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Read the book? Watched the movie? Now it’s time to don your Christmas PJs and head out with the family to live the story for yourself!  Welcome to our Complete Guide to The Polar Express Train Ride including all UK locations and details for 2022. 

The Polar Express Train Ride Poster

If you’re looking for a fun and different way to see Father Christmas this year, a Polar Express Train Ride may be just the ticket (boom boom!). 

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“Well,” he said, “are you coming?”  “Where?” I asked.  “Why, to the North Pole of course”

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s classic Christmas tale, this festive train adventure enables you and your family to follow in the footsteps of the story and enjoy an exciting journey together, full of North Pole wonder!

It’s a step up from the traditional Santa Train Ride, merging the popular Christmas steam train outing with a trip to Hollywood as you become the star of your very festive movie classic.

We’ve gathered all the details for you – where, when, how – so read on for your complete guide, including plenty of tips and our interactive map so you can find the Polar Express Train Ride nearest you!

Tip: The Polar Express Train Rides are hugely popular.  Do not delay booking once ticket sales open – they will sell out fast!

Note: Information last updated 1 August 2022.  Please check organiser’s websites for latest details.  Contact details below. We are not affiliated with The Polar Express or the railway lines in any way. 

Looking for more activities to enjoy?  Click here for other fun ideas.

If you’re looking for a traditional Father Christmas Steam train ride, click here to find your nearest adventure.  Or if you’d to try a Christmas Lights Train Rides, we have all the details here.

Note: This post contains some affiliate links. This means that we may earn a small commission when you click on such links, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We only share links to products we would use ourselves and all opinions are our own. You can read the full disclaimer here.

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What is the story of The Polar Express?

Written and illustrated by American author Chris Van Allsburg in 1985, The Polar Express is the festive story of a young boy’s train journey to the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

With nothing except the pyjamas he’s wearing, the boy travels north on the train along with a host of other children.  Upon arrival in the North Pole, they join the throngs of Christmas elves waiting to cheer Santa on his way.  When the young boy is selected by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas, he chooses a bell from one of the reindeer’s harnesses – a very special bell that only makes a sound for those that truly believe. 

Disaster strikes on the way home as the bell is lost through a hole in the boy’s pocket.  But, by the magic of Christmas, perhaps it will find its way back to its new owner even so?!

The book was already a Christmas classic, particularly in the US.  However the 2004 animated movie, starring Tom Hanks as The Polar Express train conductor, introduced the tale to a plethora of new global fans and cemented its place in the Christmas story hall of fame! 

With such a simple heart-warming festive tale, it’s easy to see why a real Polar Express Train Ride would be so full of wonder and create such magical memories, particularly for the little ones in the family!

Wensleydale Railway Polar Express Train Ride - Santa with Silver Sleigh Bell

What to expect on a Polar Express Train Ride

Although run by different railway lines across the country, all the experiences are very similar in format and of course are designed to bring The Polar Express story to life!

Expect to spend around an hour onboard your train, riding along one of the UK’s iconic rail routes whilst you enjoy a completely immersive festive entertainment experience, designed with the whole family in mind. 

You’ll enjoy all the movie highlights:  From the grand arrival of the train itself to meeting the conductor and plenty of singing and games.  Not to mention hot chocolate and cookies for all, delivered by the dancing chefs.  There might even be a reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic book to make sure everyone knows the story before you pull into the North Pole.

And of course you’ll get a visit from the main man himself as Santa hops aboard to say hello!  What’s more, everyone leaves with a gift of their very own Polar Express silver sleigh bell so you can be sure to keep the magic alive long after your adventure has finished.

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How long is The Polar Express Train Ride?

Again allow for some local variation but all say that the overall experience is around two hours long, with 60-75mins of that onboard the train. 

Almost all locations offer some additional activities, facilities and shopping at the station.  So the overall time will depend on how long your party decide to take enjoying these as well of course as the parking and check-in process.  Some locations run a park-and-ride service and so there may be a little time needed for shuttle trips to the train as well.

Churnet Valley Railway Polar Express Train Ride - off to the North Pole

Which Polar Express Train Ride is the best?

All the train rides listed on this page are official Polar Express Train Rides, hosted in conjunction with a company called Rail Events International.

Therefore all follow a similar format which is closely aligned to the original story and licenced to use all branding and characters from the book and movie.

There are some local variations, particularly with the actual train used and of course the route taken (for example the Seaton Polar Express takes place on a classic tramcar rather than a train).

The activities on offer before and after the train ride may vary somewhat too (with some venues hosting pre-shows – enquire directly for details).

However each venue has created an immerse Christmas experience which fits well with the Polar Express tale and we’re sure that all will provide wonderful festive memories for the whole family.  Perhaps a Polar Express Train Ride will become an annual tradition for you and yours (maybe it is already?!)!

If you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a Polar Express Train Ride in more than one location, we’d love to know how you thought they compared!

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What’s the best age for the train ride?

Polar Express Train Rides are designed for the whole family, from 0-100 and beyond!

You know your children and your family best and know when they will get the most from the occasion.  In our experience children aged four and over have a greater chance of remembering the occasion and are more engaged in Christmas general and all its wonder!  That being said little ones will no doubt love the sensory experience and under 2s can sit on an adult’s lap for a nominal charge.

Common Sense Media suggests 6+ for The Polar Express movie.  And we would concur – both my boys were a little scared the first time they watched the movie. So if your children are worried about some of the more exhilarating parts of the story’s journey or characters they might meet, then waiting until they are that little bit older might help.   (You could always enjoy a traditional Santa Train Ride in the meantime.)

Tip: To make for the most magical atmosphere and best enjoyment of the light displays, try to book a Polar Express Train Ride after dark if you can (unless you have tiny ones that would be too tired to enjoy those later timeslots.)

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Do I have to know The Polar Express story to enjoy the train ride?

Not at all.  A festive themed train ride is bound to make for a wonderful Christmas family day out whether you know the story or not!  And the train ride typically include a retelling of the story anyway. 

However, why not make the most of the experience and enjoy either the book, the movie or both before you go? 

Get your copy of the book, rent the movie or buy the DVD at the links here.

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Do I really have to wear pyjamas?

Of course you don’t have to!  But expect plenty of your fellow passengers to be embracing the story completely so why not get your comfies on!  Surely it’s the perfect excuse to shop for some matching family PJs..? 

If you really don’t want to go down the Christmas pyjama route, perhaps opt for a Christmas jumper instead.  The Polar Express Train Ride is no place for Grinches!

Tip: There will be some time spent outdoors on platforms so it’s worth considering a size up on the pyjamas so you can fit an extra layer or two underneath for warmth.  The bonus of this approach is that the children’s pyjamas may last another year and you’ve got more room for your Christmas dinner on the 25th!! 

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How much is The Polar Express Train Ride?

Prices vary considerably depending on ticket type and location.  However expect to pay from around £25 per person for a standard off-peak ticket up to around £55 per person for a premium time at a peak date and time in some locations.  Children and adults are priced the same.

Babies (under 2yo) can be seated on laps for a nominal charge and will still receive their silver sleigh bell gift but no snack. 

There are two types of ticket available for most locations: standard and premium.  All ticket types include hot chocolate, cookie and silver sleigh bell gift.  Premium ticket holders also receive souvenir mugs for each passenger (cannot be purchased separately). 

Standard and premium ticket holders are seated in different carriages so groups with mixed booking types will not be seated together.

How do I book?

Details for booking tickets are included below for each of the UK Polar Express Train Ride locations.  Tickets must be purchased online and in advance.

Tickets are posted out ahead of the booking and include the special golden train tickets to bring on board!

Many of the locations routinely sell out all their Polar Express Train Rides so we would strongly suggest signing up for a newsletter or following social media accounts to be kept up to date when tickets go on sale.  And be sure to book early to avoid disappointment!

Cholsey & Wallingford Heritage Railway Oxfordshire Polar Express Train Ride - Conductor Hat

What should I take with me?

In addition to your Christmas pyjamas or jumper, you might like to don a dressing gown, Christmas beanie and thick cosy socks too.  Much as it would be tempting to wear fluffy festive slippers as well, these would likely get ruined on damp mucky platforms.  So proper shoes are the way to go.

In terms of other things to bring along:

  • Tickets of course, including your special golden Polar Express tickets!
  • Camera, battery & memory cards and/or fully charged phone with booster pack. Batteries run down more quickly in cold weather and it would be such a shame to miss out on capturing the occasion!
  • Your own copy of The Polar Express to read along on board (buy a copy here). If you’re on the nice list, Father Christmas* might even sign it for you when he passes through the carriage!
  • Cash or card for extra treats at the Polar Express store at the station upon your return (and maybe a non-transparent bag with a zip in case you want to sneak something home unnoticed!)

*on some trains, the Conductor is the book signer rather than Santa himself.

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Where are the Polar Express Train Ride UK Locations For 2022?

There are currently 11 Polar Express Train Ride locations spread across the UK.

Use our interactive map below to find your nearest venue and scroll down for more details.

The Polar Express Birmingham

Following a short covid break, The Polar Express Birmingham is back for Christmas 2022!

Enjoy a festive adventure with your family right from the heart of Birmingham City Centre!  

With freshly baked cookies and delicious movie-inspired hot chocolate for all, it’s the stuff North Pole dreams are made of.  Dancing chefs and characters from the story will keep you entertained all the way to the North Pole.  And of course then there’s a visit from a very special gent in red!  

And with sleigh bell gifts for all and plenty of festive fun and singing, the magical adventure will be sure to keep everyone entertained!

Conductor on Platform at the Birmingham Polar Express Train Ride

Where: Birmingham Moor Street Station, Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B4 7UL

When: Saturday 26th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 1.5 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Birmingham Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Cholsey & Wallingford Railway

Bringing the magic to Oxfordshire, surrounding counties and North & West London, this Polar Express Train Ride route was added in 2021.

With freshly baked cookie and The Polar Express’s very own recipe hot chocolate delivered by dancing chefs aboard your Christmas steam engine, you know you’re in for a fun adventure!

There’s a retelling of the classic tale and visits from characters in the story before you arrive in the North Pole and welcome Father Christmas himself to board the train.

Once everyone has said hello and received their special first gift of Christmas, carol singing and more fun will keep you warm all the way home.  And with plenty to do back at the station – writing to Santa, buying souvenirs and checking the Naughty or Nice Scanner – you’re sure to keep the whole family entertained.

Cholsey & Wallingford Heritage Railway Oxfordshire Polar Express Train Ride - Chef Looking out of window

Where: Cholsey & Wallingford Railway, Wallingford Station, 5 Hithercroft Rd, Wallingford, OX10 9GQ

When: Thursday 24th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2-2.5 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Oxfordshire Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Churnet Valley Railway

The Staffordshire Polar Express Train Ride departure to the North Pole leaves from Froghall Station in Stoke-on-Trent.

As you travel north in search of Father Christmas, the train conductor will work his way around the carriage punching golden tickets, just like in the movie. 

You may well find the illusive Northern Lights as you near Santa’s home.  Then welcome the man himself on board to say hello as he delivers the first gifts of Christmas to all on the nice list.

Where: Froghall Station, Froghall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST10 2HA

When: Friday 18th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 1.5 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Staffordshire Polar Express Train Ride can be found here

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Mid-Norfolk Railway

The Norfolk Polar Express Train Ride takes place in festively-decorated carriages pulled by a classic heritage diesel-electric locomotive rather than a steam engine.

However otherwise the format is similar to that at other locations, with the retelling of The Polar Express story and interactive show by characters in the book.  And of course that all important visit by Father Christmas at the North Pole!

Where: Dereham Railway Station, Station Rd, Dereham NR19 1DF

When: Saturday 12th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Norfolk Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Seaton Tramway

A slightly different experience is on offer at the seafront in Devon, where The Polar Express is reimagined as a classic tram instead.

Passengers hop on board the decorated single deck tramcars for a journey to the North Pole whilst enjoying the story of The Polar Express as well as hot cocoa and cookie delivered by dancing chefs.

Once at the North Pole, all passengers alight for a festive show, with characters from the story as well as a very special guest!  After saying hello to Santa and receiving a silver sleigh bell gift, it’s all aboard again with plenty of carol singing on the way back to Seaton Station. 

Note: On board the tram it’s free seating within the tramcars, with a cosy feel once full.  Blankets are available if anyone is feeling chilly.

Where: Seaton Tramway, Harbour Road, Seaton, Devon, EX12 2WD

When: Friday 25th November – Saturday 24th December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2.5 hours.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Devon Polar Express Tram Ride can be found here.

South Devon Railway

Moving further south and a touch further inland, the iconic black steam engine of The Polar Express puffs magnificently into the station at Buckfastleigh in Devon, covering the station in a magical blanket of steam.  It’s even inscribed with Santa’s special date “1225”!

Be entertained by the Conductor, chefs and crew as you steam ahead to the North Pole where you’ll be greeted by Santa and his friendly elves.  But watch out along the way in case there’s caribou on the line! 

Then snag your family photo on the return with the Polar Express and atmospheric platform casting the perfect backdrop for your Christmas shot!

South Devon Railway Polar Express Train Ride - chef dancing amongst the passengers

Where: The Station, Dartbridge Road, Buckfastleigh, Devon, TQ11 0DZ

When: Friday 18th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2-2.5 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the South Devon Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Spa Valley Railway

If you’re looking for a Polar Express Train Ride in Kent or south-east London, then Spa Valley Railway is the one for you! 

Following a similar format to most of the other venues, this festive steam engine adventure is the stuff that Christmas family days out dreams are made of!  In fact it’s so magical that snow is almost guaranteed!

Spa Valley Railway Kent Polar Express Train Ride - Conductor Punches Golden Tickets

Where: West Station, Nevill Terrace, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 5QY

When: Thursday 24th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2-2.5 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Kent Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Telford Railway

With the classic story retold by singing chefs as you travel to the North Pole aboard your festively decorated steam engine, you’ll enjoy a cookie and hot chocolate before Santa comes on board. 

There’s a glimpse of the Northern Lights before a hello from the man in red and those passengers on the nice list are treated to a silver sleigh bell. 

Then it’s back to the station where you can continue the adventure with a trip to Santa’s workshop for letter writing, souvenir shopping and a visit to the Naughty or Nice Scanner if you dare!

Where: The Old Loco Shed, Bridge Road, Horsehay, Telford, Shropshire, TF4 3UH

When: Friday 25th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2-2.5 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Shropshire Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Wensleydale Railway

Without doubt a Yorkshire Christmas Day Outs highlight, the Yorkshire Polar Express runs from Leeming Bar station along historic Wensleydale Heritage Railway to the North Pole.

As The Polar Express, pulled by its very own steam train, makes its Grand Arrival into the station, excitement is at fever pitch!  With songs and entertainment as your journey begins, characters from the story will join you on board the train.  Hot chocolate and cookie are served just before arrival at the North Pole and a special guest boards the train. 

Whilst Father Christmas says hello and delivers a special silver bell to each passenger, the conductor will be busy punching each passenger’s golden train ticket.

Upon your return to Leeming Bar, there will be time to write to Father Christmas, check if you’re on the naughty or nice list and buy a souvenir at the gift shop before you head home.

Where: Leeming Bar Station, Leases Rd, Leeming Bar, Northallerton, DL7 9AR.  Just off junction 51 on the A1(M).  Parking is at the Park & Ride at the A1(M) services.

When: Friday 18th November – Friday 23rd December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2-2.5 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Yorkshire Polar Express Train Ride can be found here

Caledonian Railway

Bringing the festivities to life north of the border, the Caledonian Railway Polar Express Train Ride is Scotland’s first official Polar Express adventure.

With a Steam Engine at one end and Heritage Diesel Locomotive at the other, you have the best of both worlds aboard this Polar Express train!  And being that bit closer to the North Pole will surely help as well 😉 

Delivery of hot chocolate and cookie on board will keep you feeling warm and toasty as you enjoy the entertainment provided by the train conductor and his fellow cast of familiar characters while you travel towards Santa’s home to see who you might find!

Note: Premium tickets here also include the cost of parking at the station.

Caledonian Railway Scotland Polar Express Train Ride - Decorated Carriage

Where: Brechin Station, Park Road, Brechin, DD9 7AF

When: Saturday 19th November – Sunday 18th December 2022

How Long: Overall experience will last approximately 2 hours with around 60 mins of this on board The Polar Express.

More Information: Further details and booking for the Scottish Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Isle of Man Railway

North Pole magic is alive and kicking on The Isle of Man with the return of the Douglas station departure on The Polar Express!

Meet characters from the classic tale as you travel in search of Father Christmas.  Enjoy delicious hot chocolate and warm cookies as The Polar Express story comes to life around you with a fun-filled theatrical performance aboard your heritage train.  

And as Santa joins you in the North Pole, you may be lucky to receive the first gift of Christmas (if you’re on the nice list of course!).

Back in Douglas you’ll have the chance to write a letter to Santa, take plenty of selfies and even pick up a few extra gifts at the exclusive store.

Two chefs from the Isle of Man Polar Express Train Ride

Where: Douglas Station, 4 Railway Terrace, Douglas, Isle of Man IM1 2ER, Isle of Man

When: 2022 Dates TBC

How Long: TBC

More Information: Further details and booking for the Isle of Man Polar Express Train Ride can be found here.

Can I find Polar Express Train Rides elsewhere in the world?

Yes!  At the time of preparing this article there were forty locations across the USA and Canada at which you can enjoy an official Polar Express train ride.

For locations and more details, click here

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Have you been on a Polar Express Train Ride?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.  Any top tips for future adventurers? 

For more Father Christmas Train Rides, click here.  Or find out more about the Christmas Lights Train Rides that are brightening up the countryside around the UK.

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