Monticello Railway Museum

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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?

For 2019, The Polar Express™ runs on the following dates and times:

Friday, November 15, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Saturday, November 16, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Sunday, November 17, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm
Friday, November 22, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Saturday, November 23, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Sunday, November 24, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm
Friday, November 29, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Saturday, November 30, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Sunday, December 1, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm
Friday, December 6, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Saturday, December 7, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm
Sunday, December 8, 2019 5:00 pm 6:30 pm

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 must have a ticket to ride the train. Those under 2 without tickets are required to sit on an adult's lap.

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

We have three classes of service: Coach, Special Coach, and Deluxe, as well as an exclusive private car for your party of up to 12 people. Prices are shown below.

Coach $38 Price is per rider, ages 2 and up. Only ticketed passengers will have seats reserved. Children under age 2 must ride on an adult's lap, or must have their own ticket.
Special Coach $50 Price is per rider, ages 2 and up. Only ticketed passengers will have seats reserved. Children under age 2 must ride on an adult's lap, or must have their own ticket.
NOTE: Coach and Special Coach tickets are seated in separate rail cars. For your entire group to be seated together, all your tickets must be the same ticket class.
Each Special Coach rider will receive their very own special Polar Express™ hot chocolate mug.
Deluxe $300
Price is per table of four, each of which includes tickets for up to four passengers of any age. Sorry; we do not sell partial tables.
Private Car $1200
Price is for the observation lounge in our private car, and includes tickets for up to 12 passengers of any age.

I want to try Deluxe Class or the Private Car, but my group is smaller than that. Can I buy fewer tickets for either of those?

Sorry, but no. Deluxe Class service is sold per table, and each table seats four; the Private Car's observation lounge is sold in its entirety, and seats up to 12. There are no discounts for smaller groups, though you are welcome to ride with fewer people.

I want to ride in Deluxe Class or the Private Car, but my group is one person too large. Can I bring a folding chair for our extra person?

Sorry, but no; the configuration of the Deluxe Class dining car and the Private Car's observation lounge, plus the entertainment provided in the aisles of the cars, do not allow space for any additional passengers or seating.

What extras do I get for the premium prices charged for Deluxe Class or the Private Car?

Deluxe Class riders get to enjoy their Polar Express™ experience in style by riding in the luxurious and elegant atmosphere of our beautiful and painstakingly restored Illinois Central dining car. Passenger groups are seated at private tables, and each ticketed passenger receives a commemorative Polar Express™ cocoa mug. We also offer complimentary juice boxes, bottles of water, and soda, as well as candy snacks, throughout the ride.

Private Car passengers—just one group per train— have the entire observation lounge for themselves in our lavish Illinois Central business car. Like the Deluxe Class passengers, each receives a commemorative Polar Express™ cocoa mug, plus other complimentary beverages and snacks throughout the ride.

Is there a minimum age for Deluxe Class or Private Car service?

There is no minimum age for either service. However, we don't want any of our guests to have their special experience spoiled by an unruly child. We know that children can be unpredictable, but we ask parents to consider whether their children are a "good fit" for premium-price deluxe setting. If your children can be on their best behavior in a fancy restaurant, we'd love to have them!

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 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?

Absolutely! 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 you 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 1, at 8 am Central Time.

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

Yes, it's true. During the past several years, coach 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 an overwhelmingly popular event. Though each season's trains offer thousands of seats, many would-be customers may be vying for each seat.

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 minute may reduce your chances of success.

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.

Many of our guests choose not to tell their children until after they have completed their ticket purchase. 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.

In a previous 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 enormous traffic surge when tickets go on sale. But there are a lot of other players involved, including the ticket-order site and credit-card-processing service used by the Museum.

Those websites are run by third parties, and though their sites are designed for heavy traffic, the Museum has no control over them. Any issues such as 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 outside of our control.

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, 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 Christmastime?

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

In addition, the Museum offers other events throughout our operating season, including train rides every weekend from May through September and special experiences such as the Fireworks Special and Railroad Days. See our events page for details.

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 details, please refer to the Museum's full ticket policy.

That said, we do permit people to resell their Polar Express™ tickets for no more than face value. See below for information on how to transfer tickets.

I bought Polar Express™ tickets I now can't use. Can I get my money back?

Maybe. The Museum's standard ticket policy does not offer refunds for tickets within 7 days of the event, or for tickets purchased more than 90 days in the past, except under extenuating circumstances. To request a refund, contact us.

A friend of a friend is selling tickets to your Polar Express™ event. They're being sold at face value, which you explain here 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 of 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 to legally transfer 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 email us, we can confirm whether you do in fact have tickets. Assuming you do, we'll then check the email address attached to your order, correct it if necessary, and re-send 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 and 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:

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 St., Monticello, IL 61856.

Where are my tickets?

Your tickets will be ready for pickup at the depot in downtown Monticello at 4:30 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 Wabash Center, located across the parking lot from the Wabash Depot, you will find children's games and activities, a seasonal photo-op station, snacks and soft drinks available for purchase at Mrs. Claus's Kitchen, and holiday gifts galore at Santa's Gift Shop.

What is the inclement weather policy?

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