Josh Baldwin

All Aboard!

Josh Baldwin
All Aboard!
By Tiffany Wright

The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad welcomes children and their families to take a journey to the North Pole this holiday season on none other than The Polar Express™ Train Ride. 

The Polar Express™ Train Ride—based on the 2004 holiday film from Warner Bros. Pictures and the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg—will begin departures at the Elkins, West Virginia train station to the North Pole on November 5 and continue through December 14. On this unique journey, children relive the adventure of a skeptical young boy who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. During the journey the boy becomes friends with other passengers and eventually meets Santa Claus. While at the North Pole, the boy once again learns what it means to believe in the magic of the holiday.

Just like the movie, and set to the motion picture soundtrack, pajama-clad children witness dancing chefs serving hot chocolate and conductors punching their train tickets. Actors from The Old Brick Playhouse acting company in Elkins serve as the train’s crew and help to make this children’s fantasy come to life. 

Loudspeakers echo the compelling storytelling from the original book and sweet treats are given to passengers. After a 35 minute, one-way train ride packed with live entertainment, the journey culminates at the North Pole (Belington, WV) where, unbeknownst to all, Santa boards the train. The ride back to the station is one of unconditional excitement as Santa moves through the cars visiting with each child and offering to those who truly believe, a special gift.

During THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride season, the entire town of Elkins becomes North Pole central, a veritable “Santa’s Workshop” complete with elves (local artisans and crafters) making toys and products to take home and local shops offering scheduled demonstrations and workshops for the children. At the train station, hobos roam the railyard and toy soldiers march the rail platform to holiday drums.

This magical destination can only be topped with some of the best mountain musicians to be found. In the evenings and during some Saturday afternoon matinees, passengers can choose to attend a Christmas Spectacular at the American Mountain Theater or a Mountain Memories Christmas dinner and show at the Gandy Dancer Theatre. 

Last year, The Polar Express™ Train Ride rode more than 14,000 people in six weeks of the event. This year, organizers are expecting more than 15,000 people to participate, with seats usually filled to capacity by mid-October.

But how did this iconic train ride find its way on a West Virginia railroad? The answer is simple. The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad joined more than 30 other officially licensed The Polar Express™ Train Ride events nationwide during the 2011 holiday season, offering 26 departures. The 2014 Polar Express™ holiday schedule has increased to more than 50 train departures in November and December leading up to Christmas from the downtown railroad depot in Elkins. The 1908 train station is the departure point for all excursion trains and during the holiday season offers an activity center in the Caboose Room for kids waiting to board the train. 

The town of Elkins is a nice getaway from the Greenbrier Valley area. Make a weekend of it or take a weekday jaunt since the train also departs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Even more options for passengers include a meal and holiday music show at the adjacent RailYard Restaurant, also located in the Elkins Railyard. The Railyard Holiday Dinner, available Friday and Saturday only, is the perfect ribbon to tie up the weekend holiday package.

Reservations are required and the trains are expected to sell out quickly. Tickets are on sale now and start at $55 for adults and children 12 and older; $49  for children under 12. Departure times are 5 p.m. or 7:15 p.m. with dinner and music options beginning at 4:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. For a complete list of available dates, visit http://Mtn-Rail or call the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad at 1-866-934-7668.

Greenbrier Valley residents can heed the advice of Tom Hanks as the conductor in The Polar Express™ movie: “The thing about trains … it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”