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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). 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.

2019 Ticket Sales

North Pole Express

Beginning the week of September 10

Type of Purchase Date Method
All Full Cars
Coach & First Class Tuesday, September 10th Telephone Only
Individual First Class Wednesday, September 11th Online Only
Individual Coach Thursday, September 12th Online Only

2019 Santa Special tickets are available




2019 North Pole Express runs during the following dates/times:

  • Friday through Sunday, November 15-December 1
  • Tuesday through Sunday December 3-December 22
  • Monday December 23
  • Thursday – Sunday December 26-December 29
  • Departure times are 4:30 pm, 5:00 pm, 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm each operating day
  • Additional 8:30 pm departure on Fridays & Saturdays November 15-December 21 / Sunday and Monday December 22 & 23
  • Additional 3:00 pm & 3:30 pm departures on Saturdays and Sundays November 16-December 22 / Friday November 29 & Monday December 23

The 2019 Santa Special operates Saturday and Sunday, November 30 through December 22 (as well as Friday November 29 and Monday December 23) with departures at 9:30 am, 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm.

2019 North Pole Express

  • COACH: $37.50 per person age 1 and older
  • FIRST CLASS: $68.50 per person age 1 and older
  • Add $10.00 per ticket on Fridays & Saturdays (November 29-December 21)

2019 Santa Special

  • COACH: $26.00 per person age 1 and older
  • FIRST CLASS: $40.00 per person age 1 and older

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 individual chairs with cash beverage service. Coach Class offers padded bench seating.

For North Pole Express, we offer 20, 32 & 36 seat First Class Cars and 64 seat Coach Cars. 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.  Ticket agents will offer you available options at the time you call on September 10 2019.

For Santa Special, we have the following “full car” options available:

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.

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 is assigned the same car. Multiple reservations can not be combined as the car assignments are done by Computer.

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


Full-car purchases are available first, via telephone only,  on Tuesday, September 10; first class individual tickets are released and can be purchased online beginning Wednesday, September 11; coach class tickets are released and can be purchased online beginning Thursday, September 12.


Full-car purchases are available first, via telephone only, on Tuesday October 1; first class individual tickets are released and can be purchased online beginning Wednesday October 2; coach class tickets are released and can be purchased online beginning Wednesday October 2.

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 our Shopify on line store by doing the following:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Train & Boat and then Purchase Tickets (you will not be purchasing any tickets)
  3. Click on Create an Account in the upper right and fill in required information.
  4. Or you can 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 once you click “Checkout” to enter the credit card information.

Tickets placed into your Shopify “Shopping Cart” are not considered to be reserved. Only when Payment has been accepted and a confirmation emailed 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 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 may be held for pick-up at the onsite ticket window.


Beginning November 18, 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, your ticket will be good on the following Monday at the same time or 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 Kringle Kitchen located in the River Valley Junction Building offers freshly made soup, macaroni & cheese, chili, a variety of sandwiches, burgers and quick bites such as nachos, pretzels, assorted baked goods, and more. An assortment of hot and cold beverages are offered including hot chocolate.

The sugar cookies provided on the North Pole Express do not contain peanuts or tree nuts. However, they were prepared and baked in a common kitchen area containing WHEAT, EGGS, PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, and MILK.  The Hot Chocolate does contain dry milk. If you have concerns, we ask that you do not partake in the Cookies or Hot Chocolate provided on the North Pole Express. Customers are allowed to bring their own cookies and beverage as a replacement.

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Tuesday September 10, 2019: Full First Class and Coach Cars by PHONE ONLY

Wednesday September 11, 2019: Individual First Class tickets at ONLY

Thursday September 12, 2019: Individual Coach Class tickets at ONLY