Polar Express: a night of magic with the people who make it happen

Every evening the Polar Express train departs the Williams Train Depot for its magical journey to the North Pole. Conductors, engineers and many talented chefs and supervisors help make this journey possible.

Photo by Wendy Howell.

Every evening the Polar Express train departs the Williams Train Depot for its magical journey to the North Pole. Conductors, engineers and many talented chefs and supervisors help make this journey possible.

Every year a magical train arrives at Grand Canyon Depot in Williams, Arizona. As the Polar Express train pulls into the station, a very special crew boards the train cars and immediately goes to work. Santa depends on the Polar Express crew to get the train to the North Pole on time. There’s plenty to do before passengers board the Polar Express and depart each evening. The Williams News staff recently asked several crew members what their jobs were on the train and how they prepared each evening for the magical trip to the North Pole.

Conductors

I’m conductor Nick and I’m conductor Mario.

What is your job on the Polar Express?

Mario — Our jobs is to go through and make sure everybody has a ticket. Usually they get a golden ticket, that’s the one that we punch. We either put a smiley face or an initial, or we put PE for polar express.

Nick — Mostly what we do is try to keep everyone safe and everyone is having a great time. Our two big things.

Mario —Our main goals are to go from the train depot here in Williams and make it all the way to the North Pole on time, we can’t be late.

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Conductors Nick and Mario pause for a picture as they prepare the Polar Express Train for its evening departure.

Nick — It’s no Christmas without the Polar Express being on time.

What do you do to prepare ahead of time?

Mario — We go through and make sure all of our cars are working properly and we have everything ready to go. We make sure everything is locked up and it’s safe to move. We do travel a long distance so we want to make sure we get there on time. As he said, there’s no Christmas without the Polar Express.

What is your favorite part of the trip?

Nick — My favorite part is arriving at the North Pole. Of course, on time. It’s wonderful because it’s all lit up nice and bright. You can see the kids’ faces light up as bright as the Pole.

Mario —My favorite is when Santa enters the car. The faces of the kids just light up.

Chefs

My name is Chef Nick. This is my lovely assistant Chef Nicky.

What is your job on the Polar Express?

We are polar chefs on the Polar Express. It’s a pretty awesome experience. We get to share our enthusiasm and pump up our train car. This is the party car, also known as the Glacier Gulch Car. It’s some pretty awesome stuff. The Glacier Gulch is based off of the steepest grade in all the world. It’s about 300 feet tall, 30 stories tall, 300 cereal boxes stacked all the way on top. It’s way super tall.

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Chefs Nick and Nicky arrive at the train depot in Williams.

We’re super excited. We like to get ready for the Polar Express. We live at the North Pole, so it’s a pretty awesome experience. We wake up in the morning super joyful and cheerful.

I like to watch some of the old classic Christmas cartoons to get ready. My favorite is Rudolph. I like that one because it teaches a lot about diversity. I get kicked around sometimes too and it kind of builds me back up. The other one I like is Charlie Brown. It’s pretty awesome stuff. We like to live for smiles here on the Polar Express. We get all super pumped up. We melt our chocolate bars, jam to Christmas music. We like Run, Run, Rudolph…that’s our jam.

What is your favorite part of the Polar Express?

Nicky — I like seeing our house at the North Pole. It’s my favorite.

Nick — My favorite is making the kids smile from the littlest baby to the oldest…I feel you’re as young as you feel. You’re a kid at hear. Our job is to bring him back, bring the magic back. I love that.

How do you prepare ahead of time?

We like to treat every day like Christmas. Christmas is awesome. It’s not just one thing, let’s do it 364 days. We like to spread cheer so that everyone can experience it. We get prepped up and by the time Christmas comes around it’s like our Super bowl.

Engineers

My name is Kevin Johnson and I am an engineer on the Polar Express.

What is your job on the Polar Express?

Engineers conducts safety checks on the engines. Before every trip engineers check the brakes and wheels for any defects or flat spots and make sure the brake shoes do not need to be replaced.

The Polar Express is run by a diesel-electric engine. It pulls 13 passenger cars. As an engineer he is responsible for the engine of the train.

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Engineer Kevin Johnson runs safety checks on the Polar Express Train prior to its nightly departures.

Kevin — You’re thinking about the slack and making sure the ride is smooth for all the passengers and keeping an eye out for the safety of the engine and the safety of the passengers. You’re also coordinating with the other engineer — whether that’s knowing what they’re doing or talking on the radio with them to help them out with whatever they need. We work very closely together to make sure the entire ride is smooth.

The engineer is also responsible for solving any mechanical or engine problems when the train is on a trip.

Kevin — If there’s a problem, a mechanical problem, it is the engineer who is there diagnosing the problem and figuring out what’s needed.

What is your favorite part of the Polar Express?

My favorite part about the job is seeing the kid’s expressions after they’ve got off the train and got to see Santa.

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