By Carol McCracken
“Toot, Toot,” sounded the mini-train as it left the station at the Ocean Gateway for its last Polar Express run of the 2016 holiday season. The seven cars were full of families on their way to see Santa Claus in the North Pole on a magical trip made famous by the book. Loved ones purchased tickets way ahead of the event because its so popular that tickets go fast. Really, really fast.
Back in November, Jeanne Nielson began trying to purchase four tickets for her daughter and her family. “I called the ticket office every other day to get tickets. They would tell me there is no change! Finally, I called just three days ago. I was able to get two (2) tickets. That’s better than none,” she said laughing.
Nielson and others were pleased to hear that the Polar Express has signed a contract to run until 2020 at the same location in Portland according to Donnie Carroll, executive director, of the narrow gauge railroad. Almost 14,000 tickets were sold this year for the 9th annual event – the most ever tickets sold Carroll said. This is the major fundraiser for this non-profit organization. The event began Friday, November 25 and ended today.
The Pemantell family drove over from Exeter, New Hampshire for the Polar Express. It was the first time the family had ridden on the Train. They learned of it while in Portland earlier this year when visiting Merrill Auditorium. “I liked the fact that this was a fund raiser for the train. That was part of the reason we decided to come here,” said Jennifer Pemantell.
“We really like this warm weather,” said Carroll this afternoon. He was referring to the warmish temperatures and sunshine that Portlanders were experiencing. “We had some really cold, icy days. It was hard to keep the hot in hot chocolate during that cold weather,” he said laughing. (See above left photo.)