Magic of Christmas

Polar Express taking kids on special journey

The Inter-Mountain photos by Brooke Binns Old Brick Playhouse apprentices entertain passengers of the Polar Express prior to their journey to the North Pole.

ELKINS — The magic of Christmas comes alive for youngsters who board the Polar Express train during the holiday season.

For eight years, people from across West Virginia and surrounding states have visited Elkins to take a special Christmas ride on the Polar Express.

Missy McCollam, executive director of the Old Brick Playhouse, said that in recent years thousands of passengers have witnessed the magical sounds and sights of the Christmas-themed train.

“For the past couple of years, it has been nearly 16,000,” she said. “Total, I think, it has been around 90,000 people.”

While children wait anxiously to board, Old Brick apprentices entertain excursion go-ers before the Polar Express departs the Elkins Train Depot.

For eight years, the Polar Express has entertained passengers from far and wide during the Christmas season.

Once all travelers are aboard the train, the setting transforms to depict the classic children’s book, “The Polar Express,” written by Chris Van Allsburg.

“We read the book — ‘The Polar Express’ — we visit the North Pole and Santa comes on board and visits with each kid,” McCollam said. “There are a lot of elements involved.”

Passengers are encouraged to dress comfortably in their pajamas while they travel to the North Pole, and each child and family member has their “golden ticket” punched by the train’s conductor.

Dancing chefs serve hot chocolate and other goodies to youngsters while cheerfully singing and dancing throughout the ride.

“The chefs, basically, do a full-scale show with tricks and surprises,” she said. “We try to do something different every year that is engaging and exciting, so it is pretty active for them.”

Once the train arrives at the “North Pole” — located in the town of Belington — Santa boards the Polar Express to greet every child and present them with a gift to treasure — a silver sleigh bell.

“The city of Belington takes care of the North Pole and they really do a great job,” McCollam said. “(Passengers) stay on the train and Santa gets on the train. … The kids get hot chocolate and a magic bell from Santa.”

An added activity organized by Elkins Main Street invites children and families to enjoy activities offered by Santa’s Workshop, sponsored by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad.

Madalyn Humphrey, executive director of Elkins Main Street, said, “Downtown Elkins works together to spread Christmas cheer throughout the streets. Train riders can make their way to holiday games, treats and crafts downtown as they wait to step onto the Polar Express, and of course, these fun workshops are open to the public! Children of all ages can find something to enjoy.”

The annual “Polar Express” train ride is made possible by a collaborative effort between the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, the Old Brick Playhouse and the communities of Belington and Elkins.