The silver bell is a gift Hero Boy receives as the first gift of Christmas. It makes a beautiful, sweet ringing sound that only those who believe in the Christmas spirit and Santa Claus can hear.
The Polar Express
When the observation car stops spinning on the turntable, the children get off and Hero Girl hears the sound of the silver bells from one of the tunnels and thinks that should take them to the North Pole Square. However, Hero Boy and Billy cannot hear it. They eventually end up in a village where Billy begins to hear it, but Hero Boy still cannot.
When Santa Claus arrives at the North Pole Square, all the elves, children and reindeer cheer. However, in the process, one of the silver bells gets loose from the reindeer's harness, falls off and lands right in front of Hero Boy. Hero Boy picks it up and rings it next to his ear, but cannot hear anything until after whispering to himself, "I believe." Santa overhears and asks what he said, to which Hero Boy responds by saying, "I believe... this is yours." and hands the bell to him.
Santa then talks with the children and chooses Hero Boy as the one to receive the first gift of Christmas. Hero Boy sits on Santa's lap in his sleigh and Santa asks him what he wants. Hero Boy whispers into his ear that he wants one of the bells from the sleigh. After which, Santa holds up the bell and declares it the First Gift of Christmas before handing it to Hero Boy, who puts it in his right pocket. However, he forgets that there is a hole in that pocket and the bell falls out and onto the floor of the sleigh without anyone noticing.
When all the children get back on the train, they want to see the silver bell, so Hero Boy reaches into his pocket, only to feel the hole it fell out of. The children decide to go outside and look for it, but the train starts moving before they could do so. They all feel sorry for him losing the bell, especially Hero Girl. Before Hero Boy gets off the train to go home, Know-It-All points out that, "It's the thought that counts."
The next morning, when Hero Boy and Sarah are opening their presents, Sarah finds one small present behind the tree with Hero Boy's name on it. Hero Boy opens it to find the silver bell and a note from Santa informing him about it falling on the sleigh. He rings it and both he and Sarah enjoy the sound it makes. He then lets his motherring the bell, but she cannot hear anything. His father also rings it, but he too does not hear a sound and hands it back to Hero Boy, remarking that it must be broken. Hero Boy then puts it on the table before leaving.
Most of Hero Boy's friends are able to hear the bell too, but over the years, they lose their belief in Santa and it stops ringing for them, including Sarah, but Hero Boy still continues to hear it, even though he has grown old.
- In the book, the bell does not fall off one the reindeer's harness. It is cut off by one of the elves after Hero Boy tells Santa that he wants one of the bells as the First Gift of Christmas.