All aboard for
the North Pole Express
Railroading Heritage of Midwest America
Friends of the 261
For the first time in over 50 years, the Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 pulled the first steam passenger trips out of the recently renovated St. Paul Union Depot. The “North Pole Express” trips ran the first two weekends in December, carrying thousands of happy holiday travelers to the North Pole.The locomotive pulled four specially decorated cars – a coach, two ex-Metra bi-level commuter coaches, and a parlor car. The cars and No. 261 were decked out in holiday lights for the occasion. The locomotive wore a special “North Pole Express 2014” sign on the front. The steam crew relocated 261’s bell to the center top of the smoke box to give the engine a different and distinctive look for these trips. Previously, Friends of the 261 volunteers had constructed signage and a small building to create Santa’s North Pole home at the east end of the Union Depot.
As passengers boarded, they got a close up view of 261 at the head of the train. On the way to the “North Pole”, the children sang Christmas carols and wrote letters to Santa. Once at the “North Pole” children were delighted to see Santa’s workshop and his “elves” at work, including a metal grinder which shot sparks in the cold air. Santa Claus emerged from his shop and boarded the train to visit with children for the short ride back to the depot.
At the conclusion of each trip, children were served hot chocolate and cookies in the depot waiting room. The Friends, BNSF Railway, and Jones Lang LaSalle sponsored the trips. The train garnered media coverage in both Twin Cities daily newspapers and was featured on television stations KSTP and KARE-11. With the success of the trips it is hoped that the “North Pole Express” will become a holiday tradition in the Twin Cities.An army of volunteers swarmed the depot during the operation of the train. They served as conductors, handed out cocoa and cookies to children, sold merchandise, and answered questions.
Don’t forget that Santa is always watching; and he doesn’t want you to wait until it’s too late to purchase your North Pole Express tickets. Check the website often for up-to-date information on all events, including the North Pole Express.
The Friends of the 261 is a non-profit 501 C3, whose mission is to preserve, restore, operate, and interpret historic locomotives and rail cars. Tax deductible donations are always welcome.
Photo Credit: Jeff Terry, Steve Glischinski, Geoff Kuchera
261 North Pole Express Sponsorship Opportunities
$25,000 – Grand Naming Sponsor (only one available): Event naming rights, Advertising on all promotional materials, including a link on the 261 website, a private train with 250 tickets, product placement and logo on all advertising, plus an additional 50 tickets for VIP’s, 10 tickets to ride in the steam locomotive cab, VIP Santa experience, complimentary North Pole Express merchandise package and tickets on other 261 trips throughout the year.
$20,000 – Official Sponsorship – Sponsors will receive a private train with 250 tickets, product placement and logo on all advertising, plus an additional 50 tickets for VIP’s, 10 tickets to ride in the steam locomotive cab, VIP Santa experience, complimentary North Pole Express merchandise package and tickets on other 261 trips throughout the year.
$10,000 – Supporting Sponsorship – Sponsors will receive a private train with 100 tickets, product placement and logo on all advertising, plus four tickets in the Steam Locomotive, VIP Santa experience, complimentary North Pole Express Merchandise package.
$5,000 Partner Sponsors – Sponsors will receive a private car on the trip of their choice for up to 50 people, limited product placement and logo on advertising & 2 tickets in the cab of the steam locomotive and $50 toward North Pole Express Merchandise.
$2,500 Associate Sponsors – Sponsors will receive 25 tickets on the North Pole Express and $25 toward North Pole Express Merchandise.
$1,000 Standard Sponsors – Sponsors will receive 10 tickets on the North Pole Express and $10 toward North Pole Express Merchandise.
$500 Friendship Sponsors – Sponsors will Receive 5 tickets on the North Pole Express and $5 toward North Pole Express Merchandise.
In-Kind Sponsors – Sponsors donate their products and/or services and receive recognition