Riding the rails on The Polar Express

Holiday story comes to life in Stettler

Families wearing fleece pyjamas beneath their winter coats are climbing aboard The Polar Express in Stettler for round trips to the North Pole throughout December.

Travellers on one-hour holiday train ride with Alberta Prairie Railway experience the classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, about a boy who takes a magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole to receive a special gift from Santa.

Last week arctic temperatures prevented the legendary scene between the train conductor and the young boy from taking place on the train’s platform. They performed in each of the train cars instead.

But the bone-chilling cold could not tarnish the story’s sparkle for young children and parents.

“It was exciting. Very exciting. Better than we expected,” said mother Billie Jo Seidemann, of Wabamun, who was on the train Faith Seidemann, 3, who gripped her round-trip ticket — stamped BELIEVE. The youngster followed along while the story book was read aloud, and sprang up in her seat to peer out the coach windows to see Santa and his elves dancing outside in the snow when the train reached the North Pole.

Grandmother Cheri Blake, of Alberta Beach, said the children saw The Polar Express movie several times and were captivated by the action in and outside the train.

Dancing and singing cooks served hot chocolate and cookies while a hobo snooped to try to get her hands on a Polar Express ticket.

“It was a little bit of a drive,” Seidemann said. “But worth it,” Blake said.

Laiah Allen, 3, said Santa, who came aboard to hand out silver bells to children, was her favourite part.

Strings of Christmas lights glowed in the train car as families sang carols and children rang their new bells as the train chugged back to Stettler.

Singing chef Amanda O’Donnell said helping to bring The Polar Express to life, and all the fun of mingling with the happy families, definitely boosted her in the Christmas spirit.

“I can recite the whole (story). I’ve loved it ever since I was this big,” said O’Donnell, holding her hand at about knee-height.

Singing chef helper Christine Wedrick said people have been coming from as far away as Fort McMurray and to ride The Polar Express and she can’t wait for her family to join her on the train later this month.

For more departure times for Alberta Prairie Railway’s The Polar Express visit www.absteamtrain.com.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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