Over the past few years, we’ve been lucky enough to go to various Christmas experiences all over the West Midlands. I’ve reviewed most of those on the blog. But when I was writing my Christmas days out West Midlands post last year, there was one event we just couldn’t bear to miss out on. Tickets were about to sell out, so I booked ours straight away. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. And why am I telling you about this in March? Because the tickets for the Telford Steam Railway Polar Express 2017 have gone on sale, and they’re going like hotcakes already.
Before boarding the Polar Express
The Polar Express is a film embodiment of the Christmas spirit. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a little boy who isn’t quite sure he believes in the man in red anymore. But when he hears a train outside on Christmas Eve, he climbs onboard with the other children. The train takes him all the way to the North Pole, where he meets Santa himself and receives the first gift of Christmas.
The magic of the Telford Steam Railway Polar Express starts from the moment your tickets arrive in November. Instead of a normal ticket, you receive a large golden ticket to allow you to board the train. All passengers are encouraged to wear their pyjamas, including the adults to add to the atmosphere.
Along with your golden ticket, you receive instructions for where to park. There’s plenty of space and a bus to take you from the car park to the Telford Steam Railway. You’re advised to arrive early to make sure you get to the train on time. But this time I think we’ll aim to get there a bit sooner than they advise, because there’s so much going on before the train even arrives. There are activities for children, a small café and plenty of fabulous Christmas decorations. And of course, the film is showing on a screen in the visitor centre.
Boarding the Polar Express
You don’t need to make your way down to the platform until it’s nearly time to board, so there’s no standing around in the cold. When it’s time to go, there’s an announcement calling passengers to the train. When everyone is on the platform, the story of the Polar Express starts to play. The platform is decked out for Christmas and there are some lovely details from the story that you will spot if you look carefully. At the appropriate moment in the story, the Polar Express steam train pulls into the station. Video courtesy of Emma Shilts.
The guard looks just like the one from the film and he steps from the train to invite passengers onboard. You take your seats on the train according to the numbers on your tickets. Premium tickets are a little more expensive and you get slightly better seats and a couple of souvenirs to take away. We’ve gone for standard seats again for this year as we were so happy with them last time.
Onboard the Polar Express
When everyone has taken their seats, the Polar Express pulls out of the station. The story plays on the train and soon after leaving the station, dancing chefs come through the carriages just like on the film. They deliver a hot chocolate and a cookie to every passenger.
Staff also bring story books around so passengers can see pictures as certain bits of the story play. The guard makes his way through the train to stamp the ticket of every passenger by punching little holes in it and showering you with gold confetti from the ticket.
I was incredibly impressed with the staff onboard the Polar Express. They all lived and breathed the experience. They made time for every passenger and played their parts to perfection. My girls totally bought into the whole thing.
The Polar Express arrives at the North Pole
When you arrive at the North Pole, the train slows down so you can see the lights and Father Christmas is waiting on the platform. For children who are getting a little older and starting to doubt whether Santa is real, this is the most authentic experience I’ve been to. This guy looked so much like the real Santa that even I was convinced.
At this point, the train stops and Santa steps onboard to deliver the first gift of Christmas. Every child receives a small silver bell, just like the one given to the little boy in the film. The bells make a beautiful noise and my girls genuinely believe they have a bell from Santa’s sleigh each. Santa was happy to chat to all the children and have his photograph taken with them. On the Polar Express, the magic of Christmas is alive and well.
When the Polar Express leaves the North Pole
As the train departs the North Pole, the story continues. We finished off our hot chocolates and cookies as the train made its way back to the station. The story ends just before passengers disembark so the experience lasts for the whole journey.
When you leave the train, you have the option to buy souvenirs and children can take part in activities in the visitor centre. Last year we were only able to get tickets for a very late train, so it was time for us to head home when we disembarked. This year we’ll be arriving earlier to take in the whole experience. If the girls aren’t too tired we’ll probably stay a little while at the end too.
The Polar Express – the verdict
I can’t express enough how highly I recommend the Telford Steam Railway Polar Express experience. It’s not cheap and it’s not a whole day experience like you’d have at somewhere like Drayton Manor. But what makes the Polar Express so special is that it’s all-consuming. From the moment you arrive until you get back on the bus to the car park, you are totally submersed in the experience. The staff believe it, the children believe it and somehow even the grumpiest adults (me, that’s me) can’t help but get swept along.
If you’re in a position to do so, I highly recommend you immediately stop wasting your time reading my drivel and go and buy a ticket. They will sell out really soon, so make sure you don’t miss out. Alternatively, check out my list of family days out in the West Midlands for attractions open throughout the year if you don’t want to wait until Christmas!