On Saturday, December 15, Wellesley Police Chief Terry Cunningham joined approximately 600 children and families at Boston’s South Station for a special train trip. The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBRC) transformed a normal commuter train into The Polar Express. The Polar Express is a popular Christmas book written by Chris Van Allsburg that was later made into a movie narrated by Tom Hanks.
As children and families lined up to board the train, conductor’s voices boomed over the normal train arrivals and departures: “All aboard for the Polar Express!”
Chief Cunningham, joined by his wife Meaghan, led families to passenger coach number six, which normally brings commuters to and from the city. On this day, however, the coach had been transformed into a festive Christmas train, complete with lights and songs.
As the Polar Express pulled out the station, Chief Cunningham settled everyone into their seats, which is no easy task on a train filled with excited children. Many of the children had never been on a train before and pressed their noses against the windows, watching the skyline of Boston roll by.
All eyes turned to the Chief when he started reading the “Polar Express.” The Chief’s voice carried through the passenger coach, spinning the tale of the Polar Express as the train meandered through the city.
When Chief Cunningham finished his tale, the train came to a slow stop, and rumors of a special passenger pickup spread throughout the train. As the children looked through the cars, they spotted Santa Claus, who made an early December appearance. Santa greeted each child as he worked his way through trains, handing each child an early Christmas present: Their own copy of the Polar Express.
As the train started back to South Station, Chief Cunningham and Meaghan began leading the children in Christmas Carols. Children then came to the front of the car to pick their favorite song and sing along with the Chief. A particularly stirring rendition of the “Alphabet Song” was done by the Chief and a bold two year old.
Once back at South Station, children discovered a huge screen had been set up in the main concourse. The ‘Polar Express’ movie then began playing, complete with popcorn and refreshments. It was a nice final touch to a perfect Christmas train ride.
This event was sponsored and hosted by the The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR) . MBCR hosted 25 local youth charities on the magical North Pole Express train ride that provided over 600 disadvantaged children & families with a unique holiday experience.
In addition to Chief Cunningham other readers included
Diane Patrick, Massachusetts’ First Lady
Angela Menino, Boston’s First Lady
Secretary Coleman Nee, Secretary of Veterans' Services
Jonathan Davis, Acting General Manager, MBTA
Hugh Kiley, General Manager, MBCR
Some of the charities that were represented: Boston Centers for Youth & Families, Boston Housing Authority, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp, Friends of the Children–Boston, Smart from the Start, South Boston Neighborhood House, The Home for Little Wanderers Sponsors: Holly McGrath Bruce and David Bruce, Highland Street Foundation, Target, Standard Modern Printing Company, Au Bon Pain, Equity Office; South Station, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt