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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Polar Express

 Why am I writing about winter and trains in the middle of October?  Why?  Because the mail in registration for the North Pole Express Train ride in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, begins today!  You can visit this web-site and print out your mail-in registration.
 For us, the train ride to the "North Pole" to see Santa has become an annual tradition.  Our first ride on the North Pole Express was in December of 2006.  This year, will make our 5th anniversary of riding on the train.
 The North Pole Express will offer 16 runs over the course of the first two week-ends in December.  The cost is $14 per person.  Children 18 months or younger are free.

 The ride begins on the grounds of the Old Thresher's Reunion in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  People come from all over Southeast Iowa, Central Iowa, Northern Missouri, and Western Illinois to take a ride on the #9 Shay Narrow Gauge train.  Plan to arrive a few minutes before your train is scheduled to leave.  So, if you have a ticket for the 1:00 pm, train, plan to arrive around 12:40 or so.  There are plenty of photo ops before boarding the train and waiting for the train builds excitement!  Just dress according to the weather, as there is no heat on the train!
 Each car of the train is given a name--Rudolph, Snowflake, Teddy Bear, etc.  The name of the train car you ride in will be listed on your ticket.  One year, we were lucky enough to be assigned to the Teddy Bear Caboose.  What fun!
 The windows of the train are set to obscure your vision out of the windows.  This is on purpose, as when the train begins to move, the story of The Polar Express, is piped in over speakers.  The train chugs along to the "North Pole" during the story.  I don't want to ruin the magic, but just know that the point is to use your imagination and believe that you have left Mount Pleasant via train.
 When the story ends, you will have arrived at the North Pole and you will see the lights of the North Pole come alive through the obscured windows.  Magical!
 When you exit your train car, music will be playing and there will be many Santa's helpers to make you feel at home at the North Pole. 
 Santa is housed in his own red caboose, and since he is very popular, we recommend getting in line to see him first.  The line can get quite long later and you only have so much time at the North Pole.
 Each person, young and old, who sees Santa is given a special gift.  The gift for all who truly believe.  We have a collection now of those special gifts, as each one has been a different size or color with a different date.  We usually put one on our Christmas tree as a memento of the occasion.

 After visiting Santa, grab some hot chocolate and cookies.  There's usually a heater in this area if you want to warm your hands and toes.
 As you can see in some of the photos above, we try to get a photo each year with all of the "conductors" who are your hosts on board the train.  Imagine them saying "All Aboard," or "May I have your ticket, please?"
 There are many holiday displays throughout the "North Pole."  Enjoy them, as they help you feel the holiday spirit.  Also, there is usually an electric train on display.  That train has mesmerized the boy for many, many minutes during our visits.  One year, the man and the train didn't make it due to weather.  We had one disappointed boy!
 There's a classroom of sorts at one end of the "North Pole" that is the home to special crafts to commemorate your visit.  The bathrooms are also located in this area.
 The Winter Fairy can sometimes be found greeting children and passing out candy canes or other surprises while you visit the "North Pole."
The "North Pole" has it's own shop featuring many gifts for the train lover.  We have purchased ornaments to commemorate our trip.  Tip:  If you bring a canned good to donate, you'll get a coupon for 10% off at the shop.  The boy is already talking about purchasing a train when we take the journey again this December.

 After about an hour and a half or so, the conductors indicate that it is time to get back on the train and return to Mount Pleasant.  The ride back can either be quiet or full of singing.  We have had both.

 You might think that an hour and a half would be a long time to be at the North Pole, but it has never seemed too long for us.  The hot chocolate is almost endless, and as I said before, there has been the electric train.

 The North Pole Express if fun for people of any age.  Grandma Carol has gone with us a few times. 

 One year, the boy was invited into the engine, the #9 Shay when we were exiting the train and heading to our car. The photos above and below show him inside the cab.  What a lucky boy!



If you plan to take a ride on the North Pole Express, mail your registration soon.  The deadline for mail-in registration is Oct. 29.  The phone lines open for ticket purchases on Nov. 1.  The trains have been known to sell out within 10 days of the phone lines opening, as this is a very popular event.

We keep wondering how many more years of Santa we have. But in the spirit of The Polar Express, he may be one who truly believes for a long time. His parents do, as the bell still rings for us, as it does for all who truly believe.

2 comments:

  1. We have been one year with our niece and nephew, before we had our own children. We actually saw you all there! Very much looking forward to our trip with our son this year; thanks for the reminder to send our reservation today!

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  2. Yes, I remember seeing you there. We were all trying to keep warm that day! Enjoy your trip on the Polar Express!

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