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Family Fun

Visit Santa on the Northern Lights Limited/Santa Express

Northern Lights Limited and Santa Express
Written by Timothy Stobierski

Have your very own Polar Express experience by taking your kids on the Santa Express, run by the Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston.

Run by the Railroad Museum of New England, the Northern Lights Limited/Santa Express is a great holiday activity for families with young children. Let your child’s imagination come alive as you ride along the scenic Thomaston railway in search for old St. Nick.

About the Northern Lights Limited/Santa Express

While researching the Northern Lights Limited and the Santa Express, I was confused as to what the difference between the two was (the railroad’s website was only sort of helpful in straightening things out). I originally thought that they were just two different names for the same thing, but they are actually two separate options for you to consider when booking tickets for your ride to visit Santa.

The first is the Santa Express, which departs from the station at both noon and 2pm. Being during the day, riders are treated to gorgeous scenery and train cars fully decorated with holiday cheer, and Santa and Mrs. Claus are onboard to visit with the children and hand out gifts.

The second option is the Northern Lights Limited, which departs the station at 5pm and 7pm. Since it’s dark, there’s less to see outside in terms of scenery. The tradeoff in scenery, though, comes with the added bonus of being able to enjoy beautiful holiday lights, which adorn the train cars, as the train makes its way to Santa’s Workshop to pick up Santa and Mrs. Claus. (This is the primary difference: The Santa Express does not actually pick up Santa or stop at the workshop; he’s already on the train.)

Both options are available in Coach or First Class. The First Class option of course costs more (see below), but comes with a lot of extras. Regardless of whether you choose First Class or Coach, the Santa Express or the Northern Lights Limited, you’ll be treated to:

  • A relaxing holiday train ride
  • A visit by Santa
  • Hand-delivered gifts for each child
  • Christmas carol sing-alongs led by an elf
  • And a visit with Mrs. Claus and her elves

Even Scrooges will Love the Museum

The Railroad Museum of New England is a non-profit educational and historical organization with the mission of preserving the history of Connecticut’s rich history of railroads and locomotives. The Thomaston Station (where the Santa Express/Northern Lights Limited depart) is Victorian style and was built in 1881.

Northern Lights Limited and Santa Express

The Thomaston Station, decked out in holiday decorations.

In addition to operating the Northern Lights Limited/Santa Express train rides, RMNE also offers many other rides throughout the year and is home to a wide collection of steam and diesel locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and cabooses, making visiting it a great activity for train/transportation/history buffs or anyone who wants to relive their childhood by remembering the routes that used to service Connecticut. You don’t need to love Santa to want to visit!

Visitor Info

Where: Railroad Museum of New England, 242 E. Min Street, Thomaston
When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in December. Noon and 2pm for the Santa Express and 5pm and 7pm for the Northern Lights Limited.
Costs: Tickets are the same for adults, children, and seniors. They are $30 each for coach service and $55 each for first class service for the Northern Lights Limited, and $20 each for coach service and $45 each for first class for the Santa Express. Toddlers are $1, but do not receive a seat.

Tickets sell out quickly, so it’s recommended you book in advance online.

About the author

Timothy Stobierski

Tim Stobierski is a Connecticut native and a freelance writer and editor who has worked with a number of publishers including Taunton, Abrams, and Yale University Press. He has written for Grow Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Hartford Courant, and many other publications. His first book of poetry, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer was published in 2012 by River Otter Press. He is the founding editor of, a website focused on helping college students avoid and pay off their student loan debt.

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