Blog

All Aboard The Polar Express™ This Christmas
27 Nov 2023

Telford Steam Railway’s Polar Express™ experience is a wonderful place to reaffirm your belief in the magic of Christmas, says My Shrewsbury reviewer Claire Pocock.

This family Christmas experience is inspired by the 2004 animated adventure film, starring Tom Hanks, which is based on the 1985 children's book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. The resulting immersive family-friendly experience is recreated across the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, and luckily for us, Telford Steam Railway hosts it every Christmas.

Having ticked off some of Shropshire’s most popular Christmas experiences, I snapped up the chance to haul my two 8 year olds to The Polar Express™ at Telford Steam Railway before the days of Santa visits are behind us.

I’d heard brilliant things, plus the lure of a proper heritage steam railway journey sounded completely magical in itself.

The only problem was that none of us had seen the movie. We opted to watch it on the same weekend as the trip which built our excitement and got us in the festive mood. I’d definitely recommend watching the film in advance otherwise much of the experience would seem completely bizarre out of context – for example, dancing chefs singing about hot chocolate!

A dancing chef on the train

We booked on for the 7:50pm train, bringing along a school friend too, as tickets are sold in pairs so you’re not sat next to a stranger.

The fact we had to park at Ironbridge Park and Ride and take a free shuttle bus to the station was nothing short of exhilarating for the transport-loving kids!

On arrival, we were greeted enthusiastically by staff who welcomed us into the waiting area, which thankfully sheltered us from the rain. There was food and drink on offer, plus a family show in a heated area from PJ the Showman who made the wait for the train speed by.

Then we were called to wait on the platform where the show began, a steam train chugged in to view, and the magic of the film was relived.

We watched as a young boy was invited on to The Polar Express™ by the Conductor and we were invited along for the ride.

And then it was non-stop fun and entertainment for our hour long trip.

A girl holding a golden ticket

The talented cast of performers were not only brilliant at dancing, singing and acting out key scenes from the film, they were attentive to our every needs. They were forthcoming in asking if photos were needed to save all the memories being made. One of the performing chefs overheard my daughter mention her throat was sore (probably from all the chatter!) and offered to get her a drink, which reflects their top customer service throughout.

The young performers were especially brilliant – sustaining American accents, engaging with all the visitors confidently, and performing beautifully.

Performing posing with two children 

On board the train we were treated to hot chocolates and cookies, and premium ticket holders got a lovely mug to take home. Just like in the film, the conductor came along and punched our golden tickets, which we also got to take home as a memento.

Golden ticket getting punched 

The original Polar Express story was read to us, and we got to see the beautiful illustrations which the film’s animations stayed true to.

The trip built to a visit to the North Pole, where Santa came aboard and gave out the ‘first gift of Christmas.’ It was the same bell that the boy in the film received. Later I asked my daughter what had been her favourite gift to receive from all the times she’s visited Santa over the years, and she replied without hesitation that it was the bell. The kids kept checking they could still hear it, showing they believed.

Santa on the train

The cast, production team and train crew have put so much into this experience – with the decorations, costumes, props, logistics, and performances. We were entertained from start to finish, and we really loved having a sing-song at the end.

Two children posing with the train conductor

On the drive home, after 3 young children furiously rang their bells and belted out jingle bells for 30 minutes straight, we all agreed that Christmas had officially started!

Although we wimped out of wearing pyjamas for the trip, the majority of passengers were proudly wearing their PJs and dressing gowns to really embrace the spirit of the story.

The experience runs until December 22nd. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.telfordsteamrailway.co.uk.