Railroads & Locomotives Tourist Railroad Profiles Must-See Big Steam for the 2023 Holiday Season

Must-See Big Steam for the 2023 Holiday Season

By Lucas Iverson | October 19, 2023

| Last updated on February 13, 2024

See the large locomotives scheduled to bring season’s greetings!

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from Trains.com brands. Sign-up for email today!

There’s something magical about watching big steam engines run while the snow flies. Although most of these large locomotives are going through their off-season maintenance in the winter, there are a few big steam locomotives that plan to bring season’s greetings. For a rundown of all holiday trains, check out our list of 2023 Polar Express & holiday train rides.

Soo Line No. 1003

black steam locomotive in country with gray smoke coming from stack
Soo Line No. 1003 crosses a country road near Burnett, Wis., during a photo charter on Nov. 13, 2022. Steve Glischinski

Operations for this 2-8-2 can be limited, but if you can catch it while operating it’s definitely worthwhile to watch this Midwestern favorite thunder along the regional Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. As has been tradition, Soo Line No. 1003 will lead the Nov. 11 Santa Train into Hartford, Wis., for display as part of the downtown’s annual Christmas Parade. While no train rides will be offered, the public will be able to get up close to the locomotive and climb into the historic cabooses for a meet and greet with Santa Claus. No. 1003 is then scheduled for a private photo freight across central Wisconsin. The November weekend will have something for everyone as the unofficial kick-off to the Holiday Season.

Holiday Schedule

  • Nov. 11: Hartford Santa Train, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. CST
  • Nov. 12: Steel Highway Magazine/Brodie Photography photo charter

Visit the Steam Locomotive Heritage Association website for more information.

Pere Marquette No. 1225

The family watches a steam-powered train go by during the winter.
Pere Marquette No. 1225 leads the North Pole Express excursion near Ashley, Mich., in December 2021. Steam Railroading Institute

This 2-8-4 is usually in its element during the most wonderful time of the year. With the number “1225,” and modeled after the sounds and appearance of the locomotive in The Polar Express animated film, why wouldn’t it be? The Steam Railroading Institute’s North Pole Express out of Owosso is immensely popular. Pere Marquette No. 1225 leads the sold-out excursions on the Great Lakes Central Railroad through the Michigan snow to the Village of Ashley Country Christmas. Though 2022 was an off year for the steam star due to the running gear rebuild, the locomotive’s return has many people excited. Tickets for the 2023 excursion were completely sold out in three hours!

Holiday Schedule
The North Pole Express will operate on Nov. 18, 19, 25, and 26, and Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, and 17. Departure times for the 4.5-hour round trips are at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST. A Friday excursion is scheduled on Nov. 24, departing at 2 p.m. Visit the Steam Railroading Institute website for more information.

Western Maryland No. 1309

Steam locomotive at station
Western Maryland Scenic No. 1309 in Frostburg, Md., during a 2021 winter operation. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

After extensive running gear maintenance during the summer, former Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309 is back on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. And just in time for the tourist railroad’s busy Polar Express season! However, it won’t be until the second weekend in December when we see the massive 2-6-6-2 take center stage with one-hour excursions departing from Frostburg, Md. Then after a week off, it’ll be seven straight days of climbing the snow-capped Allegheny Mountains out of Cumberland, all the way into Christmas Eve!

Holiday Schedule

  • Dec. 8-10: Departing Frostburg
  • Dec. 18-24: Departing Cumberland

Visit the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad website for more information.

Milwaukee Road No. 261

Milwaukee Road No. 261 pulls the North Pole Express at St. Paul Union Depot on Dec. 9, 2018. Steve Glischinski

Since 2014, the Friends of the 261 have been operating the one-hour North Pole Express excursions on the Union Depot property in St. Paul, Minn. It’s one of the major annual fundraisers for the non-profit organization, which has a strong partnership with both the depot and BNSF Railway. No. 261 is scheduled to operate the first of two weekends of December. Experiencing the 4-8-4 departing from the historic terminal with the Twin Cities skyline as the backdrop during a Minnesota winter is a joyous journey back in time.

Holiday Schedule
Milwaukee Road No. 261 is scheduled to operate the North Pole Express Dec. 1-3. The second weekend of trips, Dec. 7-10, will use Milwaukee Road EMD E9 diesel No. 32A. Visit the Friends of the 261 website for more information.

U.S. Sugar No. 148

Sugar Express rolling west of Clewiston, Fla., on Jan. 30, 2022. Steve Glischinski

No. 148 and the Sugar Express will stay busy well into 2024. The dashing 4-6-2 is scheduled to head 1.5-hour Santa Train rides out of Sebring, Lake Placid, and Clewiston, Fla. throughout December. A Toys for Tots Train is also scheduled on Dec. 7 as the locomotive traverses the U.S. Sugar system, delivering gifts for multiple Toys and Tots programs throughout the region. For those in search of big steam without the snow, ice and cold this holiday season, central Florida will be the hotspot!

Holiday Schedule

  • Dec. 2 and 3: Sebring Santa Train
  • Dec. 7: Toys for Tots Train
  • Dec. 8-10: Lake Placid Santa Train
  • Dec. 15-19: Clewiston Santa Train

Visit the Sugar Express website for more information.

One thought on “Must-See Big Steam for the 2023 Holiday Season

  1. “With the number “1225,” and modeled after the sounds and appearance of the locomotive in The Polar Express animated film, why wouldn’t it be?”

    Shouldn’t that sentence actually say – The locomotive in The Polar Express animated film is modeled after the sounds and appearance of Pere Marquette No. 1225. – ?

You must login to submit a comment