HOLLYWOOD glitz will add a touch of Christmas sparkle to a North-East heritage railway when it becomes the first in the UK to offer a licensed Polar Express service.

The Weardale Railway, at Stanhope, County Durham, will offer rides inspired by the Warner Brothers smash movie based on Chris Van Allsburg’s book.

Costumed actors based on the film’s characters will greet travellers and join them on a half hour ride to the North Pole.

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There will be a reading of the book and songs from the film will be performed before Father Christmas hands out presents.

The Polar Express service is already proving popular with 15,000 tickets already sold.

Jo Brown, marketing manager at the Weardale Railway, said: “We’re very lucky to have been asked to do this.

“The Weardale Railways parent company is Iowa Pacific Holdings and they’ve run Polar Express trains in America for several years.

“They decided to run them in England and it’s really prestigious to be the first in the country to offer the Polar Express.”

The railway has taken on 80 local staff to help man the ten carriages running the service which it is hoped will boost local tourism.

Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings, said: “We’re excited about bringing The Polar Express to the UK and we’re proud to have sold 15,000 tickets already.

“It’s a great Christmas story as the story’s messages of hope and belief are ideal for the holiday season.”

olar Express trains will leave Weardale Station at 5pm and 7.30pm from November 16 until the end of December.

Advanced booking is required and prices range from £20-£35 for adults and £15-£25 per child with booking from 08000-232-383 or visit www.WeardalePolarExpressRide.com.