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Christmas at Essex Station

FAQ – Christmas Trains

Enjoy the Christmas season with us on the Santa Special experience (daytime), North Pole Express (evening) and Reindeer Breakfast activity. Be sure to visit inside River Valley Junction to discover an amazing, warm and inviting space station filled with a working model railroad, festive décor and even a sleigh for those photo ops.

The Santa Special is a daytime trip aboard festively-decorated rail cars. It is a shorter ride (60 minutes – great for younger children) without car hosts or refreshments. Santa and Mrs. Claus spend more quality time with young passengers which makes it a great opportunity to take holiday photos and a nice alternative to going to see Santa at the mall.

The North Pole Express is a nighttime experience where passengers travel to the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus. Each coach car features festive characters who entertain guests with stories, songs and performance. Cookies and hot chocolate are served, and Santa and Mrs. Claus move through the cars, greeting the passengers with a small gift.

Santa Special tickets are available beginning the week of September 19

FULL COACH & FIRST CLASS CARS:       Tuesday September 19 by Phone Only

INDIVIDUAL FIRST CLASS TICKETS:     Wednesday September 20 Online Only

INDIVIDUAL COACH CLASS TICKETS:   Thursday September 21 Online Only


North Pole Express tickets are available beginning the week of September 5

Type of Purchase Date Method
All Full Cars
Coach & First Class Tuesday, September 5th Telephone Only
Individual First Class Wednesday, September 6th Online Only
Individual Coach Thursday, September 7th Online Only


The Santa Special operates Saturday and Sunday, November 25 through December 23 (as well as Friday November 24) with departures at 9:30 am, 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm.


North Pole Express runs during the following dates/times:

  • Thursday through Sunday, November 9-November 19
  • Friday through Sunday November 24-26
  • Tuesday through Sunday November 28-December 23
  • Tuesday through Friday December 26-December 29
  • Departure times are 5:00 pm, 5:30 pm, 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm each operating day
  • Additional 3:00 pm & 3:30 pm trains have been added for Saturdays and Sundays as well as Friday, November 24

Santa Special

  • COACH: $24.00 per person age 1 and older
  • FIRST CLASS: $40.00 per person age 1 and older


North Pole Express

  • COACH: $35.00 per person age 1 and older
  • FIRST CLASS: $66.50 per person age 1 and older
  • Add $10.00 per ticket on Saturdays, November 25 through December 23


Children under 1 year of age do not require a ticket; however, they must sit on an adult’s lap. No car seats or strollers are permitted on the trains. There are no additional or hidden service charges for ticket prices as we operate our own online store and process purchases ourselves.

Yes… First Class passengers enjoy upholstered seating with cash beverage service. Coach Class offers padded bench seating.

We do not discount full-car orders; we make full cars available solely as a customer convenience. Not all first-class car options are available for all departure times. Essex Station ticket agents will offer you available options at the time you call.

We have the following “full car” options available for Santa Special:

Departure time COACH FIRST CLASS
9:30am,11:00am,12:30pm 60-seat car 32-seat car
10:00am,11:30am,1pm* 60-seat car 20-seat car36-seat car

*10:00 am, 11:30am, and 1pm  departures are not available on all Santa Special Operating Days

Will all of the weekend tickets be gone before individual ticket sales begin?


We sell a limited number of full cars (coach and first class) to passengers seeking to purchase tickets for employees, large families or groups. We do not completely sell out any specific departure or ticket class prior to individual tickets going on sale; in fact, we decline many full-car orders for popular departure weekends so that individual ticket sales are available.

The Santa Special tickets are general admission, so if you are
meeting friends/family at Essex Station, simply board together.

North Pole Express tickets are assigned by car, both Coach and First Class; you must purchase all tickets on one
order to be sure that your party sits together.


Full-car purchases are available first, via telephone only, beginning on Tuesday, September 19; first class individual tickets are released and can be purchased online beginning Wednesday, September 20; coach class tickets are released and can be purchased online beginning Thursday, September 21.

Tips for purchasing tickets:

If you are purchasing tickets for multiple families or a small group, ensure the availability of the entire group prior. We encourage you to have multiple dates and times ready in case your first choice is not available. Please remember, to be assigned seats on the same train car, all tickets MUST be purchased on one order.

Pre-register your purchasing account on Shopify or recover your password from last year. Ensure that your address is that of your credit card billing address. Although you are not able to enter payment information in advance, you will have five minutes one you click “Checkout” to enter the credit card information.

Tickets placed into your Shopify “Shopping Cart” are not considered to be reserved. Only when “Checkout” has been clicked are your tickets secured. Please understand that due to heavy sales volume on the ticket-release days, the Shopify site may experience a slower “refresh” process which, in turn, may cause seats to temporarily appear available at the same time they are actually being purchased by another customer.

Tickets will not be available for purchase in person at Essex Station. We have a limited staff working from the same computer systems as those purchasing online, and we do not set aside tickets for in-person or walk-up sales. Online customers can purchase tickets from home far faster than we could ever process orders in person.


Beginning November 15, tickets will be mailed to the address provided on your order. Please make sure to open the envelope once it arrives to review your tickets and any important updated event information. Tickets purchased within a short window of time between day of purchase and day of event will be held for pick-up at the onsite ticket window.


Beginning November 1, tickets will be mailed to the address provided on your order. Please make sure to open the envelope once it arrives to review your tickets and any important updated event information. Tickets purchased within a short window of time between day of purchase and day of event will be held for pick-up at the onsite ticket window.

Boarding will begin approximately 10 minutes before your excursion time. We suggest arriving at least 30 minutes prior to departure to allow for parking (1 Railroad Avenue, Essex, CT). Trains depart on time and cannot be held for late arrivals. Unfortunately, there are no refunds or exchanges. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is not responsible for travel delays caused by accidents, road closures, road constructions, weather, etc.

Trains operate during all weather conditions, but we reserve the right to postpone or cancel any train ride in extreme situations. If we must cancel a departure due to weather conditions, a full refund will be issued. Otherwise, your ticket is considered valid for the date and time on the ticket. All postponements or cancellations will be posted on our Facebook page and website home page by 9:00 am on the day of the scheduled excursion.

Yes… our Trackside Café offers freshly made soup, macaroni & cheese, chili, a variety of sandwiches, burgers and quick bites such as nachos, pretzels, apple sauce and fruit cups. From Kringle Kitchen, enjoy fresh muffins, brownies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, pudding and more. All the usual beverages are offered including hot chocolate, and beer and wine are available to adults 21 years of age and older.

Relax and enjoy a festive family meal in River Valley Junction before your Santa Special departure, prepared by the team that brings you the Essex Clipper Dinner Train and caters our Events and Functions. On the menu are scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, biscuits & gravy, bagels, muffins, cut fruit, cereal, coffee, tea, and juice. The breakfast serving time frame is 8:30 am until noon at Essex Station. Cost for the breakfast is $15.00 age 6 and older and $5.00 for children under age 6. Advance ticket purchase is strongly suggested.

Tickets will be available beginning September 19, 2017 if purchasing a Full Santa Special Car by phone

Tickets will be available beginning September 20, 2017 for online

The Santa Special ride/tickets are sold separately.