The Polar Express 2004

Warner Brothers

Ah, Polar Express.  A 21st Century classic Yuletide movie and the fund-raising savior of tourist railroads everywhere.  The soft-focus animated film featuring a magic train and steam locomotive on its way to the North Pole, Christmas Eve.

And WHAT a locomotive! Can you get any more Christmassy than Pere Marquette #1225, a “Superpower” 2-8-4 Berkshire built in October 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works? Filmmakers used actual blueprints of this steam engine to assist animators along with recorded sounds made by PM #1225.

Hey, Christmas (12-25-2020) is coming up soon, so climb aboard with a bunch of other lucky kids and ride with conductor Tom Hanks to (maybe) see Santa away up North. All Abooooooard!!

How would you like to see this pull up your street? I love the rounded-end heavyweight observation car with Mars light and P.E. drumhead. Better hold onto that golden round-trip ticket real tight, son…

The Polar Express makes its first appearance at about the 7 minute mark. Here it rolls to a stop to board skeptical “Hero Boy” (also voiced by Hanks). Notice the locomotive has no number — just “Polar Express” spelled out on the tender.

Climb aboard…we’re expecting yoooooouuu….“. Here’s our first view of the car interior half filled with pajama and bathrobe-clad kids. I dig the circular window on each coach door.

Conductor Hanks punches the lad’s golden ticket. Hmmm…what does B…..E stand for? Also notice his ticket is No0001225. I sense a pattern here…

Hot Chocolate Time! Featuring a multi-spigotted coffee urn and cartwheeling servers, the kids enjoy the floor show as much as the beverage. I like the cups and saucers which very much look like china used on post-war passenger trains (pre-Amtrak).

The engineer keeps a steady hand on the throttle as the fireman feeds black diamonds into the firebox. Both P.E. and PM #1225 locomotives burn coal.

The conductor has moved to the front of the P.E. locomotive with two children as it races through the winter wonderland.

In a nod to all those Looney Tunes cartoons from the days of yore, the train is confronted with two preposterous signs: “Danger 179 degree grade” and “Use Low Gear”.

Continuing the theme of impossible adventure, we find the Polar Express spinning and sliding around as it crosses a huge, frozen-solid lake. Great views of the engine and cars, though.

Just before reaching the North Pole, we get this wonderful view of the observation car interior. The set features inward-facing oversize seats, tables and lamps. A very nicely-done recreation of an old Pullman lounge car.

Our Christmas train pulls into the North Pole across an impressive viaduct. According to IMDb Trivia, animators based the buildings on the old Pullman plant buildings and factory clock tower.

A good chunk of the movie left off HERE.

With the Polar Express and about a million elves for an impressive backdrop, Hero Boy finally meets Jolly Old Saint Nick. Notice H-Boy is clutching a key plot device (sleigh bell that came off a reindeer).

With one final close up of PM #1225, Conductor Hanks checks his funky pocket watch.

I love all the features on this time piece including the variations of late and early: “Almost, A Bit, Kinda, Very, Extremely”. It’s intricate touches like this, that made the picture fun to review.

Before the kids board for the return trip home, Conductor Hanks punches the remainder of their tickets. Hero Boy’s golden ducat now spells out “B-E-L-I-E-V-E”.

The P.E. makes an impressive exit as it turns south around the spot-lit Christmas Tree.

My favorite shot of the locomotive — plowing snow down H-Boy’s street. A final farewell.

Our last train scene is a Lionel O-gauge type toy modeled on the Polar Express.

Epilogue:  While most of the chuffs and clanks recorded came from Pere Marquette #1225, the whistle used actually came from Sierra Railroad 4-6-0 #3.

And, of course, here’s a short video of the actual Pere Marquette #1225 pulling a Christmas train back in its home State of Michigan.   Merry Christmas, everyone!

Here’s what IMDb has to say about The Polar Express:

If you have ANY information about this movie you’d like to share, please contact me at:, or leave a comment.  Thanks and enjoy the blog!



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