Monday, December 22, 2014

The Polar Express

Earlier this evening, we did something unusual. We took a trip to Palatine, TX to ride on the Texas State Railroad's Polar Express. The Polar Express is a Christmas story for children written by Chris Van Allsburg. In it, a young boy, dressed in his pajamas, takes a trip on the Polar Express to Santa's Workshop at the North Pole on Christmas Eve. It is a charming and fun story which was turned into a movie starring Tom Hanks.

First, we reserved our tickets weeks in advance. By the time we signed up, most of the trips were already sold out.

We drove out to Palestine, Texas, a little early since we did not know exactly where the depot is. In Palestine, we stopped at a Cici's Pizza for dinner. we were a little surprised to see whole families sitting there, in their pajamas, eating dinner! We knew where they were going!

After dinner, we headed to the depot. Parking was really a problem. Thank God for my wife's handicap parking placard! It allowed us to park only a short walk from the depot. We quickly realized that the train was completely sold out!

The train was still out on the trip prior to ours. While we waited, we explored the station. The train runs between the depot in Palestine and in nearby Rusk, Texas. The place, although recently built, has an "old timey" feel to it. Along the walls are pictures and display cases showing the recent history of the Texas State Railroad.

When the train arrived, we had to wait while the previous ride disembarked and the crew reset the cars. We walked up to the head end to look at the locomotive that pulled the train in. It was decorated with a few strings of blue lights as shown in the following photograph. We found out that there was also a locomotive at the rear end of the train &em. they were operating in a "push-pull" configuration, both to carry the load of the heavyweight cars and to allow forward operation in either direction.

Once we boarded, we were assigned to a pair of bench seats with a table in between. Once all were aboard, the train moved out. The conductor came through the car, punching tickets. The white tickets issued to adults received a single punch. The children received a gold ticket and the conductor performed the multiple punch routine described in the book. After the conductor, the "cooks" came through issuing mugs of hot chocolate and reading from the book. The mugs were ours to keep as a keepsake. Although we took a number of pictures, only one came out reasonably. The rest were blurred, due to the slow shutter speed, this quick movements of the crew and the vibration and jostling of the car.

Shortly before the Rusk depot, a "Santa's Village" had been set up. With some hoopla, Santa (actually, multiple Santas) boarded the train. This shot is a little shaky because the train had started moving and the low light made for a long exposure.

As the train headed back to the Palestine depot, he walked through each car, talking to the children and giving out silver colored "sleigh bells." True to the story, most of the adults pretended that they could not hear the bells ring as the children shook them.

We had a lot of fun! We are thinking about doing it again next year!

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