A POLAR Express-themed journey run by a North East heritage railway has attracted more than 30,000 people.

The Weardale Railway, Stanhope, County Durham, is running rides inspired by Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express.

The heritage railway was the first in the UK to offer a licensed Polar Express service. It has proved hugely successful with 32,000 tickets already sold.

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Costumed actors based on the characters from the Warner Brothers film of the book join visitors on the railway on a half hour ride to the North Pole.

There is a reading of the book and songs from the film will be performed before Santa Claus hands out presents.

Ed Ellis, president of British American Rail Services, which runs the Weardale Railway, said: “We’re excited about The Polar Express experience arriving in the UK.

“We have delighted children and their parents and grandparents at locations across the US for years, and the story’s messages of hope and belief are ideal for the holiday season.”

The Polar Express service has created more than 100 seasonal jobs and it has benefitted businesses with visitors spending locally.

The trains leave at 5pm and 7.30pm through November and December. There are selected dates with 2.30pm and 3pm departures.

Tickets are £20 per adult and £15 for children aged two-12-years. There are first class tickets priced £35 per adult, £25 per child aged two-12-years and £5 for children under two-years.

Advanced booking is required from 08000-232383 or by visiting www.UKPolarExpressRide.com.