The Polar Express is again making round-trip treks from Elbe to the North Pole. Those inspired train rides based on “The Polar Express” children’s book and movie will be leaving numerous times per week through the end of the year.
Since the Polar Express is a magical train, it is able to make it all the way from the Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum to the North Pole and back three times each night it is in operation. Each experience lasts about 90 minutes from start to finish, and the careening adventure is capped by a personal visit from Santa Claus to each child aboard the train.
Matthew Bekka, 13, of Puyallup, has been a frequent traveler on the Polar Express since it first started making treks from the Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum last year. He plays the part of “Know-It-All Boy” in the production, and says he makes every trip that his school schedule will allow.
“The best part for me is hearing what everyone wants for Christmas,” Bekka said.
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He explained during a recent ride that his job is to visit with every child on board in advance of Santa’s arrival “so they can have an idea of what they want before Santa comes, so they won’t be so shy.”
An enthusiastic cast along with carts of hot cocoa and cookies and plenty of jinging silver bells and Christmas carols combine to ensure that each train car is humming with Christmas spirit.
Jess Martin, marketing and sales director for the Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum, said the Polar Express consists of six cars per trip with about 400 people on each train. With three typically sold-out trips per night, the Polar Express is able to deliver about 1,200 people per night directly to Santa’s stomping grounds.
This year, the Polar Express is being pulled by the historic Polson Logging #70 steam engine, which was built in 1922 for the Polson Logging Company in Hoquiam. The engine was eventually purchased by the Rayonier timber corporation in 1945 before being retired in 1962.
This year’s operation offers a new flexed pricing schedule that reflects the demand for peak travel times. Polar Express trips scheduled on and around Christmas Eve are particularly popular, and ticket prices reflect that. Tickets range in price between $18 and $80.
“Last year we had pretty flat pricing,” Martin said. But he said this year’s flexed pricing has been “doing pretty well. It’s definitely encouraged people to book on off-peak days.”
Martin said there are limited spaces still available so it’s best to purchase tickets as soon as possible. She noted that ticket sales opened up in March and by September nearly 90 percent of all first-class tickets had been purchased.
Martin advised visitors to show up at least 30 minutes early, especially if they need to pick up tickets at will-call.
Martin said the Polar Express is “a true all-ages friendly event.”
“Dress warmly because we are outside in the cold before we go on. Everyone is encouraged to wear pajamas and there are many nights where folks of all ages are wearing their pajamas,” Martin said. The train cars are heated.
The event’s popularity is directly related to childhood memories of reading the 1985 book or seeing the 2004 movie.
“A lot of people are recalling memories that they first had when they heard the book as a child, and then they had that second push when the movie came out,” Martin said.
Want to go? Here’s how
Polar Express trips will continue on an intermittent schedule through New Year’s Eve. A full schedule and ticket information is available at www.mtrainierrailroad.com/train-excursions/polar-express/. Additional inquiries can be handled by phone at 360-569-7959.
Tickets range in price between $18 and $80.
The Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum is located at 54124 Mountain Highway E., Elbe.