Santa returns to Swanage Railway for glitzy Hollywood Christmas

Back by popular demand, Santa is coming to Swanage Railway for Christmas and for the first time he’ll be bringing the train The Polar Express with him.

Based on a children’s story written by Chris Van Allsburg and made into a film starring Tom Hanks, The Polar Express train ride will take kids and big kids on a magical journey from Swanage to the North Pole (or should that be Norden Pole?!)

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Singin on the Polar Express on the Wensleydale Railway
Wensleydale Railway

A singing chef is part of the Polar Express experience on the Wensleydale Railway

Singing, dancing, hot chocolate and cookies

The one hour Christmas experience will run during the day and into the early evening from Friday 17th November to Saturday 30th December 2023.

As well as Santa making a guest appearance, they’ll be singing and dancing in the carriages by characters from the story. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served and for everyone, well the ones who’ve been good, they’ll be a Polar Express themed gift.

It’s being organised by the event company Rail Events Inc and delivered by Fused Events and music company Crosstown Concerts, in partnership with Swanage Railway, who remains responsible for the operation of the railway.

One of Swanage’s resident steam locomotives will be used to haul the seven carriages, each named for the occasion after Santa’s reindeer, Rudolph, Blitzen, Comet, Dasher, Prancer and Vixen, with Cupid as an accessible carriage for wheelchairs.

Loco 34072, 257 Squadron at Polar express spa valley railway Kent
Spa Valley Railway

257 Squadron locomotive 34072 was based at Swanage Railway but took up Polar Express duties during Christmas 2022 at Spa Valley Railway in Kent

“Excellent opportunity to try something different this Christmas”

Polar Express experiences aren’t new to heritage railways, having been introduced across the US, Canada and the UK. They’ll be 11 other railways in the UK offering Polar Express trips this winter.

For Swanage Railway, it will be a departure from earlier Christmas events like the Santa Specials and the Steam and Lights, which were mainly organised in-house.

Chair of Swanage Railway Trust Gavin Johns said:

“The Polar Express events team were searching for more suitable locations, so they came to visit us at the Swanage Railway and we decided it was a good thing to partner up.

“We’ve done the Steam and Lights for three years running now and while it’s been very popular, we think it’s an excellent opportunity to try something different this Christmas.”

Polar express at Spa Valley
Spa Valley Railway

Santa returns to Swanage for 2023 but here he is on the Polar Express at the Spa Valley Railway

Pyjamas recommended but wrap up warm!

The Polar Express tells the tale of a young boy, who on Christmas Eve is having doubts that Santa exists. Then a magical train, the Polar Express, appears outside his house destined for the North Pole.

In his pyjamas, he joins the other young passengers going to meet Santa, but not before having some adventures along the way.

To recreate the spirit of the story, passengers are encouraged to wear their pyjamas, while ensuring they are warm enough to withstand the Swanage weather in November and December. Sensible shoes rather than slippers are recommended!

The stations on the way to the ‘North Pole’ will be festively decorated although the exact plans are still under wraps until nearer the time.

Hot chocolate on the Polar Express
Telford Steam Railway

Hot chocolate for everyone on the Polar Express at the Telford Steam Railway

“Eye-catching production”

Gavin said:

“This will be an eye-catching production – excitingly different for Swanage Railway.

“The Polar Express is a great seasonal film and anyone who has seen it will have an immediate connection with the experience.”

Ticket inspectpr on the polar express on Seaton Tramway
Seaton Tramway

Receiving your golden tickets are part of the Polar Express experience, pictured here on the Seaton Tramway

“Smash hit in the UK”

Marketing director of Rail Events Inc, Jamie Ryan rather enthusiastically added:

“The Polar Express train ride has been a smash hit in the UK and we are thrilled to add Swanage Railway to our roster of locations this Christmas season.

“The team in Dorset will host a fantastic event and we can’t wait to experience their live recreation of the classic story.”

Tickets will be available to book online from 9 am on Friday 14th July 2023. The ticket prices, which haven’t yet been announced, will be revealed at the same time.

Polar express poster

Further information

  • More details and to book tickets from 9 am on Friday 14th July 2023 are on the SeeTickets website
  • Ticket bookings are organised by the events company, so Swanage Railway gift cards, memberships, season tickets or promotional vouchers cannot be used for this train trip

Watch a preview of a Polar Express train ride

Watch the Polar Express movie trailer

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