OWOSSO, Mich. (FOX 2) - The annual trip aboard the North Pole Express in Michigan is back on for 2021!
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Steam Railroading Institute (SRI) to put the 2020 North Pole Express on the sidetracks but that's changing for the 2021 holiday season as the North Pole Express returns.
The SRI announced on Thursday that it would be bringing back to the North Pole Express with trips starting on November 20 and continuing every Saturday and Sunday until the weekend before Christmas.
The one-hour and fifteen-minute train ride leaves from Owosso 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 live entertainment, your picture taken in front of the 1225 engine, and 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 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.
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. 20 at 10 am and 5 pm. The following day, Sunday, Nov. 21, 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. 19.
There is a special ride on the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 26 at 10 am and 5 pm as well.
Do you have to wear a mask on the North Pole Express?
Yes, a mask is required on the North Pole Express to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings must be worn by all SRI staff and passengers over the age of 2 while in the SRI Welcome Center and while on the train.
The only exception is when you are actively eating or drinking.
When do tickets for the North Pole Express go on sale?
Tickets for the 2021 North Pole Express went on sale at 10 am on Friday, Oct. 1. You better move fast if you want tickets though as they sell out quickly!
How do tickets work?
The ticketing process is different than in previous years. 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 in 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 no 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 $120, you can secure a sofa seat, for $150 you can get a swivel chair, or for $260 you 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, 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 (Saturdays, Sundays, and Nov. 26), the train will leave at 10 am 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.
Saturday evenings, the train will leave at 6 pm and arrive in Ashley by 7:15 p.m. It then leaves Ashley at 9:15 p.m. and is back in Owosso by 10:30 p.m.
Sunday evenings and Nov. 26, 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.