“Polar Express” Takes Thousands for a Special Ride to the North Pole Every Year Since 2007


Annie Centore, with Her Son, Luca, 5, Waiting for his First Ride on the Polar Express This Afternoon at Ocean Gateway on the Portland Waterfront.

A Train Display at the  Polar Express Gift Shop.

Some of the Gift Items for Sale at the Polar Express Gift Shop at the Visitors’ Center on the Portland Waterfront.

“Are you ready for a ride to visit Santa Claus?  If you are and have your tickets just follow me out this door and together we will board the Polar Express,” said Show Conductor, Eric Kelley, this afternoon for the 3:00 pm run that began at the Visitor’s Center on the Portland waterfront.

Moments later a line of 300 people followed the Show Conductor out of the Visitor’s Center to where holiday decorated trains were waiting to board young passengers and their families for a trip of their dreams.

Among those passengers were Annie Centore, and her son Luca, 5.  The two were meeting up with Annie’s brother and sister and their young children at the Visitors’ Center. “There will be a total of ten of us,” said Annie.  “It’s a family reunion.  We hope to make this a family tradition.”   Annie who lives in Massachusetts will have a family reunion with her siblings and their children who now live in Falmouth and Kennebunk.  She is from Kennebunk and now lives in the Boston area.

Not all of the passengers enjoying the ride to visit Santa were children. Shawn MacGregor and his wife, Tiffany, came from Cornville for the ride.  Dressed in her PJ’s and ready for some hot chocoloate served by volunteers on the ride north, Tiffany said:  “Christmas is my most favorite holiday.  I have great memories with my family in Skowhegan.  Christmas is back” Shawn purchased the tickets in October for his wife’s Christmas present.

The Polar Express to the North Pole started the day after Thanksgiving and runs to Christmas Eve said Matt Levy, operations manager, this afternoon.  “We are sold out.  There are no tickets available for the 2023 season.”  Tickets to the Polar Express were sold out at the beginnng of November 2023 Levy said.  “We have people from all over the US here to ride the Polar Express.”

It was back in 1994 that the first Christmas Trains ran along Casco Bay as a much needed fund-raiser for the “two-footers.”  The idea was that of board member Dr. Gil Wilcox who was so inspired by the 1985 classic “The Polar Express”  that he encouraged the museum to run its own annual Christmas Train.  This was seen as a major accomplishment since the narrow gauge railroad museum had been founded only the year before:  September 1993.  Fast forward to 2007 and the installation of the Polar Express as the major fund raiser from the two-foot railroad.

The narrow gauge museum originaly located at 58 Fore Street before it was sold to Curtis Prentice, of Portland Foreside  for the ten acres of development, was composed of antique narrow gauge trains purchased from the Edaville Railroad, South Carver, Massachusetts.  The owner of the Edaville Railroad was Elllils D. Atwood, whose initials form the name of the railroad.  In the early 90s.  Phin Sprague, Jr., and a group of rail fans including the late Erv Bickford speadheaded the effort to return the trains to Portland where they came from.  A land dispute betweem the cranberry bog owner on which the Edaville Railroad had been located and the narrow gauge trains put much of the two-footers up for sale.  The Portland group took advantage of the opportunity to return them to their home state.

The two-footers operated in northern Maine from the 1870s through the 1940s and were composed of five lines  They were built as two footers because they were less expensive to build and could get through the rough terrain of northern Maine better than regular gauge.

Suggestion:  Start planning for Polar Express 2024 soon!

(This blogger took many photos today and regrets that she is unable to post them because of difficulties in so doing.)

Please visit post herein dated April 3, 2014 for more information on the Polar Express.

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