing Thendara) and the Adirondack Christmas Train (departing Utica). The Polar Express Dates: November 14-17, November 20-24, November 27th, November 29-December 1, December 4-8, December 11-15, and December 18-23. (Updated For 2019)
Catskill Mountain Railroad: Located just over an hour from New York City the Catskill Mountain Railroad has been a popular Kingston attraction since it launched in 1982 over the former New York Central's Catskill Mountain Branch (originally built as the Ulster & Delaware Railroad). In 1979 Ulster County acquired 38.6 miles of the line from bankrupt Penn Central estate with plans to launch tourist and freight service over the corridor. After working to rebuild the tracks the effort was initially successful and service was restored to Conrail at Kingston. However, flooding has wreaked havoc on the corridor over the years placing various sections out-of-service. Then, in the 2010's the county expressed interest in removing part of the line for a rail/trail. After a fight with the railroad ensued, the county eventually got its way and tore up 11.5 miles in 2018. Today, the Catskill Mountain Railroad enjoys thousands of annual visitors operating about 5 miles of the route between Kingston and Stony Hollow. The group does a wonderful job hosting official The Polar Express rides within climate-controlled cars. Dates: November 15-17, November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 12-15, December 18-23, and December 26-28. (Updated For 2019)
Medina Railroad Museum: This museum is located in Western New York within Medina's restored New York Central freight depot originally completed in 1905. It is noteworthy as being the largest such wooden structure (300 feet in length) ever built for the NYC. As the 20th century progressed, smaller municipalities either lost their manufacturing base or local customers resulting in a declining need for freight depots. Such was the case for Medina. The railroad sold the structure in 1963 to private owners where it remained until Marty Phelps acquired it in 1991 with intentions to found what is today the Medina Railroad Museum. Since that time the organization has amassed an incredible collection that now includes over 6,000 artifacts. They have also entered the public excursion business and have an impressive fleet of locomotives and rolling stock. These allow them to host some wonderful train rides during the fall including official The Polar Express trips during select dates in November and December. The ticket options available include first class or coach. As with all productions of The Polar Express visitors are encouraged to wear pajamas! Dates: November 30-December 1, December 7-8, and December 14-15. (Updated For 2019)
North Fork Trolley Company: Located in Aquebogue, the Northfork Trolley Company, provides bus rides on the North Fork of Long Island and is Long Island's oldest trolley company. However, they abandoned rails long ago and now exclusively operate with buses. They will host official The Polar Express events in 2019. It is the only production available that is not featured on a train! Dates: (November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 13-15, and December 20-23. (Updated For 2019)
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: One of the nation's top tourist railroads can be found in Bryson City, North Carolina. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has been a top attraction within the state's western mountains since it formally launched in 1988. It utilizes a section of the Southern Railway's historic Murphy Branch which ran 123.1 miles from Asheville to rural Murphy where a connection was established with the Louisville & Nashville. The line's rugged profile and beautiful topography draws in thousands annually, thanks in part to its relatively close proximity to Asheville (about an hour away). The GSMR currently operates the Bryson City-Nantahala segment, 30.7 miles. To read more about the railroad please click here. The company also features one of the nation's premier versions of The Polar Express during November and December. The railroad offers four different levels of service including First Class, Premium Crown Class, Crown Class, and Coach. Whichever you choose, the accommodations are top notch; few other places operate such a superb fleet of passenger cars. The railroad states The Polar Express runs on these dates: November 8-27, November 29-December 24, and December 26-31. (Updated For 2019)
North Carolina Transportation Museum: The best railroad museum in the Tarheel State and one of the best in the nation, the NCTM was born thanks to a generous donation by the Southern Railway. In 1977 it handed over four acres of its Spencer Shops complex (including three buildings) to North Carolina (another donation occurred in 1979 when more buildings and structures were donated). Unlike some, the state has fully embraced this gift, turning it into a major tourist attraction and historical center. Visitors can learn about the railroad's impact on North Carolina and also take a train ride behind restored steam and diesel locomotives. NCTM's collection is primarily focused on those systems which served the state. While there are several railroad pieces, including a number from the Southern Railway, their collection also includes trolleys, planes, and historic vehicles. The museum hosts several special events throughout the year, including official The Polar Express trips from mid-November through December. If you are considering a visit to a railroad museum soon or riding an excursion the NCTM offers a wonderful experience. The Polar Express Dates: November 15-17, November 22-25, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, and December 12-22. (Updated For 2019)
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Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: One of America's top five excursions can be found at Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Three factors contribute heavily to its success; the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's spectacular scenery, the region's population density, and the railroad's top notch service. Its history dates back to the Valley Railway (VR) which had opened from Cleveland to Bowerston, Ohio via Canton and Akron, by 1884. In 1889 it was acquire by the Balitmore & Ohio, acting as another connection to Cleveland for the eastern trunk line (the line south of Akron became a stub-end branch). In 1967 the B&O began hosting excursions through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. These continued off and on until 1986 when then-Chessie System lost interest in the affair. After the railroad and federal government worked out an agreement, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation into law on November 6, 1986 authorizing the National Park Service to purchase the park trackage for $2.5 million. Today, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad maintains 51 miles and hopes to eventually run trains into downtown Cleveland. It has become well-known for its fine fleet of passenger cars, themed trains, and other special runs. For instance, in August, 2018 it acquired three beautiful, fully restored stainless-steel dome cars that had originally operated on the famous "California Zephyr." They include dome-coach Silver Lariat, dome-sleeper-observation Silver Solarium, baggage Silver Peak, and sleeper Silver Rapids (along with baggage Silver Peak). If you want to experience rail travel from the 1950's consider a trip to Peninsula, Ohio! The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad will host official The Polar Express train rides every day from November 8th through December 21st, except Veteran's Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving (November 28th). (Updated For 2019)
Dennison Railroad Depot Museum: This museum is located in the town of Dennison's restored Pennsylvania Railroad depot completed in 1873. The single-story brick structure is your typical station, a beautiful gingerbread design with large dormers and overhangs. It sits along a still-active component of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, a PRR subsidiary also known as the Panhandle Route, which once linked Pittsburgh with St. Louis. After Conrail lost interest in the corridor, eventually abandoning large sections, the city of Dennsion stepped in to save their depot, acquiring it from the railroad in 1984. It has since undergone several restoration phases since 1992. During the last 30+ years the organization has collected several artifacts, freight and passenger cars, and even two steam locomotives; Ohio Electric Power 0-4-0F (fireless) #4759 and Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 #2700 (a 1943 product of American Locomotive). Both locomotives sit on display. In cooperation with freight line Columbus & Ohio River Railroad the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum is able to host official The Polar Express train rides during select dates in December. Dates: December 6-8 and December 13-15. (Updated For 2019)
Oklahoma Railway Museum: The state of Oklahoma offers few train rides for the public. The Oklahoma Railway Museum is the lone exception, providing the public with trips over about 3 miles of track in Oklahoma City which historically was part of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (nicknamed the "Katy"). The organization began as the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) in 1972 to preserve the state's rail history and provide excursions. It took more than 25 years but the group finally secured their own 3-acre site in 1999. In addition, after four more years of work it began hosting passenger trains in 2003. That year it enjoyed just 150 passengers; in five years the number had jumped to 16,000 by 2008. Today, these numbers are even higher and the museum operates several excursions and specials throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Their static displays, cars, and locomotives are numerous including several diesels, passenger cars, freight cars, and other types of equipment. The organization now offers official The Polar Express events. Dates: November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 12-15, December 19-24, and December 26-31. (Updated For 2019)
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Blackstone Valley Tourism Council: As its name suggests, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council aims to market Rhode Island's beautiful and historical Blackstone River Valley. It has been doing so for the last 30+ years. One way it helps promote the region is by hosting official The Polar Express train rides in conjunction with the Providence & Worcester. These trips (lasting about 90 minutes) depart from the beautifully restored P&W/New York, New Haven & Hartford wooden depot in Woonsocket built in 1882. The council hosts official The Polar Express train rides every weekend from November 15-December 22. (Updated For 2019)
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Galveston Railroad Museum: Located in its namesake city, this museum is one of the state's largest, containing an impressive collection of rolling stock and preserved locomotives (predominantly focused on the railroad's which served Texas and the Gulf Coast). It is one of the very few such organizations whose offices are housed within a major railroad terminal, Santa Fe Union Station. The original four-story brick building, located at 25th Street and The Strand, was completed in 1887. It was renovated over the years and is now an eight-story white structure with a larger center column. The last update occurred in 1932, which adorned the building in a terra cotta and Art Deco appearance. The last passenger train to depart the station left on April 11, 1967. It is currently owned by the Moody Foundation and still functions as an office tower. Over the years the museum has amassed an impressive collection including four steam locomotives and two diesel switchers. They also have several freight and passenger cars and model train layouts to see. In 2019 the museum will host official The Polar Express events on the following dates: November 15-17, November 22-24, November 27, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 13-15, December 20-22-23, and December 26-29. (Updated For 2019)
Texas State Railroad: The Texas State Railroad has long been a popular attraction with an interesting history. Some states in the 19th century took it upon themselves to build railroads when, for whatever reason, they felt the private sector could not. Such was the case with the Texas State Railroad, founded in 1883 to provide rail service for parts of East Texas. Following more than two decades of work the railroad had linked Rusk, Texas (location of the Rusk Penitentiary) with Palestine, a distance of about 25 miles (part of the line was built using convict labor). The state elected to stop directly operating the property in the 1920's and instead leased it, a setup which continued until 1969. In 1972 it came under the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's direction where it remained until falling under the Texas State Railroad Authority's jurisdiction in 2007. The Texas State Railroad is one of the finer excursions with first class accommodations, special events, and private party rentals available throughout most of the year. They host official The Polar Express trips from late November through most of December. Some of their events are even powered by an actual steam locomotive (either 2-8-2 #30 or 2-8-0 #28). Dates: November 15-17, November 21-27, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 12-15, December 17-24, and December 26-28. (Updated For 2019)
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Green Mountain Railroad/Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce/Vermont Children's Trust Foundation: Based in White River Junction these organizations come together to host official The Polar Express train rides for one weekend in December. The Green Mountain Railroad has operated since 1964 utilizing much of the former Rutland Railroad, a historic system which served its home state. Its importance cannot be understated. It connected communities and farms with the national rail network, enabling the goods they produced (notably milk, marble, and general manufacturing/agriculture) with largest markets like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The railroad began as the Champlain & Connecticut River Rail Road, chartered by Vermont in October, 1843 to connect Rutland and Burlington. In 1867 it became the Rutland Railroad and eventually grew into a significant New England system connecting Chatham, New York with most of Vermont. It also maintained a northern, east-west component running to the port of Ogdensburg, New York along St. Lawrence River. Unfortunately, competition from other railroads and transportation modes made life difficult for the Rutland. A strike in 1960 severely crippled the road and it never reopened. Most of its remaining track was purchased by the state in 1963 forming today's Vermont Railway with excursions hosted as the Green Mountain Railroad. The Polar Express will depart from Burlington with trips lasting about 1 hour and 15 minutes. To learn more about this event please visit the link included. Dates: December 14-15. (Updated For 2019)
White River Rotary Club: The club at White River Junction was established in 1924. According to their website, "Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. In more than 160 countries worldwide, approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 30,000 Rotary clubs." They host official The Polar Express train rides on December 15 and 16. (Updated For 2019)
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Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum: For those who want to see a steam locomotive in action within the Pacific Northwest a visit to Chehalis is a must. The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum operates Cowlitz, Chehalis, & Cascade Railroad (CC&C) 2-8-2 #15 (built by Baldwin Locomotive in 1916) and has two others under restoration (CC&C 2-8-0 #25 built by Baldwin in 1920 and Rayonier 2-6-6-2T Mallet #8 built by Baldwin in 1924). To host excursions they utilize a 10-mile section of the old Milwaukee Road (which left the west coast in 1980), currently owned by the Port of Chehalis (and used for freight service by Tacoma Rail); founded in 1986, public outings began three years later. The museum is primarily dedicated to the region's logging history with several pieces focused on that subject. In addition, they host an array of various train rides for the public including dinner trains, regular excursions, and specials for virtually every holiday. These trips are quite popular, even more so thanks to the use of steam locomotives which draws even larger crowds. One of their special events is hosting official The Polar Express events during late November through December. They will be offered on the following dates: November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 13-15, and December 20-22. (Updated For 2019) Please note that they also offer Santa Steam Trains not related to The Polar Express during select dates in December.
Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad: Few other places in America can boast nearly a half-dozen operational steam locomotives. If you enjoy rail history and seeing these incredible machines in service you must plan a visit to the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad & Logging Museum. Located in Elbe it utilizes about 7 miles of the old Milwaukee Road to Mineral. After the Milwaukee left the west the track was acquired by Weyerhaeuser and then the city of Tacoma in 1998. Today, the MRSR is managed by American Heritage Railways, which operates some of the nation's finest excursion trains like the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Steam locomotives you can catch in action here include Rayonier (Polson Logging) 2-8-2 #70 (Baldwin/1922), Hammond Lumber Company 2-8-2T #17 (Alco/1929), Hillcrest Lumber Company 3-Truck Climax #10 (Climax/1928), Whitney Engineering Company 3-Truck/90-Ton Heisler #91 (built as #102 by Heisler in 1929), and Rayonier 3-Truck/75-Ton Willamette #2 (Willamette Iron & Steel/1929). They also have other locomotives either on display or under restoration. Among their many special trips is official The Polar Express train rides. Dates: November 22—December 31. (Updated For 2019)
Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad/West Virginia Central Railroad: The West Virginia Central has become the defacto name for all of the Mountain State's tourist trains operated by John and Kathy Smith. These include the original WVC (ex-Western Maryland trackage around Elkins), the world-famous Cass Scenic Railroad at Cass, and the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley in Durbin. What is today transforming into a fluid, interconnected, and very popular attraction was nearly all abandoned (save for Cass Scenic) after CSX Transportation (successor to the Chesapeake & Ohio and Western Maryland) wanted rid of these lines during the 1980's and 1990's. The WVC currently provides the single, longest trip as patrons are whisked southward from Elkins in climate-controlled cars. They offer many different excursions and packages throughout the year. In addition, the railroad hosts one of the most popular versions of The Polar Express during November and December. The trains board at the restored Western Maryland depot in Elkins with the journey lasting about an hour. Dates: November 7-10, November 14-17, November 20-24, November 29-December 1, December 4-8, December 11-15. (Updated For 2019)
National Railroad Museum: The National Railroad Museum located in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin (near Green Bay) was founded in 1956 by a group of train enthusiasts who wished to launch a museum on a national scope. Their first addition was Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 #261, which has since been sold to the "Friends Of The 261." This organization has transformed the steam locomotive into a nationally recognized icon as it annually hosts excursions across the Midwest. The National Railroad Museum (NRM) earned its "national" moniker in 1958 when Congress recognize it as the country's official railroad museum and provided it with needed funding. Today, NRM features an impressive list of preserved locomotives, some of which are featured inside climate-controlled buildings. Among their many steam locomotives on display is London & North Eastern 4-6-2 #60008, a famous Class A-4 from Britain. The list of things available are many including train rides, corporate events, theater presentations, group tours, weddings, depots, and more. NRM is among the nation's best railroad museums and well worth the visit. They will host official The Polar Express train rides from mid-November through early December. To learn more please visit their website. Dates: November 16-17, November 20-24, November 26-27, November 29-December 1, December 3-8, December 10-24, and December 26-30. (Updated For 2019)
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Alberta Prairie Railway: This attraction is located in Stettler, Alberta offering steam and diesel powered trips which last up to 5 or 6 hours to Big Valley! They offer numerous amenities, from on-board meals to murder mystery specials. One of their special events are official The Polar Express excursions. Dates: November 23, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 11-15, and December 17-22. (Updated For 2019)
Aspen Crossing Railway: This excursion train, based in Mossleigh, Alberta, will host official The Polar Express excursions. Dates: November 22-23, November 29-December 1, December 5-8, December 12-15, December 18-24, and December 27-29. (Updated For 2019)
West Coast Railway Heritage Park: Located in Vancouver, British Columbia and established in 1961 the WCRA's mission is to preserve Canada's railroad history through restoration and preservation. They maintain the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, British Columbia which includes a total of 12 acres that features, among other attractions, a station and Canadian National roundhouse. Dates: November 23-24, November 30-December 1, December 7-8, and December 14-15. (Updated For 2019)
Waterloo Central Railway: This heritage railroad began service in 2007, operated by the Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society (SOLRS) and owned by the Region of Waterloo. It utilizes a section of the former Canadian National between Elmira and Kitchener, Ontario. For the first time in 2017 they hosted official The Polar Express events. In 2019 the attraction will operate on the following dates: November 21-23, November 28-30, December 5-7, December 12-14, and December 19-20. (Updated For 2019)
York–Durham Heritage Railway: This heritage railway is located above Toronto in the both the York and Durham Regions. It was originally built as the Toronto & Nipissing Railway to a gauge of 3 foot, 6-inches, later widened to standard gauge in 1883. It became part of the Canadian National in 1923. Since 1996 it has operated about 12 miles between Uxbridge and Stouffville. Dates: November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, and December 13-22. (Updated For 2019)
Mid-Fork Railway: The Mid-Fork is one of Britain's longest heritage railroads, operating 15 miles of former London & North Eastern Railway trackage around Dereham, Norfolk. For 2019 the dates are as follows: November 15-17, November 22-24, November 28-December 1, December 4-8, December 11-15, December 18-23, and December 27-29. (Updated For 2019)
Seaton Tramway: The Seaton Tramway, which operates narrow gauge heritage trams between Seaton, Colyford and Colyton in East Devon's Axe Valley, will play host to official The Polar Express trips on these dates: November 28-December 1, December 3-8, and December 10-24. (Updated For 2019)
Telford Steam Railway: The Telford Steam Railway (TSR) is a tourist railroad based in Horsehay, Telford in Shropshire, England. It was created in 1976 and operates part of the historic Wellington & Severn Junction Railway. They will host official The Polar Express events in 2019. Dates: November 23-24, November 27-December 2, December 4-9, December 11-16, and December 18-23. (Updated For 2019)
Vintage Trains: This organization is operated by Birmingham Railway Museum Trust, located in the West Midlands. It is based at the Tyseley Locomotive Works (previously known as the Birmingham Railway Museum) and maintain a large collection of operable steam locomotives. To learn more about their Polar Express events please visit their website. (Updated For 2019)
Wensleydale Railway: Located in Wensleydale and Lower Swaledale, North Yorkshire, England this heritage railroad maintains a 22-mile network between Northallerton West Station and Redmire. In 2019 they will host official The Polar Express trips on the following dates: November 29-December 1, December 5-8, and December 12-23. (Updated For 2019)
The movie version of The Polar Express is a bit different, and a much longer tale, than the original but for the most part it sticks to the original story. To rail fans and historians the most notable aspect of the movie is Pere Marquette #1225, an actual 2-8-4 Berkshire-type steam locomotive, which is still operational and used as the basis of the locomotive in the movie. It, and its tender, was computer generated to the finest detail, including using the sounds of the locomotive while in operation, in the movie. Also, please be aware that only certain organizations operate the officially licensed Polar Express train and they are denoted here by the image above. All other organizations listed here operate Christmas or Santa Claus trains not affiliated with the Polar Express (but are worth the visit!).