2023 North Pole Express rides through Michigan this December: tickets, dates, and times released

Image via https://www.michigansteamtrain.com/

All aboard!!! Tickets for the 2023 North Pole Express go on sale soon and there's good news for train riders: the iconic Pere Marquette is expected to be back on the rails!

The Pere Marquette 1225 spent the past year having its running gear rebuilt, inspected, refurbished, and replaced for the first time in 80 years. It took a while and it required the classic steam train to be out of commission for last year's ride, but it's scheduled to be done in time for the 2023 North Pole Express trips. 

The only difference last year was the train. Otherwise, riders got the same experience.

RELATED: Looking for more things to do? Check out our section here.

You board in Owosso and stop in the Village of Ashley for a two-hour Christmas party. There are games, crafts, carnival rides, food, and, of course, Santa Claus. And, just like in the Polar Express, Santa selects a child to get the first gift of Christmas.

 It then returns with another one-hour and fifteen-minute train ride home.

What is the North Pole Express?

The North Pole Express has been an annual tradition run by the non-profit Steam Railroading Institute (SRI) since 2004 and grows in popularity every year. It's powered by 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.

READ NEXT: New dates announced for 2023 Holidays at Meadowbrook winter event

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.

When will the North Pole Express run?

The 11 dates for the 2023 North Pole Express have been set by the SRI and all are on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The first rides will run on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

After the initial ride, the SRI will run the express every Saturday and Sunday at the same times through Dec. 17.

There is a special ride on the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 24 at 2 pm as well.

When do tickets for the North Pole Express go on sale?

Tickets for the 2023 North Pole Express will go on sale at noon on Tuesday, July 25. You better move fast if you want tickets though as they sell out quickly!

Check out the website here to get your tickets.

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.

What are the ticket options for the North Pole Express?

There are six different options to buy tickets and they start at $70 per passenger and all seating will be assigned when tickets are purchased and all include a souvenir ticket, ‘Believe’ bell, a cup of hot cocoa, on-board entertainment by volunteers, and admission to the Village of Ashley's Country Christmas.

Coach Class

  • This ticket costs you $70 each and seating has typically been the MSTX 5447 Comet and MSTX 147 Cupid. 
  • Seating is assigned on the vintage 1950s coach car

Coach Deluxe

  • If you want to spend a bit more per person, you can pay $80 to ride on the MSTX 736 snowflake.
  • This car is a deluxe, vintage 1960s Hi-Level coach and is 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.

Cocoa Class

  • At $95 per passenger, you can ride the MSTX 5646 Dasher, MSTX 5576 Vixen and MSTX 5581 Dancer
  • This is a vintage 1950s coach car and comes with a souvenir ‘North Pole Express’ mug and unlimited hot cocoa

Claus Club

  • At $460, you can secure a table for an entire party of four in a vintage 1950s dining car.
  • Like the cocoa class, it comes with a souvenir mug and includes sweet treats and unlimited hot cocoa

Pere Marquette Parlour

  • This one is only for the grown-ups - so if you've got little ones, scroll past here. You must show your ID
  • At $150, you can secure a sofa seat, for $150 you can get a swivel chair, or for $300 you can get a table for two.
  • You get assigned seating in a high-level dome lounge car, panoramic views, hor d'oeuvres, seasonal cocktails, plus the mug and unlimited cocoa
  • Similar to the coach deluxe, these are not available to people with walking disabilities or who cannot climb stairs.


  • For $1,900 - if you're really looking for a unique trip and have a large party, the Caboose package could be yours. It rides in the historic caboose and includes two levels of seating plus a private conductor.
  • You also get a souvenir mug and unlimited hot cocoa
  • This is perfect for multiple families as it can accommodate up to 12 passengers.

Pere Marquette Private Car (NEW in 2023)

  • Got a really big group? Like - lots of people? You can actually book this one now and is available for all ages.
  • For $5,000, you can book the Pere Marquette Private car which can accommodate between 28 and 36 people.
  • It's a first-class car reserved exclusively for you.
  • It includes high-end seating with panoramic views, hor d'oeuvres, seasonal cocktails for purchase, plus the mug and unlimited cocoa
  • NOTE: $1,000 is required to hold the car and the amount must be paid in full by Oct. 1 at 5 p.m.
  • You can book between now and July 24 by calling 989-720-3957
  • Similar to the coach deluxe and parlor cars, these are not available to people with walking disabilities or who cannot climb stairs.

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.

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.