"Well, considering the fact that we have lost communication with the engineer, we're standing totally exposed on the front of the locomotive, the train appears to be accelerating uncontrollably, and we are rapidly approaching Glacier Gulch, which just happens to be the steepest downhill grade in the world, I suggest we all hold on TIGHTLY!"
— The Conductor before the train approaches Glacier Gulch
Glacier Gulch
Type Gulch
Location The Polar Express route
Visitors Hero Boy, Hero Girl, Conductor, Smokey and Steamer
Glacier Gulch is a location in The Polar Express movie.

Role in the Film

With a 179° grade, Glacier Gulch is, according to the Conductor, the steepest downhill grade in the world. The Polar Express once sped down this roller-coaster-like track with too much speed after Steamer broke the engine's throttle cotter pin, causing the train to speed out of control.

Before the train goes down the track, the Conductor tells them to hold onto the safety bar while using the ropes from Hero Boy's robe to tie him and Hero Girl to it to keep them from falling off. After the train reaches the bottom of the gulch, it speeds over a roller-coaster like bridge. While that happens, the pin gets freed from the vent it fell into and Steamer catches it in his mouth, only to swallow it after the train goes over another hill. The train then ends up on the Ice Lake.

Later, when Hero Boy, Hero Girl, and the Conductor get back to the passenger cars, Know-It-All thinks Hero Boy missed the whole thing and tries explaining the events to him unaware that he actually experienced more of it, describing it as the train going down very steep hills and driving on what looked like a frozen lake but thinks it was just an optical illusion caused by moonlight and atmosphere. Hero Boy is uninterested, though, and heads to the observation car.


  • In the book, Glacier Gulch does not appear.
  • The real steepest downhill grade in the world is on Baldwin Street in North East Valley, Dunedin, New Zealand with a maximum grade of 35% (19.29°).
    • On rail, it is in Calçada de São Francisco on the tramway network in Lisbon, Portugal, which has a maximum grade of 13.8% (7.86°).
  • In the film, there is a sign warning oncoming trains about the gulch having a 179° grade. However, a vertical drop is 90°, so it would make more sense for it to say 89°.
Grand Rapids, MI Grand Rapids, Michigan Hero Boy's House Herpolsheimer's 11344 Edbrooke Avenue
The Journey Flat Top Tunnel Glacier Gulch Ice Lake
North Pole North Pole North Pole Square Communications Room Sorting Room