CANTON: The Polar Express is coming to Stark County.
The city of Canton and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad are joining forces to offer six Christmas-themed rail trips on Dec. 12-14.
Mayor Janet Weir Creighton made the announcement Friday in a news conference at the railroad's Canton depot, where she was joined by Santa Claus and others.
Canton is excited to be able to offer Polar Express trips from Stark County for the first time, the mayor said.
The trips will be offered on rail diesel cars seating 224 per trip. Plans call for two trips a day: at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
The trips will head north from the Canton depot at 1315 Tuscarawas St. W. for about 40 minutes into Summit County and the city of Green.
Santa Claus will be picked up at the North Pole, and the train will return to Canton.
Yes, the North Pole is really in Green, said railroad President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Wait.
Hot chocolate and cookies will be served to pajama-wearing youngsters aboard the train as they hear a reading of The Polar Express, a 1985 book by Chris Van Allsburg.
Tickets, priced at $25, will go on sale at 8 a.m. Nov. 1. Only telephone orders will be accepted, at 1-877-278-8020. There is a limit of eight tickets per call.
The orders are being handled by the Dennison Railroad Museum in Tuscarawas County; its volunteers will help staff the train during the Polar Express trips.
Officials expect the 1,344 tickets to sell out in the first or second day, said Service Director Joseph Concatto, who helped make the arrangements.
Also supporting the debut trips are the Canton/Stark County Convention and Visitors' Bureau and the Canton Park Department.
Proceeds from ticket sales will be used by Canton to pay its expenses and to reimburse the railroad for its costs, Concatto said.
The trips are not projected to be moneymakers, and the city will be lucky to break even on the arrangement, he said.
The railroad sold out 25,000 Polar Express tickets from Akron and Independence to Peninsula in November and December, Wait said.
Those tickets were sold by lottery, and the railroad turned away thousands of would-be buyers, he said.
Wait also said the railroad next year will offer expanded five-day-a-week service from Canton for the first time. That will be offered from June to August and again in October with weekend-only service in September, he said.
This year, the tourist railroad offered Canton rail service only on weekends.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.