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The North Fork Polar Express. (Courtesy photo)
The North Fork Trolley Company’s “Polar Express Trolley Ride”. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Carolyn Miskulin)

Editor’s note: The Polar Express Trolley Ride is sold out for the 2014 season

Since the moment it was published in 1985, Chris Van Allsburg’s story “The Polar Express” has charmed readers of all ages with its fanciful tale of a little boy who meets Santa Claus after traveling to the North Pole aboard an enchanted steam engine.

This holiday season, fans can recapture the Caldecott Award-winning book’s magic by reserving a seat on North Fork Trolley Company’s wildly popular “Polar Express Trolley Ride,” which runs once daily from Nov. 28 to Dec. 23.

“It’s a wonderful story and we’re glad we can bring it to Long Island,” said Carolyn Miskulin, who co-owns the Aquebogue trolley company with business partner Tom Ingald. “The story comes to life.”

During the 75-minute round-trip journey, which departs from The All Star in Riverhead and travels north, participants have the chance to interact with a character from the 2004 film adaptation of “The Polar Express” and listen to an audio telling of the book by actor Liam Neeson.

“The excitement is unbelievable,” said Miskulin, who got the idea when she took a similarly themed ride several years ago on the Smoky Mountains Railroad in North Carolina. “When people see the conductor and get their golden tickets, their eyes light up.”

After her experience in North Carolina, Miskulin quickly determined that North Fork Trolley Company, which debuted in 2004 and often provides transportation for weddings and wine tours, would be the perfect venue for a “Polar Express” ride.

“We fell in love with the story and the concept of ‘The Polar Express’ and how they did it,” Miskulin said of Smoky Mountains Railroad. “So we contacted Warner Brothers and worked with them to see if we could incorporate it onto the trolley. And they helped us adapt it.”

North Fork Trolley Company is in good company: According to a 2013 Fox News report, more than half a million people around the country took “Polar Express” train rides in 2012.

After guests disembark at North Fork Trolley Company’s version of the North Pole — which is located in a special, secret location in Riverhead to maintain excitement — they visit with Santa Claus and his elves, who present each child with a silver sleigh bell, just like in the story, and fill their bellies with cookies and hot cocoa.

“Everybody was in character, which was really nice,” said Nancy Sulzer of Riverhead, who took her 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son on the trolley ride last year. “The ride itself was fun and my kids got to hang out with the elves. It was pretty authentic to the book.”

In keeping with the tale’s nighttime plotline, all participants — that includes you, parents— are encouraged to arrive at the event dressed in pajamas.

When it launched last year, all scheduled performances of “The Polar Express Trolley Ride” sold out within three weeks, Miskulin said.

“The response was fantastic,” she said. “This story allows everyone to connect with their inner desire to believe. That’s why it’s so exciting to see all the families want to become a part of the story.”

To help meet demand this season, North Fork Trolley Company is adding more performances. To reserve your seat ($38 per ticket) visit northforktrolley.showare.com and click “Buy Tickets.” Participants must be at least 2 years old. In addition, it’s recommended that guests arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time. For more information, call 631-369-3030.

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