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by Betty Moore, SLFP.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), September 16, 2014 - "All aboard," the conductor announced in a booming voice that echoed throughout the majestic Grand Hall of Saint Louis Union Station.
"Do you believe?" he asked the audience gathered for the announcement of a special round trip to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express Train™.
Wearing pajamas, children sitting on the front of the stage looked up in wonder, laughed, and then returned to reading from the The Polar Express book.
"The Polar Express is all about putting the meaning back into Christmas. I believe in the spirit of Christmas," stated Allen C. Harper, chairman and CEO of American Heritage Railways.
"This is families, for grandma and grandpa, mom and dad and all the kids to come out and really experience Christmas in one of the most traditional and spectacular ways."
"The last time I took a train ride out of Union Station was fifty-nine year ago," said Harper, who was born in Belleville, IL and grew up in St. Louis. He praised the efforts of Bob O'Loughlin, chairman and CEO of Lodging Hospitality Management, in bringing railroading back to historic Union Station. "Now, Santa Claus is bringing the trains back to Union Station," he smiled, adding that this was going to be special holiday event for many years to come.
Kitty Ratcliffe, president of St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, presented highlights of the holiday season in St. Louis, beginning with the American Missouri Festival of Lights celebration in the newly renovated Union Station on Saturday, Nov. 22, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The Salvation Army, a long-time partner of the Festival, will display their Tree of Lights across the street from Union Station in Aloe Plaza. Mayor Francis Slay will light the majestic tree and the event will conclude with a fireworks display at dusk.
In an interview following the presentation, Harper enthusiastically explained that seeing people happy is the best part of owning a railroad.
"A long time ago, I got involved in civic work for transit and then became involved in railroads. I ended up buying a railroad in Durango, Colorado and then in North Carolina. I saw events at railroads and thought we could do a good job with it. So, I contacted Warner Brothers and got the rights to The Polar Express™. It has just exploded all over the country," he said proudly over the holiday music playing in the background.
"I've been able to take this concept to all these historic railroads around the country and enabling them to get the revenue to sustain their historical preservation work."
"Railroading is a real historical experience. My mission is the preservation of railroad history. I believe the best way to preserve history is to make this presentation so interesting and exciting," said Harper. "People will pay a fair price for an experience. And, we provide great experiences," he continued with a twinkle in his eyes.
For the first time, the Polar Express Train Ride will depart historic St. Louis Union Station for magical trips to the North Pole beginning Saturday, November 22 and continuing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through December 28, 2014. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the train rides which will leave Union Station at 4:30, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, passengers will relive the magic of the story as they are whisked away on The Polar Express.
Onboard the train, chefs will serve hot chocolate and cookies while the classic children's book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. The Polar Express characters also will lead families in a Christmas carol sing along. Santa and his elves will board the train at the North Pole and give children the first gift of Christmas, a silver sleigh bell, on the ride back to St. Louis Union Station. Call 314-942-6942 for more information.
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