This holiday season, Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum is presenting the 14th annual Polar Express Train Ride, sponsored by Central Maine Power and US Cellular, starting at Portland's Ocean Gateway Marine Terminal and ending – where else – at the North Pole.

The trip begins with the conductor loading passengers onto nine historic passenger coaches decorated for the holidays. Chefs will serve children and adults hot chocolate and cookies while Christmas music plays in the background (or “Crazy Train” blares in your eardrums – it’s Christmas, you do you).

The ride is staffed completely by volunteers, and is the largest yearly fundraiser for the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum.

“The Polar Express” is a Caldecott Medal-winning book written and illustrated by New England resident Chris Van Allsburg, who recently made a speaking appearance at The Music Hall Lounge in downtown Portsmouth.

It tells the story of a young boy and his sister who board a magical train on Christmas Eve, culminating with a visit to the North Pole and a sleigh bell that some hear longer than others.

In 2004, the book was turned into a full-length motion picture starring Tom Hanks as several characters, including The Conductor, a puppet, a mysterious hobo, and Santa Claus himself. Also making a cameo in the film as an “Elf Lieutenant” was New Hampshire native (and almost North Hampton resident) Steven Tyler.

Tickets for the ride out of Portland can be purchased here. Rides will begin on Thanksgiving weekend and continue until December 23.

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