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Conductor
Conductor
Character information
GenderMale
Primary wardrobeWhite shirt with black tie, blue jacket and a conductor hat.
OccupationPolar Express conductor
Background information
Motion captureTom Hanks
VoiceTom Hanks (film)
Jim Hanks (video game)
Appeared inThe Book and the Film
Conductor: "Well... you coming?"
Hero Boy: "Where?"
Conductor: "Why to the North Pole, of course! This is the Polar Express!"

— The Conductor and Hero Boy before Hero Boy gets on the train.

The Conductor is the conductor of the Polar Express. He is determined to get to the North Pole on time and always finds Hero Boy at the heart of every problem.

Role in the Book

After the Polar Express stops in front of Hero Boy's house, he steps outside and looks at his window, prompting him to come outside. The Conductor explains to him that the train is here to take him to the North Pole, so Hero Boy holds out his hand and the Conductor pulls him onboard.

Soon, the children see some strange lights in the distance, which the Conductor tells them is the North Pole. The train is soon there, but children see no elves. The Conductor explains that they are gathering at the center of the city to watch Santa Claus give the first gift of Christmas to one of the children on the train. After the train stops at the city center, the Conductor leads the children outside and through the crowd of elves. He also helps Hero Boy onto Santa's sleigh after he gets chosen to receive the first gift.

After Hero Boy gets home, the Conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, but Hero Boy does not hear, so the Conductor cups his hands around his mouth and shouts it just as the train leaves.

Throughout the entire book, the Conductor only appears in the second illustration in which he is looking out the passenger car at Hero Boy, yet he is barely visible, with only his head seen, because that illustration shows an entire view of the train.

Role in the Film

The Conductor plays a much larger role in the film than in the book, mostly due to its longer run-time.

He is first seen stepping out of the train after Hero Boy runs outside. When Hero Boy see him, he goes over and the Conductor explains that the train is here to pick him up and take him to the North Pole due to his recent signs of disbelief in the Christmas spirit. Hero Boy, however, turns it down, but decides just as the train was leaving to jump on.

Later, the Conductor goes around to punch the children's tickets. He first goes to Hero Boy, who does not know where his ticket is. The Conductor suggests him to check his pocket, but he only feels a hole, so the Conductor suggests he checks his other pocket, where he finds a shiny golden ticket, much to his surprise since it was not there before. He hands it to the Conductor, who punches the letter B on one end and an E on the other. He punches "LE" out of the ticket of Know-It-All, who claims the Conductor is showing off with the way he punches tickets.

The train stops at 11344 Edbrooke Avenue where Billy is supposed to be picked up. The Conductor, like with Hero Boy earlier, invites him to get on the train, which Billy initially turns it down, but changes his mind and runs after the train just as it is leaving. However, the train is moving too quickly and Billy cannot catch up, so Hero Boy pulls the emergency brake, stopping the train and allowing him on board. Just then, an angry Conductor storms in and scolds Hero Boy for pulling the brake, thinking he was either playing with it or trying to make them late, until Hero Girl explains the situation. The Conductor sees Billy taking a seat in the observation car and lets Hero Boy off with a friendly reminder of the train's tight schedule.

The Conductor must have punched Billy's ticket at some point during the journey, but such a scene is never shown in the film. The word "ON" is seen on the ticket before the Conductor punches it again for the return journey.

After the train is on its way again, the Conductor asks over the intercom if any of the passengers want refreshments. All the children excitedly raise their hands, so a group of waiters and chefs come in and serve them all hot chocolate while, along with the Conductor, singing "Hot Chocolate." After they leave, Hero Girl goes over to give Billy the hot chocolate she saved for him, but not without the Conductor's assistance since she has to cross over to another car, which would be a violation of railroad safety regulations had she gone alone.

Later, the Conductor realizes that he forgot to punch Hero Girl's ticket and goes to punch it, but Hero Girl cannot find it (due to Hero Boy losing it while trying to give it back to her), so he takes her to the back to the train, onto the roof, to the cab of the locomotive. Hero Boy (with the help of the Hobo) gets to the cab too, then applies the train's brakes after Smokey and Steamer (who were at the front of the locomotive fixing its headlamp) call out to stop the train. The Conductor, again, gets angry with Hero Boy until Hero Girl shows him the large herd of caribou blocking the tracks. The three go to the front of the train to try to help. Suddenly, Hero Boy slips and grabs onto Smokey's beard to avoid falling, causing him to scream in pain. Everyone soon realizes that the caribou can understand Smokey's screaming, so the Conductor continues to pull on the beard to try to communicate with them. Finally, they are able to get the caribou to move out of the way, allowing the train to continue.

Hero Boy, Hero Girl and the Conductor stay at the front of the locomotive, but Hero Boy notices that that the train is going very fast, so the Conductor asks Hero Girl to call out to the engineer to slow down, but they were too busy trying to fix a jammed throttle to pay any attention. The Conductor, realizing that they were approaching Glacier Gulch, the steepest downhill grade in the world, at a too great of a speed, fastens Hero Boy and Hero Girl onto the safety bar to prevent them from falling off and tells them to hold on tightly.

After the gulch, the train ends up on the Ice Lake. Smokey and Steamer manage to stop the train after using the hairpin from Smokey's hair to fix the throttle, but the old pin lands in the ice, causing it to crack. The Conductor shouts at Smokey and Steamer to get them off the lake. They find the tracks at the other side and head towards them with the Conductor navigating. The cracking ice eventually reaches them, but luckily, the train lands on the rails underneath and makes it off the lake. Meanwhile, Hero Boy gives Hero Girl's ticket back and the Conductor punches the letters "LE" out of it, the same thing "Know-It-All" got.

The Conductor then leads Hero Boy and Hero Girl back to the passenger car by going through the abandoned toy car. He explains to them that Santa came up with an idea in which the train collects toys from around the world that have been mistreated and takes them to the North Pole where they are refurbished.

While Hero Boy, Hero Girl and Billy were watching the Northern Lights from the observation car, the Conductor comes by to inform them that the train has crossed the Arctic Circle (66° 33′) and points at some lights in the distance, which he describes as "the lights of a strange ocean liner sailing on a frozen sea" and says it is the North Pole. The Conductor is happy to have arrived at the North Pole five minutes early and cries with tears of joy. The children, however, are confused because they cannot see any elves outside. The Conductor explains that they are gathering at the center of the city to watch Santa give the first gift of Christmas to one of the children. Soon, the train stops at the center of the city where the Conductor and the children get off. Hero Boy and Hero Girl notice Billy staying behind in the observation car and tell the Conductor, who says that he can choose to do so, but Hero Boy and Hero Girl go to try to convince him to come anyway.

The Conductor later greets Hero Boy, Hero Girl, Know-It-All and Billy back after they get rescued from the bag of presents, which they ended up in while trying to find their way back to the city center after the observation car became a runaway. Later, before the children get back onto the train for the return trip, he punches everyone's tickets again, each time resulting in a word or phrase that contains the letters he punched earlier. Know-It-All's ticket reads "LEARN," though he initially reads it as "LEAN" due to one of his fingers covering the R. Billy's ticket, which had "ON" punched in for the first trip, reads "DEPEND ON", but it changes to "RELY ON" and "COUNT ON" each time he flips it over. The Conductor remarks, "That is some special ticket." Hero Girl gets "LEAD" (leed) as in a "leader," though she initially pronounces it as the metal lead (led). Hero Boy's ticket, which the Conductor punched behind his back, reads "BELIEVE", but the Conductor interrupts him before he reads it out loud, saying he does not need to know.

During the return journey, the Conductor helps both Billy and Hero Boy get off the train with a step stool. After Hero Boy gets back to his house, the Conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, though Hero Boy could not hear, so the Conductor cups his hands around his mouth and shouts it just as the train leaves.

Trivia

  • The Conductor sings the soundtrack version of the title song along with a chorus of children, though only the children sing in the film version. The version with the Conductor's vocals, however, plays during the credits.

Quotes

  • "All aboard!"
  • "Tickets! Tickets, please!"
  • "Next stop, 11344 Edbrooke."
  • "Who in the blazes applied that emergency brake?!"
  • "You! In case you didn't know, that cord is for emergency purposes only! And in case you weren't aware, tonight is Christmas Eve, and in case you haven't noticed, this train is on a very tight schedule! Now, young man, Christmas may not be important to some people, but it is very important to the rest of us!"
  • "Well... Let me remind you we are on a very tight schedule. And I've never been late before, and I am certainly not going to be late tonight! Now, everybody, take your seats, please!... Thank you."
  • "What in the name of Mike?!"
  • "Get us the blazes out of here!"
  • "Turn the sled around!"
  • "Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see."
  • "Hey, you three! We just crossed it. Latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes, the Arctic Circle. And do you see those lights in the distance? They look like the lights of a strange ocean liner sailing on a frozen sea. There... is the North Pole."
  • "We made it! With five minutes to spare! We made it! Ha, ha!"
  • "I may be just an old railroader and know nothing about lighter-than-air craft, but from my layman's perspective, you need more altitude!"
  • "'LEAN' is spelled with four letters; I believe I punched five."
  • "I believe it also is pronounced 'LEAD.' (leed) As in 'leader,' 'leadership.' 'Lead the way.' Follow you anywhere, ma'am."
  • "Watch your step, please."
  • "The thing about trains... it doesn't matter where they're going. What matters is deciding to get on."
  • "MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

Gallery

Characters
Children: Hero Boy (Chris) Hero Girl Know-It-All Billy the Lonely Boy Sarah Gus the Toothless Boy Boy on Train Red Head Girl Little Boy Young Boy
Adults: Conductor Hobo Smokey and Steamer Santa Claus Pastry Chefs Waiters Hero Boy's Parents
Elves: Elves Acrobatic Elves Elf General Elf Lieutenant Elf Singer
Animals: Caribou Santa Claus' Reindeer
Toys: Ebenezer Scrooge Puppet Jack-in-the-Boxes

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