The BNSF Railway made a stop at a Metra station in Downers Grove to give families a 90-minute ride.
BNSF's Holiday Express train is expected to provide rides to more than 2,200 members of military families during its week-long trip through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas.
Army 1st Sgt. Andy Fowles couldn't resist bringing his kids aboard.
"They're big fans of the Polar Express, so when we told them about it they were pretty excited," Fowles said. "They want to see if they're going to get on the naughty list or the nice list. So we'll find out."
The railroad company employs about 7,000 current and former military members.
"The kinds of skills that one learns in the military are very helpful to being a railroader," said Roger Nober of BNSF Railway. "They make great employees and we wanted to do something for their families because we've seen the toll that military deployments have taken on our employees and the people we've hired."
Joining in the ride were representatives Dan Lipinski and Judy Biggert who took part in a post-ride ceremony which presented checks totaling $20,000 to Operation Support Our Troops and the Illinois Military Relief Fund.
"A nation that forgets it's defenders will itself be forgotten and that is why this is so important to honor all of our heroes," Biggert said. "We want to thank all of them." Military wife Myra Waites said the ride made her feel appreciated.
" We're here when they're being deployed," she said. "It's an awesome experience to know that they're reaching out to us as well."