The Polar Express is the titular 2-8-4 wheel configured American Berkshire type steam locomotive that transports children to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. The locomotive pulls five passenger cars, including an abandoned toy car at the front and an observation car at the back.
Role in the film
The train makes two stops in Grand Rapids, Michigan to pick up Hero Boy and Billy the Lonely Boy respectively. Later in the film, Smokey and Steamer, the locomotive's fireman and engineer, have to fix the light, so Hero Girl is put in charge of driving. Suddenly, Smokey and Steamer see something ahead on the track and call out to Hero Girl to stop the train, but she and Hero Boy have trouble figuring out which lever applies the brakes. Eventually, Hero Boy applies the brakes and the train stops just before it crashes into a heard of caribou.
After the caribou get out of the way, Smokey and Steamer get back to the cab of the locomotive and get the train on its way again. However, Steamer finds the throttle is jammed due to a lose pin, causing the train to accelerate uncontrollably. Because of this, the Conductor ties Hero Boy and Hero Girl to the safety bar at the front of the locomotive to prevent them from falling off as they go down Glacier Gulch. The pin falls out and into an air vent, but comes out when the train goes down the gulch. Steamer manages to grab it with his mouth, only to swallow it by accident. When the train ends up on the Ice Lake, Smokey manages to get the pin out of Steamer's stomach by hitting his back with a shovel, but it works too well as the pin flies out of the locomotive and lands on the ice, causing it to crack. Smokey eventually decides to use the pin from his hair to fix the throttle and Steamer is able to control the speed again. Everyone soon notices the cracking ice, so Smokey and Steamer try to get the train back on the tracks with the Conductor navigating and succeed.
The Conductor, Hero Boy and Hero Girl later climb along the locomotive to get back to the passenger cars.
The Polar Express is based off of Pere Marquette 1225, a 1941 locomotive of the Berkshire N-1 class built at the Lima Locomotive Works. The locomotive's design were used in the film, as well as its sounds, with the exception of its whistle, which came from Sierra Railway No. 3. Drawings of the locomotive were used to create the 3D model. Chris Van Allsburg chose this design because he used to play on the locomotive while attending games at the Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan, where it was placed on static display at the time.
Today, the 1225 is housed in Owosso, Michigan and is operated and maintained by the Steam Railroading Institute. The 1225 frequently hauls passenger excursions in Michigan throughout the year, including the world-famous North Pole Express trips throughout the months of November and December.
- The Polar Express (locomotive) at The Polar Express Wikia