Polar Express magic arrives in Swanage for Christmas

With twinkly lights, singing, dancing, hot chocolate, cookies and even some snow, The Polar Express railway experience will be running trips from Swanage station in Dorset, up to the North Pole throughout the festive season.

Swanage Railway has in the past run Santa Specials and a Steam and Lights Train at Christmas but for the first time it’s offering the glitzy, high octane Polar Express railway experience… and for all those who wished to see the return of Santa on the train, your dreams may just come true!

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Polar Express at Swanage Railway
Andrew PM Wright

Southern Railway Bulleid Pacific locomotive No. 34028 Eddystone stars as The Polar Express this Christmas in Swanage

Polar Express at Swanage Railway 2023

The Polar Express tells the story of two children who venture out of their home at Christmas and end up on a magical journey to the North Pole

Passengers encouraged to wear pyjamas!

Trips to the North Pole, or should that be the Norden Pole (?!) start on Friday 17th November 2023 and continue until Saturday 30th December 2023. Ticket prices in November start at £41 and all tickets purchased help support Swanage Railway.

Based on the film of the same name starring Tom Hanks, The Polar Express railway experience encourages passengers to enter into the spirit of the story and dress in their Christmas pyjamas.

During the one hour train journey, guests are seated in one of seven carriages for the onboard musical show, each named after Santa’s reindeers: Rudolph, Blitzen, Comet, Prancer, Vixen, Dasher and Cupid.

Polar Express at Swanage Railway with mayor Tina Foster
Andrew PM Wright

Swanage town mayor Tina Foster with characters from the onboard musical show

Polar Express at Swanage Railway with mayor Tina Foster
Andrew PM Wright

Swanage town mayor Tina Foster cutting the ribbon on the Swanage station platform

“Boost the local economy”

Swanage town mayor Tina Foster was invited to cut the ribbon on the preview Polar Express trip on Thursday 16th November 2023. She said:

“It’s a very enjoyable experience and I’m pleased to say that the Polar Express team has donated golden tickets to the Mayor’s Fund, which has allowed me to give two deserving local families the chance of this steam train adventure on the Swanage Railway.

“It’s good to encourage events like this that boost the local economy, especially over Christmas. It brings people into Swanage and visitors can be sure of a warm welcome, as well as a magical experience over the festive period!”

Polar Express at Swanage Railway with mayor Tina Foster and Gavin Johns
Andrew PM Wright

The conductor serenades Swanage town mayor Tina Foster

Gavin Johns and Frank Roberts on the Polar Express 2023

Hoping to find £450,000 in their stockings to Save Swanage Railway, chair of the Swanage Railway Company Gavin Johns with chair of the Swanage Railway Trust Frank Roberts on the Polar Express

Polar Express at Swanage Railway
Andrew PM Wright

Look who has returned to the railway for 2023!

Bolster the railway’s income

The Polar Express railway experience has been organised by the event company Rail Events Inc and delivered by Fused Events and music company Crosstown Concerts, who initially approached Swanage Railway with the idea.

With rising operating costs and declining passenger numbers compared to pre Covid times, Swanage Railway was keen to take the opportunity to bolster its income with the high profile event.

The railway has also recently launched a fundraising appeal for £450,000 to help it get through the winter.

Polar Express at Swanage Railway 2023

Local actors auditioned for the parts in the show

Polar Express at Swanage Railway 2023 with Gareth Walker

Successfully pulling it all together is creative director of the Swanage Polar Express, Gareth Walker

“Bringing the West End to Swanage!”

Over the last few months there’s been the auditioning of actors and all the rehearsing, as well as a big marketing push to let everyone know about the new event.

Creative director of the Swanage Polar Express for Fused Events is Gareth Walker. He said:

“My main role has been to bring it all together including the casting and the choreography – it’s like a big Jenga puzzle!

“Swanage is such a beautiful seaside town with such an amazing heritage railway, that we just had to bring The Polar Express to the town. It’s good to be able to employ local people in what is traditionally an out of season period and extend the opportunities all year round.

“The team at Swanage Railway has been a delight to work with – it’s a great collaboration. A big operation to deliver but the team has helped us achieve what we wanted to do.

“We recognise there’s a cost of living crisis but it’s times like this that bring us all together. This is an immersive experience and a nice thing to do for all the family. It’s a once a year thing that will make memories and provide an unforgettable experience.

“It’s like bringing the West End to Swanage with only one local train ride to pay for, avoiding all the expense of travelling all the way to London!”

Polar Express at Swanage Railway
Andrew PM Wright

The Swanage Railway footplate crew creating a warm glow this Christmas

Polar Express at Swanage Railway
Andrew PM Wright

The Polar Express conductor on the footplate of Eddystone with Swanage Railway volunteer driver Toby Roberts from Wareham

Watch the first arrival of The Polar Express at Swanage station

Further information

  • More details about The Polar Express and to book tickets
  • Donations to Save Your Railway can be made online or cheques can be sent to the Swanage Railway Trust, Station House, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 1HB marked Save Your Railway Appeal
Polar Express at Swanage Railway 2023
Polar Express at Swanage Railway
Andrew PM Wright

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