The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum hosts the Polar Express train ride in Portland, Maine every holiday season. It’s quickly become an annual tradition for thousands of families. Last year more than 20,000 passengers rode the train.
What is the Polar Express in Portland, Maine
If you know the book of the same name by author Chris van Allsburg, then you already have a sense of what the Polar Express in Portland, Maine is all about. However, instead of running through a snow-covered forest, this train starts in the Ocean Gateway Visitor Center on Portland’s waterfront and rides along the coast of Casco Bay.
This is the same set of tracks that the Maine Rail Transit Coalition proposed be part of new, regular train service to Lewiston. Currently, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum uses a portion of these tracks for tourist rides, including the Polar Express train.
Like the magical train in the book, this ride is aboard an old-fashioned steam locomotive. Once onboard, the train travels about a mile and a half along Casco Bay on the Eastern Promenade to the “North Pole.” Then, the train heads back to the starting point. All told, the Polar Express ride lasts about 45 minutes.
The Polar Express experience
You’ll definitely feel the spirit of Christmas during the Polar Express ride. For example, the train is decked out in holiday decorations — garland, twinkling lights and wreaths.
In addition, during the ride expect to sing carols, listen to a retelling of the “Polar Express” and get to meet Santa. In fact, he boards the train from a special outpost of the “North Pole” and greets passengers.
Passengers can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Also, if your children want to ride in their pajamas, they’re welcome, too. However, since portions of the train are exposed to the elements, you probably want to bring along your winter coat, hat and gloves, too, so they don’t get chilly.
Tickets to the Polar Express in Portland, Maine
Tickets for the Polar Express Train Ride go on sale every September, usually right after Labor Day, and sell out quickly. These holiday rides begin right around Thanksgiving and go through to the day before Christmas Eve — or at least they did in 2022. We’ll update the dates once the 2023 rides are announced.
So, if you’d like to add this to your holiday activities, such as Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport, you’ll want to get tickets early. Following the railroad museum on Facebook to hear about ticket updates.
There are two classes of tickets: First class and coach.
Here is how the museum distinguishes the differences between these two types of ticket:
“Tickets are $24 per coach ticket or $40 per first class ticket. Please note there is a $5.50 processing fee added to each ticket (bringing the total cost to $29.50 per coach ticket and $45.50 per first class ticket). Please visit PortTix to purchase tickets.”Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum
You can call PortTix at 207-842-0800. This is the number to call if you’d like to try to get day-of tickets. Those are rare but it does happen.
Also, there are different amenities with the different classes of tickets. For example, first-class passengers receive their hot chocolate in a ceramic souvenir mug that is theirs to keep.
Tickets for The Polar Express train ride are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. Trains leave promptly at the listed departure time.
In the event of inclement weather, the train ride may be canceled. So, be sure to follow the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company on Facebook for weather updates.
For example, in 2022, there was a huge storm in Maine on December 23rd. The museum shared the following post on Facebook, alerting ticket holders to the cancellations.
Even though tickets are non-refundable, the exception is if the museum cancels the ride due to weather. “If a train is cancelled, ticket holders may choose a refund or to receive a ticket voucher for the following year’s event, the museum says.