Monticello Railway Museum

The Polar Express™ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For your convenience, questions and answers are divided into several categories.

If you have any questions that are not answered here, or if you are having difficulties purchasing tickets, please email us at

About the Event

Where is the Monticello Railway Museum located?

We are located in central Illinois. Monticello is midway between Champaign and Decatur along Interstate 72.

Our Polar Express™ event boards at our Wabash Depot in downtown Monticello. The Wabash Depot's address is 200 E. Livingston St., Monticello, IL 61856.

On what dates will The Polar Express™ run?

Friday, November 18, 2016
4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 19, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 20, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m.
Friday, November 25, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 26, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 27, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m.
Friday, December 2, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 3, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 4, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m.
Friday, December 9, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 10, 2016 4:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.

How long is the train ride?

The train ride is a round trip of approximately an hour in length.

Who needs a ticket?

Anyone 2 years of age or older will need a ticket. Those under 2 without tickets are required to sit on a lap.

What classes of service are offered, and how much do tickets cost?

Classes and prices for 2016 are to be determined.

Will I get to meet the conductor of the train?

Yes! The train's conductor will call "All Aboard" when the train is ready to leave the station, and he will punch your train ticket during the trip.

Will my child get to meet Santa personally?

Yes. Santa will board the train at the North Pole and give a sleigh bell to each child during the return trip.

If I haven't read the book or seen the movie, will I still have a good time?

Yes, you can read along or just listen as we read the storybook on our train ride to the North Pole. If you have read the book or seen the movie you will feel like you've just stepped off the pages as we recreate the story with your child as a part of the cast.

Buying Tickets

Where do tickets go on sale?

Tickets are sold via the Museum's event page for The Polar Express™. This is the only way to buy tickets; we do not sell tickets over the phone or in person. There will be a "Buy Tickets" link on that page before purchases begin.

When do tickets go on sale?

Tickets go on sale on Saturday, June 4 at 8 a.m. Central Time.

Is it true that tickets for The Polar Express™ sell quickly?

Yes, it's true, much to our amazement. During the past several years, tickets have effectively sold out in under 10 minutes, in spite of the Museum adding more trains and capacity every year.

What do I need to do to guarantee that I get tickets?

There is no way to guarantee that any given would-be customer will succeed in buying tickets.

The Polar Express™ at the Monticello Railway Museum is a highly popular event. Though each season's trains offer several thousand seats, we find that there may be eight or more would-be customers vying for each seat on the train.

We're elated that our event is so popular, but we're sorry that we don't have the volunteer staff to satisfy the desires of everyone who would like to ride our holiday trains.

OK, I understand that. What can I do to improve my chances of obtaining tickets?

First, be ready at the moment tickets go on sale. A delay of even a few minutes may impact your chances of success.

  • Be sure your Internet connection is up and running well before them moment that tickets go on sale.
  • Have your credit or debit card ready, and be sure its available balance is sufficient to cover your order.
  • Plan out your preferred date and time (as well as one or two backup train dates/times) and number of tickets ahead of time, and have them ready before ticket sales start. This way, you're not wasting precious minutes choosing, while other buyers are a step ahead of you and are completing their orders.

Good luck!

I didn't get tickets! My children are going to be tremendously upset. What am I going to tell them?

We're sorry that not all the families who want to attend The Polar Express™ will be able to get tickets to our event.

Some of our guests choose not to tell their children until after they have tickets in hand. This way, the children of unsuccessful buyers aren't upset. And in the happy event you do succeed in buying tickets, you can offer your children a pre-holiday surprise of tickets to our Polar Express™ event.

Last year, I had trouble with the ticket order website, and was unable to complete my order as a result. What are you doing to prevent this from happening again?

We have beefed up the Museum's own website to have sufficient capacity and throughput to handle the traffic during the peak period when tickets go on sale. But there are a lot of other players involved, including the ticket site and credit card processing sites used by the Museum.

These websites are run by third-party Internet companies, and though these third-party websites are designed for heavy traffic, the Museum has no control over them. Any issues like maintenance or technical problems (like network connectivity) are outside the Museum's control or knowledge.

Furthermore, the Internet is a complicated web of connections involving thousands of components. Any one of the components between your computer and your destination can have a problem at any given time, unknown to any of us, and is outside your control or ours.

This is a long-winded way of saying that "things happen." We're truly sorry if technical difficulties prevent you from buying tickets, but they're essentially random events that are largely out of our hands.

Do you keep a wait list for sold out trains?

Sorry, we do not keep a wait list.

OK, my family missed out this time. When do tickets go on sale for next year?

We generally put tickets on sale during the summer months. We choose to put tickets to The Polar Express™ on sale during daylight hours on a weekend.

Watch our website or Facebook page for announcements about next year's holiday trains.

Is there another event at the Museum at Christmas time?

The Monticello Chamber of Commerce does offer a Lunch with Santa on the Train event, hosted at the Museum. Please contact the Chamber for further information on their event.

I have tickets to The Polar Express™ that I don't need, and I know there are others who want to ride. Am I allowed to re-sell my tickets to this event?

The Illinois Ticket Sale and Resale Act prohibits resale of tickets to our events at a price greater than the face value set by the Museum. Violation is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in jail for each ticket sold in violation of the law.

The Museum reserves the right to revoke all tickets purchased by a reseller, and such tickets will not be honored by the Museum. Furthermore, the Museum will report any illegal resale of tickets for Museum events to the States Attorney and Attorney General for criminal prosecution.

For further detail, please refer to the Museum's full ticket policy.

Whoa; I'm not trying to make a profit, but I bought Polar Express™ tickets I now can't use. Can I get my money back and make the tickets I don't need available to someone else?

The Museum's standard ticket policy does not offer refunds for tickets within seven (7) days of the event, or for tickets purchased more than 90 days in the past.

However, due to the popularity of this event, we know that we have potential buyers for any unwanted tickets. Therefore, we are happy to waive the no-refund policy, subject to a 10% processing fee deducted from the refund.

A friend of a friend is selling tickets to your Polar Express™ event. They're being sold at face value, which you told me is legal. But how do I know that the tickets are legitimate?

First, be wary of anyone selling actual tickets to our event, since we do not distribute tickets until the day of the train.

Our ticket policy states that the Museum accepts no responsibility for the validity for tickets obtained from sources other than the Museum's ticket office or website.

However, we can accommodate transfers of tickets, provided the sale price is no more than face value. Have the seller contact the Museum ticket office in order to legally convey his or her unneeded tickets to you. By working through the Museum, you are guaranteed that the tickets you pay for are legitimate.

After I've Purchased My Tickets

The order page told me that I completed my ticket purchase, but I never received a confirmation email. Can you help?

One common cause of a missed confirmation email is a typo in the email address provided to our ticketing system. If you contact us by email, we can confirm whether you do in fact have tickets. We'll then check the email address attached to your order and correct it if necessary, before re-sending that email to you.

When do you mail out tickets?

We don't mail out tickets. Ticket holders pick up their tickets at our Wabash Depot (the trains' boarding location) on the day of the event. For details, see below.

It's been a few months since I ordered tickets, and I forgot what train date and time I purchased. How can I confirm my dates?

If you have the confirmation email sent by our ticket processor, it will show the day/time of your magical train ride. If you don't have the email, but do have the order number, please send it to us via email, and we'll re-send the confirmation email with the time and date of your train ride.

Are there hotels in Monticello?

There are two hotels in Monticello:

  • The Best Western Monticello Gateway Inn is located at the Market Street / IL 105 exit (exit 166) on Interstate 72, 2.2 miles north of the Wabash Depot. Contact the Best Western via the chain’s website at, or directly to the Gateway Inn by calling 217-762-9436.
  • The Foster Inn is a family-owned motel located 1.3 miles north of the Wabash Depot. The Foster Inn can be reached via their website at, or by calling 217-762-9835.

On the Day of the Event

Why should my children dress in their pajamas?

In the story, all the children taking this magical train ride are awakened from their beds on Christmas Eve. Join the fun by bringing your children in their pajamas too. Adults are also welcome to join the PJ party fun.

Where do I board the train?

All Polar Express™ trips board at the Museum's Wabash Depot in downtown Monticello. The depot is located at 200 E. Livingston, Monticello, IL.

Where are my tickets?

Your tickets will be ready for pickup at the depot in downtown Monticello at 4 PM the day of your train. Please arrive at least 30 minutes before your departure to ensure time to pick up tickets and board the train. All seats on the train are assigned.

Will there be other things to do at the train station?

Yes! At the VFW Hall, located across the parking lot from the Wabash Depot, you will find children's games and activities, snacks and soft drinks available for purchase at Mrs. Claus' Kitchen, and holiday gift ideas at Santa's Gift Shop.

What is the inclement weather policy?

If you are unable to attend because the Illinois State Police close the highways due to weather conditions, we will issue refunds. Otherwise, the trains will run.