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Conductor
Conductor
Character information
Gender Male
Primary wardrobe White shirt with black tie, blue jacket and a conductor hat.
Occupation Polar Express conductor
Songs The Polar Express, Hot Chocolate
Background information
Performed by Tom Hanks (film)
Jim Hanks (video game)
Appeared in The 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, the Conductor steps outside and looks at his window, prompting him to come outside. The Conductor explains that the train is here to take him to the North Pole, so Hero Boy holds out his hand and the Conductor pulls him on board.

Later, the children see lights in the distance, which the Conductor says is the North Pole. The train is soon there, but the children see no elves. The Conductor explains that they are gathering at the Square to watch Santa Claus give the first gift of Christmas to one of the children. After the train stops at the Square, 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 the 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 story.

On the Polar Express

The Conductor is first seen stepping out of the train after Hero Boy runs outside, calling out, "All aboard!" Hero Boy walks over and the Conductor explains that the train is here to take him to the North Pole due to his recent signs of disbelief in the Christmas spirit. Hero Boy turns it down, but decides just as the train is leaving to jump on.

Later, the Conductor punches the children's tickets. He first goes to Hero Boy, who does not know where his ticket is. The Conductor suggests he checks his pocket where there is only a hole, so he suggests the other pocket, where he finds a shiny golden ticket, much to his surprise, and hands it to the Conductor, who punches a "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 his ticket-punching skills.

The train soon stops at 11344 Edbrooke Avenue to pick up Billy. The Conductor invites him to get on the train in a similar manner as he did with Hero Boy. Billy turns it down, but changes his mind and runs after the train just as it leaves. However, it is moving too fast, so Hero Boy pulls the emergency brake, stopping the train. Just then, an angry Conductor storms in and scolds Hero Boy for pulling the brake, thinking he was either playing or trying to cause delay, until Hero Girl explains the situation. The Conductor sees Billy taking a seat in the observation car and lets Hero Boy off with a reminder of the train's tight schedule. The Conductor must have punched Billy's ticket at some point during the journey, but no such scene is shown in the film. The word "ON" is seen on the ticket before the Conductor punches it again for the return journey.

When the train is on its way again, the Conductor asks over the intercom if any of the children want refreshments. All the children excitedly raise their hands, so a group of waiters and chefs come in and serve them hot chocolate while, along with the Conductor, singing "Hot Chocolate." After they leave, the Conductor assists Hero Girl to the observation car when she goes to give Billy the hot chocolate she saved for him, since, according to Know-It-All, it would have been a violation of railroad safety regulations had she gone alone.

Later, the Conductor realizes he forgot to punch Hero Girl's ticket, 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 and 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 when Smokey and Steamer, who were at the front of the locomotive fixing its headlamp, call out to stop the train. Again, the Conductor gets angry with Hero Boy until Hero Girl shows him the herd of caribou blocking the track. While the three go to the front of the train, Hero Boy slips and grabs onto Smokey's beard to break his fall, causing Smokey to scream in pain. Everyone realizes that the caribou can understand the screaming, so the Conductor continues to pull on Smokey's beard to try communicating with them. Finally, the caribou move off the tracks, allowing the train to continue.

Hero Boy, Hero Girl and the Conductor stay at the front of the locomotive, but Hero Boy notices that they are 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 speed much too great, fastens Hero Boy and Hero Girl onto the safety bar and warns them to hold tightly.

After the gulch, the train slides onto the Ice Lake. Smokey and Steamer stop the train using the hairpin from Smokey's hair to fix the throttle, but the old pin pierces the ice, causing it to crack. The Conductor tells Smokey and Steamer to get the train off the lake. They find the tracks at the other side and head towards them with the Conductor navigating. The cracking ice soonreaches them, but 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 "LE" out of it, the same thing Know-It-All got.

The Conductor leads Hero Boy and Hero Girl back to the passenger cars by going through the abandoned toy car. He tells 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.

At the North Pole

While Hero Boy, Hero Girl and Billy were watching the Northern Lights from the observation car, the Conductor comes by to tell them that they crossed the Arctic Circle (66° 33′) and points at some lights in the distance, which he compares to "the lights of a strange ocean liner sailing on a frozen sea" and says it is the North Pole. When they arrive there, the Conductor cries with tears of joy, since they are five minutes early, but the children are confused as to why there are no elves outside. The Conductor explains that they are gathering at the Square where Santa will give one of the children the first gift of Christmas. Soon, the train stops at the Square and the Conductor and the children get off. Hero Boy and Hero Girl tell the Conductor about Billy staying behind in the observation car. The Conductor says 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. He also helps Hero Boy off the sleigh after Hero Boy is given the silver bell and watches Santa fly away to make his annual deliveries.

Return trip

After Santa leaves, the children line up at the passenger cars to get their tickets punched again by the Conductor for the return trip, each time resulting in a word or phrase that contains the letters punched earlier. Know-It-All's ticket reads "LEARN," though he initially reads it as "LEAN" since one of his finger was covering the R. Billy's ticket reads "DEPEND ON", but it changes to "RELY ON" and "COUNT ON" each time he flips it over. The Conductor calls it "some special ticket". Hero Girl gets "LEAD" (leed), 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.

When the train stops in front of Billy and Hero Boy's houses, the Conductor helps them get off the train with a step stool while advising them to watch their step. After Hero Boy gets back to his house, 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.

Other appearances

The Video Game

While the other children go to look for their missing tickets, Hero Girl distracts the Conductor to make sure no one gets thrown off the train. After the caribou crossing, he was about to have Hero Girl leave the train when Hero Boy remembers that he still has her ticket and hands it back to her. Later, the Conductor invites the children to the dining car for refreshments. He asks Hero Boy to fill in for a missing waiter, which he agrees to do. After that, the Conductor's appearances are limited to scenes from the film.

International languages

Language Name Meaning Voice actor(s)
Latin AmericanConductorConductorSalvador Delgado (speaking voice)
Beto Castillo (singing voice)
European SpanishConductorConductorJordi Brau
FrenchLe ContrôleurThe ControllerJean-Philippe Puymartin
GermanSchaffnerConductorArne Elsholtz
PolishKonduktorConductorKrzysztof Dracz
ItalianIl ControlloreThe ControllerFrancesco Pannofino
SwedishKonduktörenConductorRoger Storm
RussianKonduktorConductorAleksandr Filippenko
JapaneseShashōConductorToshiaki Karasawa

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 Sister Sarah Gus the Toothless Boy Boy on Train Red Head Girl Little Boy Young Boy Steven
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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