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"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 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 went too fast down this roller-coaster-like track 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 Hero Boy and Hero Girl to hold onto the safety bar while using the ropes from Hero Boy's robe to tie them to the bar 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 comes out of 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, who had experienced the events from inside the train, thinks Hero Boy missed it and tries telling him about it. However, Hero Boy is uninterested and heads to the observation car.


  • Glacier Gulch does not appear in the book, though at one point, when the train was travelling through mountains and valleys, it was compared to a roller coaster.
  • In the film, a sign says the gulch has a 179° grade. However, a vertical drop is 90°, so it would make more sense for it to say 89°.
  • Production designer Doug Chiang initially went more realistically in designing Glacier Gulch with the hill less steep. However, when Robert Zemeckis saw it, he encouraged Doug to make it more extreme like a roller-coaster.[1]


  1. Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express, Chronicle Books. p. 68. ISBN 978-0811846592.
Grand Rapids, MI Grand Rapids, Michigan Hero Boy's house Herpolsheimer's 11344 Edbrooke Avenue
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