North Pole Express tickets go on sale this month for 20th anniversary ride

North Pole Express celebrates 20 years. Photo via Steam Railroading Institute

This December, the Steam Railroading Institute will celebrate 20 years of the North Pole Express on the historic Pere Marquette 1225 and you can be on board.

It's been 20 years since Tom Hanks' conductor character asked the little boy the simple question: "Well, ya comin?" It's also been 20 years since the Pere Marquette – which was the inspiration for the Polar Express – hit the rails for the first-ever North Pole Express to the Village of Ashley. This winter, the historic train has big plans for two decades of holiday joy through Michigan.

Tickets for the 2024 North Pole Express go on sale later this month and the SRI has big plans for the big celebration. In fact - if you have a big enough party, they're taking early reservations for the Frank Thomson Private Car.

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

The private party car includes tickets for a party of 26 in the most luxurious car. In this private section, you get car host service, complimentary sweet treats, souvenir "North Pole Express" mug, unlimited hot cocoa, and champagne and Baileys (must be 21+). The ticket also includes the same as other tickets – admission to the Village of Ashley Country Christmas, souvenir tickets, and a "Believe" bell.

To reserve the private car, it will cost you a total of $6,200 with a $1,000 deposit to hold the car and date.

There are no individual seats in the private car.

The SRI says that, due to the hisotir nature of the passenger car fleet, they cannot be made ADA accessible.

"By booking, you agree that all guests in your party are able to climb up and down stairs," the SRI said on its website.

You can find out more details on the special car here.

North Pole Express ticket options

If the party of 26 isn't your style or in your price range, the SRI has several other options.

There are four other options to get a seat on the North Pole Express with prices starting at $80 per person. All purchases include car host service, your seat, the souvenir ticket, ‘Believe’ Bell, a cup of hot cocoa, on-board entertainment by volunteers, and admission to the Village of Ashley's Country Christmas. But depending on which ticket you buy, you may get more. 

Check out the full breakdown of seats here.


  • This ticket costs you $80 each and gets you a seat on a coach car.


  • If you want to spend a bit more per person, you can pay $105.
  • This ticket gets you on a deluxe, vintage 1950s coach car.
  • You also get a souvenir mug and unlimited hot cocoa

Claus Club

  • For $500, you can get a table for four people.
  • This ticket – at $125 per person – gets you a table on a vintage 1950s dining car
  • Like the Cocoa Class, it comes with a souvenir mug and includes sweet treats and unlimited hot cocoa


  • For $2,200 - 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.
  • This would be reserved just for your party between 10 and 12 people.
  • It includes upper and lower-level seating.
  • You also get a souvenir mug and unlimited hot cocoa.

The North Pole Express is not offering the Adult-Only Parlour Class as they have in previous years.

When will the North Pole Express run?

The SRI has set the 12 dates for the 2024 North Pole Express and all are on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The first rides will run on Saturday, Nov. 23 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. 21.

On the final day, Sunday, December 22, only one ride is being offered – the 10 a.m. route will be the final one of the year.

There is also a special ride on the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 29 but the time hasn't been set yet. It has traditionally run at 2 p.m. on that day.

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

Tickets for the 2024 North Pole Express will go on sale at noon on Thursday, July 25. You better move fast if you want tickets though, as they sell out quickly! Last year, tickets were sold out in the first 30 minutes.

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, services, and more before trying to buy tickets.

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.

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.

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.