Polar Express rolling into town

Imagine being swept away in your dreams by “The Polar Express” train that arrives on your doorstep.

The book, authored by Chris Van Allsburg, starts out with a young boy dreaming about Santa on the night before Christmas. The Grand Canyon Railway will bring “The Polar Express” to life via special excursion trains in December.

“We’re already sold out for Saturday, Dec. 8 so we’re going to extend it an extra weekend,” said Jerry Thull, GCRY public relations manager. “We’re going to be doing it Dec. 7 and 8 and Dec. 14 and 15.

“There will be 480 people milling around downtown Williams on Saturday (Dec. 8).”

“The Polar Express” will depart from Williams Depot each evening at 6:30 p.m. and returns at 7:30 p.m. Passengers will ride the train through the pines en route to Red Lake, which will be transformed into the North Pole. Along the way, they will enjoy complementary chocolate-chip cookies, hot cocoa and readings of the book. “The Polar Express” is built around the story of a magical train ride to Santa’s home.

The GCRY is working with the Williams Police Department to ensure families of all income levels in the community get a chance to ride.

“We’re donating 40 seats to people who might not be able to afford it,” said Thull. “We want everybody to have fun. Hopefully, this will turn into a long standing tradition.”

Twenty of those seats will go to local youth and 20 are reserved for children who live in the Valley of the Sun. The WPD is also working with the railway to ensure Christmas bounty for low income residents.

“We’re encouraging people to bring unwrapped gifts,” said Thull.

Canned goods and other non-perishable food items will also be accepted.

“Bring them here and we’ll make sure it gets to the kids who need it most,” said Frank Manson, WPD chief. “The cops are partnering with community members to identify families in need to help make Christmas better.

“In light of what the country is going through, we’d like to make it the best Christmas ever.”

Santa Claus will board at the North Pole and present young passengers with a commemorative sleigh bell and there will be Christmas carols on the return trip to Williams.

“Young people are encouraged to wear their most comfortable pajamas for this unforgettable journey,” a press release from the GCRY states.

Individual tickets are $15 for adults and $6 for children ages 1-16. Family packages for The Polar Express rail journey are also available.

Seating and lodging are limited and expected to sell out fast. The availability of tickets seems to be based on Phoenix buyers, Thull said.

“The Saturdays are really moving,” he said. “We’re really pushing it in Phoenix.

“If you’re from Williams, I would advise Friday because it’s easier for reservations.”

To book reservations, call 1-800 THE TRAIN (1-800-843-8724) or stop by the depot. This special train will not enter Grand Canyon National Park nor will it change normal operation of GCRY’s daily train to the South Rim of the Canyon.

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