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Polar Express Train Ride Locations (2024)

Last revised: December 30, 2023

By: Adam Burns

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.

Union Pacific 4-8-4 #844 steams through snowy Winnemucca, Nevada with a special excursion during an early spring storm on April 15, 2009. Drew Jacksich photo.

2024 Dates Will Be Included As They Become Available!

States

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. 

California

Florida

Illinois

Indiana

Kentucky

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Missouri

Nevada

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Rhode Island

Texas

Wisconsin

Alabama

No events known.

Alaska

No events yet known.

Arizona

Grand Canyon Railway (Williams): 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 late December.  The train departs Williams Depot and lasts about 90 minutes.

The Polar Express 2024 Dates:

You may also be interested in the Grand Canyon Railway's exclusive, VIP event, "The Ultimate Polar Express Experience."  This experience will take the entire family on a train ride with Santa Claus within one of the railroad's private, first-class passenger cars.  

Arkansas

No events known.

002020968176yh682790930809.jpgRio Grande 2-8-2 #483 steams through a winter wonderland along the narrow-gauge San Juan Extension at Chama, New Mexico, circa 1961. American-Rails.com collection.

Colorado

Colorado Railroad Museum (Golden):  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 2024 Dates: 

Durango & Silverton Narrow-Gauge (Durango):   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 2024 Dates: 

Connecticut

No events known.

Delaware

No events known.

Georgia

No events known.

Hawaii

No events known.

Idaho

No events known.

Iowa

No events known.

Kansas

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. 

Louisiana

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.

Michigan

No events known.

Minnesota

No events known.

Mississippi

No events yet known.

Missouri

Branson Scenic Railway (Branson): 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 2024 Dates: 

St. Louis Union Station (St. Louis): 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 2024 Dates: 

Montana

No events known.

Nebraska

No events yet known.

New Hampshire

No events known.

New Mexico

No events known.

"Holiday Homecoming." Art by David A. Oram.

North Dakota

No events yet known.

Oklahoma

(Oklahoma City): 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.   The train ride lasts about one hour where the kids travel to the "North Pole" and meet Santa.

The Oklahoma Railway Museum offers tickets in "Value," "Standard," and "Premium" departure rates based on demand.  To learn more please visit their website.

The Polar Express 2024 Dates: 

Oregon

No events known.

Pennsylvania

No events known.

South Carolina

No events known.

South Dakota

No events known.

Tennessee

No events known.

Utah

No events known.

Virginia

No events known.

Washington

(Currently Closed Due To A Washout) 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 the following locomotive:

  • Cowlitz, Chehalis, & Cascade Railroad (CC&C) 2-8-2 #15 (built by Baldwin Locomotive in 1916)

Two others under are restoration:

  • CC&C 2-8-0 #25 (built by Baldwin in 1920)
  • 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.  

The Polar Express 2024 Dates: 

Please note that they also offer Santa Steam Trains not related to The Polar Express during select dates in December.

Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad  (Indefinitely Closed In 2020)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)
  • Rayonier 3-Truck, 75-Ton Willamette #2 (Willamette Iron & Steel/1929).

They also have other locomotives either on display or under restoration.

Wyoming

No events yet known.

Canada

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. 

The Polar Express 2024 Dates: 

Aspen Crossing Railway:  This excursion train, based in Mossleigh, Alberta, will host official The Polar Express excursions.  

The Polar Express 2024 Dates: 

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.

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.

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.


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!).  

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