Metra Apologizes for "Polar Express" Cold Shoulder

Park district officials say they will refund the tickets

By Steve Bryant and Christian Farr
|  Monday, Dec 14, 2009  |  Updated 5:45 PM CDT
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Mothers Describe "Polar Express" Shut-Out

A conductor aboard a special Glen Ellyn Metra train that was recreating "The Polar Express" shut his train doors to about 150 ticket holders over the weekend -- including children in pajamas, parents say.
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Metra officials have apologized and rescheduled a "Polar Express" train that shut its doors to about 150 ticket holders over the weekend -- including children in pajamas -- but are still investigating where the responsibility for the mix-up lies.

The Glen Ellyn Park District, which hosted two other trips over the weekend without incident, will be refunding the tickets and has rescheduled a Polar Express train for 11:25 a.m. Saturday.  Those families who can't make the rescheduled train will receive complimentary tickets for next year's train.

"We really try to create a magical experience, just like in the story, riding the train to the North Pole," explained Sarah Sandquist, the district's recreational director. 

The district takes over one train car and conducts activities based on the classic children's book and movie.

"We have the kids look outside and watch for reindeer tracks, we sing carols," Sandquist said.  "You know, it's just a really nice family event.  Everyone enjoys it.  We have families that come back every year for it."

But those families waiting for the 11:25 train at the Elburn stop in Glen Ellyn last Saturday were turned away by the train's conductor who told them to wait for another train that would arrive 10 minutes later.

That train never came.

"My daughter, Adeline, was crying," said Kaili Harding, of Wheaton.  "I would say there were probably 7, 8, (and) 9-year-olds that were upset."

Sandquist had the difficult task of informing the families of the mix-up.

"It was heart-breaking for me," she said.  "I had to compose myself because I knew it would be difficult. The parents had signed up so early, so they had been talking it up that, you know, we're going to see Santa, we're going to the North Pole, so it was just very difficult for me."

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