Saratoga & North Creek Railway Conductor Steve Conklin assists children as they board a passenger dome car Nov. 3 at the Saratoga Rail Station to celebrate the debut of the railway’s holiday Polar Express excursion trips.
Train Conductor Steve Conklin helped one pajama-clad child after another board a passenger car parked Thursday in the Saratoga Rail Station.
“Next stop, the North Pole,” he announced with a grin.
Soon afterwards, about two dozen children and their parents were treated to a visit by Santa Claus and served hot chocolate — in a kickoff of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway’s Polar Express train rides.
These themed excursions offered by the railroad begin Nov. 18 and run through December. The excursions re-tell the classic children’s story of a magical Christmas train, a tale that was turned into a movie in 2004.
The series of 64 Polar Express train trips, taking children to “the North Pole” and back, are a first-ever for the Capital Region.
During the one-hour excursions, the classic tale comes to life, complete with singing elves, dancing chefs and a visit by Santa.
The story is read aloud and the music of the movie plays aloud during the trip, prompting sing-alongs.
The Polar Express events are offered at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on select days in November and daily from Dec. 2 through Dec. 23 — plus two trips on the concluding days of Dec. 27 and 28.
At the Nov. 3 media event, Arlinda Birdsall and three of her grandchildren — young triplets Nick, Luke and Kate Sesselman — experienced a taste of the upcoming Polar Express trip.
“This is so exciting for my grandkids — they’ve been talking about this non-stop,” Birdsall said of her youngsters, garbed in Santa hats and pajamas. “They are playing hooky from pre-school to be here.”
Kaitlin Carter, a new resident of Saratoga Springs, said her children Kadyn, 4, and Lawson, 1, were excited about an upcoming ride on the Polar Express.
“It will be a fantastic experience — it’s their first train ride ever.”
Debra Goodman of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway predicted that the Polar Express excursions out of Saratoga this season would enchant children and adults as they have in other railways in the western U.S. operated by Iowa Pacific, the local railroad’s parent firm.
“The Polar Express is much more than an event,” she said. “The experience is truly special because of the emotion it creates.”
For the themed rail trips, children are encouraged to wear pajamas to immerse themselves in the spirit of the story.
Three choices of seating options are available, including the railway’s signature dome cars. Goodman said she anticipates that the Polar Express will draw thousands of riders in its debut year, introducing them to the amenities of the scenic rail line. Those who purchase a quantity of tickets receive a bonus which give them that opportunity.
Passengers who purchase four Polar Express tickets for a November trip receive a voucher for two free coach tickets on the Gore Mountain Snow Train.
Tickets for Polar Express, ranging from $10 to $55 depending on a passenger’s age and seat selection, are available online at www.SaratogaPolarExpressRide.com. Details are available at that website, or by calling (877) 726-RAIL.