Local News

Cape Cod residents, officials polarized over ‘Polar Express’ train

Residents have raised noise complaints, which the railroad has refuted.

Santa greets young passengers aboard the inaugural trip of the Polar Express on Cape Cod. Nick Thomas

A seasonal “Polar Express” train has given way to Christmas controversy on Cape Cod.

The holiday train takes several trips a day in and out of Buzzards Bay in Bourne, complete with Santa, sleigh bells, and hot chocolate. But the annual tradition isn’t putting residents in the Christmas spirit — some claim that the train is constantly kept running, causing a humming noise at all hours of the day. 

“It runs day and night, way into the night,” Taylor’s Point resident Robert M. Ethier told the Bourne Enterprise, “and early in the morning, they start it up again.”


Residents report that the train’s noise disturbs their sleep, Joseph J. Carrara Sr., also of Taylor’s Point, told the paper. He added that the flow of passengers on and off the train delays residents when they exit the neighborhood. 

Officials have refuted the noise complaints entirely. In an emailed statement, Cape Cod Central Railroad owner Chris Podgurski said the train is switched off during the night, and uses special “Whisper Generators” in quiet areas.

“I try to operate my railroads being as mindful as possible with the communities that we operate through,” Podgurski wrote.

Residents have also brought up environmental concerns. Ethier told the Enterprise that he has noticed “odors of exhaust” coming from the diesel-powered Polar Express and that he believes the train’s operation is a violation of a state regulation that forbids a diesel locomotive from idling for more than 30 minutes at a time.

The regulation, 310 CMR 7.11, Section 2, states that operating a diesel train will not “cause, suffer, allow, or permit said locomotive to be operated in a manner such as to cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution.”

Podgurski mentioned that several other local trains regularly “hold” on either side of a bridge with no issue, and that he doesn’t believe the railroad falls under the regulation to begin with.


“As you are likely aware, railroads in general are federally exempt from all state and local bylaws. While this may be in deference to 310 CMR and any other regulations, it is what it is,” Podgurski wrote. 

Podgurski confirmed to Boston.com that he has spoken with both the Town of Bourne and the state Department of Environmental Protection, who did not take issue with the train’s operation. However, he said he has not spoken to any residents. 

Carrara told the Enterprise that he hopes that the railroad and the residents of Taylor’s Point will come together to solve any problems that arise. 

“When something directly affects one particular neighborhood, that’s when they should get together and sit down and say, ‘Okay, what is the problem here? Let’s straighten this out,’” he said.


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