The Polar Express, a film produced in 2004 and directed by Robert Zemeckis, popularized an understanding of the role and romance of passenger trains in transportation history amongst a new audience of children across North America and beyond. It was based on a book of the same name written by Chris Van Allsburg.

This animated feature starred the voices of Tom Hanks in six different roles, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, and Eddy Deezen. The plot involved children being picked up by a train, the “Polar Express” as it headed for the North Pole on a Christmas Eve in the 1950s. Various challenges were met along the way until the children arrive at a city where Santa Claus and his many elven helpers are preparing to leave for the distribution of gifts around the globe.

Technically, the film is recognized as the first all digital capture film, meaning that live human actors were captured through an animation process. The film is also known for its references to American rail architecture – the Pullman Factory in Chicago, and Penn Central Station in New York City.

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards – best sound editing, best sound mixing, best original song (“Believe”). Since it’s release, the film has become an annual Christmas film tradition for television broadcasting and has joined such films as “A Christmas Carol” as a Christmas film classic.