All aboard the Polar Express

Scott Bean ‘15

A train rolls down the tracks. Photo from

A train rolls down the tracks.
Photo from


“The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on,” said the conductor in the popular movie, “The Polar Express.”
In actuality, it is not too difficult to experience what the conductor was talking about; all it takes is a drive out to Owosso, Michigan. This journey will take you to The Steam Railroad Institute; it takes pride in educating people about steam-era railroad machinery. The most popular attraction this time of the year is their North Pole Express train.
The SRI owns the Pere Marquette #1225, which just happens to be the exact train used in the movie “The Polar Express.” This is the train that carries all the passenger cars on the “North Pole Express” tours. According to, the train is 16 feet tall and 101 feet long, with a total weight of 400 tons and a pulling power of 300 horsepower. Not only is this the largest locomotive train in the SRI’s collection. But also it is the largest steam operated locomotive in Michigan. gives more information about the history of the train. The locomotive was retired from work in 1951, until it was donated to Michigan State University and a team of railway enthusiasts fixed it and got it ready for use in 1988.
SRI offers its “North Pole Express” which is approximately a combined four-hour ride. The trip consists of an hour-long ride into and back from The Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas, where guests spend two hours walking around and checking out the many different activities that are offered. This includes horse-drawn carriage rides, building a toy at Santa’s village, seeing reindeer, watching chainsaw artists sculpt, plenty of food to choose from and try, along with many other exciting things to do. While getting caught up in all the excitement, don’t forget to make a stop to visit Santa Claus!
Once all of the fun in the village is over, it is time for another hour-long ride home. Everyone on the trip will receive souvenir tickets, souvenir bells, and entry into the Village.
There are several different options for seating with prices ranging from $35-$75 and a special private tour at $1,200. The train rides are offered every Friday through Sunday, November 22 to December 24. Tickets are available online at along with more information and times.