OWASSO, Mich. (FOX 2) - Get ready to climb aboard the North Pole Express! The 2022 schedule and pricing has been released for the annual trip to Santa's village.
After a triumphant return in 2021, the North Pole Express is back and ready to take you and your family on a magical trip to the North Pole. But there is one major difference this year: The iconic train will not be pulled by the classic steam train.
Two weeks ago, the Steam Railroading Institute announced the train that was used in "The Polar Express" in 2004 and has pulled the Christmas voyage every year, needs a break in 2022.
The Pere Marquette 1225's running gear is in need of a major rebuild and it has to be completely inspected, refurbished, and replaced- something that hasn't been done since the 1940s.
The good news is that everything else about the experience will be the same. Plus the SRI said the Piere Marquette will be on a display track near the visitor's center in Owosso for pictures before or after the train.
The one-hour and fifteen-minute train ride leaves from Owosso and stops in the Village of Ashley for a two-hour Christmas party. It then returns with another one-hour and fifteen-minute train ride home.
With the purchase of a ticket, you get a magical trip, hot coco, games on board, live entertainment, and a chance to meet Santa Claus himself.
What is the North Pole Express?
The North Pole Express has been an annual tradition run by the non-profit SRI since 2004 and grows in popularity every year. The engine is usually the world-famous Pere Marquette 1225, a 1941 Berkshire-type steam locomotive that is the pride and joy of the SRI collection.
The locomotive was built in 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works for the Pere Marquette Railroad but was retired and donated to Michigan State University in 1957 for display as an outdoor artifact.
In 1969, a group of students started restoration on the engine to get it back to operation. In 1983, it was moved to Owosso and in 1988 restoration work was finally complete.
It's perhaps best known for its role in the 2004 Christmas classic "The Polar Express" as its blueprints and sounds were used as the prototype for the locomotive in the movie.
While it won't run in 2022, the SRI said the iconic engine will still be on the side tracks in Owosso for photo opportunities this Christmas.
When will the North Pole Express run?
The dates for the 2021 North Pole Express have been set by the SRI.
The first rides will run on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10 am and 5 pm. The following day, Sunday, Nov. 22, rides will run at 10 am and 5 pm
After the initial ride, the SRI will run the express every Saturday and Sunday at the same times through Dec. 18.
There is a special ride on the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 25 at 5 pm as well.
When do tickets for the North Pole Express go on sale?
Tickets for the 2021 North Pole Express will go on sale at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22. You better move fast if you want tickets though as they sell out quickly!
The SRI recommends riders review the information on the website now and decide on travel dates, service, and more before trying to buy tickets on Thursday.
How do tickets work?
Every ticket will be digital or print at home and you must bring your printed ticket or mobile with you to be scanned when you arrive.
There will be no tickets at will call.
The SRI is still making it possible to get a special keepsake for tickets. Each passenger will receive a commemorative ticket once on the train and the Conductor will punch those for you.
What are the ticket options for the North Pole Express?
There are six different options to buy tickets and they start at $65 per passenger and all seating will be assigned when tickets are purchased.
This ticket costs you $65 each and seating will be on the MSTX 5447 Comet and MSTX 147 Cupid.
There will be assigned seating on a vintage 1950s coach car, car host service, entertainment, souvenir ticket and bell, cup of hot cocoa, and Admission to the Village of Ashley's Country Christmas.
If you want to spend a bit more per person, you can pay $75 to ride on the MSTX 736 snowflake.
This car is a deluxe, vintage 1960s Hi-Level coach car, car host service, entertainment, souvenir ticket and bell, cup of hot cocoa, and Admission to the Village of Ashley's Country Christmas.
These tickets are upper level and are not available to anyone with walking disabilities or who cannot climb stairs. Entrance onto and off the train will require climbing up and down the stairs.
At $85 per passenger, you can ride the MSTX 5646 Dasher, MSTX 5576 Vixen and MSTX 5581 Dancer
This is a vintage 1950s coach car, car host service, entertainment, souvenir ticket and bell, unlimited hot cocoa, admission to the Village of Ashley's Country Christmas.
At $429, you can secure a table for an entire party of four in a the MSTX 462 Frosty and MSTX 8532 Holly.
This is a vintage 1950s dining car, car host service, entertainment, souvenir ticket, mug, and bell, sweet treats, and unlimited hot cocoa, plus the admission to the Village of Ashley's Country Christmas.
Pere Marquette Parlour
This one is only for the grown-ups - no one under 18 is allowed. At $125, you can secure a sofa seat, for $160 you can get a swivel chair, or for $275you can get a table for two.
You must present ID if asked and you'll get assigned seating in a vintage 1950s, hi-level dome lounge car with high-end seating with panoramic views, car host service and entertainment, holiday hors d’oeuvres, seasonal cocktails available for purchase, souvenir ticket, mug, and bell, unlimited hot cocoa, and admission to the Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas.
Similar to the coach deluxe, these are not available to people with walking disabilities or who cannot climb stairs.
If you're really looking for a unique trip and have a large party, the Caboose package could be yours. It rides in the AA 2838 Donner and AA 2839 Blitzen and costs $1800 for a party of 12 passengers.
In this package, you get the historic caboose reserved exclusively for your group, upper and lower-level seating, private conductor, souvenir ticket, mug, and bell, unlimited hot cocoa, and admission to the Village of Ashley's Country Christmas.
How do you board the Polar Express?
When you leave Owosso, you'll pull up to the station at 405 South Washington street for your scheduled departure. Once you've presented your ticket, make your way to the correct car that you've paid for.
On all morning trips, the train will leave at 10 a.m. and arrive in Ashley at 11:15 a.m. You then have two hours to explore and then be back by 1:15 p.m. to head back to Owosso.
For evening trips, the train will leave Owosso at 5 p.m. and arrive at 6:15 pm with service returning home at 8:15 and arriving at 9:30 p.m.