Role in the film
The Conductor is first seen stepping out of the train right after it stops in front of Hero Boy's house. Hero Boy walks up to the Conductor, who tells him that the train, called the Polar Express, is here to take him to the North Pole due to his recent signs of disbelief in the Christmas spirit. Hero Boy initially turns down the trip, but jumps on the train just as it was leaving. The Conductor then leads him into the seating area of the coach where other children are sitting. Later, he comes by to punch everyone's tickets. When asking Hero Boy to produce his ticket, he suggests Hero Boy checks both of his pockets. He finds it in his left pocket and hands it to the Conductor, who punches the letters "BE" on the left side. He also punches "LE" on the left side of the ticket belonging to Know-It-All, who considers the Conductor be a show off with his ticket punching.
The train soon stops at 11344 Edbrooke Avenue to pick up Billy the Lonely Boy. The Conductor steps outside and introduces the train to Billy the same way he did with Hero Boy. Billy decides to turn it down as well, but he also changes his mind just as the train was leaving. However, it was leaving too fast for him to be able to get on, so Hero Boy stops the train by pulling the emergency brake. Suddenly, an angry Conductor storms in and scolds Hero Boy for pulling the brake, thinking he was either playing with it or trying to make the train late, but Hero Girl speaks up and tells him what really happened. The Conductor sees Billy taking a seat in the other coach and lets Hero Boy off with a friendly reminder of the train's tight schedule.
After the train is on its way again, the Conductor asks over the intercom if any of the passengers want refreshments, making all the children raise their hands in excitement. This is followed with a group of dancing waiters and chefs coming in and serving all the children hot chocolate while singing a song. After they leave, Hero Girl goes to give a cup of hot chocolate she saved to Billy with the Conductor assisting due to it being dangerous for children to cross between moving cars without an adult. Later, sometime after they get back, the Conductor realizes he forgot to punch Hero Girl's ticket, but she, due to Hero Boy having lost it while trying to return it to her, could not find it. Hero Boy owes up to what he had done and tries giving his ticket to her, but the Conductor snatches it, claiming that he could not transfer it. He then asks Hero Girl to come with him. They go to the back of the train, climb onto the roof and walk across the cars to the locomotive.
Later, after the train stops in front of a caribou crossing, the Conductor, angry again, heads to the cab of the locomotive where he finds Hero Boy and scolds him for stopping the train again, but Hero Girl shows him the caribou and he forgot to be angry. The three head to the front of the locomotive to try and help solve the problem. Suddenly, Hero Boy slips, but breaks his fall by grabbing onto Smokey's beard, causing him to scream in pain. Everyone realizes that the caribou can understand Smokey's screaming, so the Conductor continues to pull Smokey's beard in order to try to communicate. They eventually get the caribou to clear the tracks and Smokey and Steamer get back to the cab of the locomotive and get the train moving again. However, the throttle gets jammed, causing the train to go very fast. The Conductor tells Hero Girl to call out to Smokey and Steamer to slow down, but they were too busy trying to fix the jammed throttle to pay attention, so the Conductor uses the ropes from Hero Boy's robe to tie them all to the safety bar in preparation for Glacier Gulch, the steepest downhill grade in the world. After that, the train ends up on an Ice Lake and hits an iceberg, causing the train to tilt to one side and Hero Girl to nearly fall off. Hero Boy and the Conductor manage to grab her, but they are unable to pull her to safety until the Hobo appears and helps pull, though he disappears before anyone other than Hero Boy could see him. Smokey uses the pin from his hair to fix the throttle and the train stops, but the Conductor orders him and Steamer to get the train off the lake after seeing the ice behind them cracking. Along the way, he shouts orders at them to make sure the train ends up safety on the tracks at the other side of the lake. After the train gets off the lake, he overhears Hero Girl thanking Hero Boy for finding her ticket and asks her to give it to him so he can punch it. He punches out "LE" on the left side, just like he did with Know-It-All's.
The Conductor then leads Hero Boy and Hero Girl back to the coaches. Along the way, they pass through a coach that is full of abandoned and mistreated toys. The Conductor explains to the children that the train collects these broken toys from all over the world and takes them to the North Pole where they are fixed by Santa's elves. Later, while Hero Boy, Hero Girl and Billy were watching the Northern Lights from the back of the train, the Conductor comes by and informs them that the they have crossed the Arctic Circle and then points to some bright lights in the distance, which he says looks like "a strange ocean liner sailing on a frozen sea" and that it is really the North Pole.
The Conductor is very happy and excited that they have arrived at the North Pole on time, with five minutes to spare, and sheds tears of happiness. The children, however, are confused because there are no elves outside. The Conductor explains that they are gathering at the center of the city to watch Santa Claus give the first gift of Christmas to one of the children. The train soon stops at the center and everyone gets off. However, Hero Boy and Hero Girl notice Billy staying behind in the observation car and tell the Conductor, who just says that he is not required to come.
The Conductor later welcomes the children back after they are rescued from the big bag of presents. He also watches Hero Boy being given the first gift of Christmas and Santa Claus take off to deliver the presents. After that, he and all the children get back to the train. He punches everyone's tickets again. He punches the ticket belonging to Know-It-All, who initially reads the resulting word as "LEAN," much to his confusion. The Conductor tries explaining that "LEAN" has four letters and that he punched five. This makes Know-It-All angry until he looks at his ticket again and realizes that it really says "LEARN" and that one of his fingers was covering the R. He apologizes for his outburst and gets on the train. Next, he punches Billy's ticket, which initially only said "ON." After being punched again, it reads "DEPEND ON," but it changes each time Billy flips it, first to "RELY ON" then to "COUNT ON." The Conductor says, "That is some special ticket." After that, he punches Hero Girl's ticket. When she looks at it, she reads it as the metal, "LEAD," but the Conductor says he meant for it to be pronounced like in "leader." Finally, Hero Boy's ticket get punched behind the Conductor's back. It reads "BELIEVE," but the Conductor interrupts him before he could read it out loud, claiming he does not need to know what it says.
During the return trip, the Conductor uses a stepping stool to help both Billy and Hero Boy get off at their respective houses. After Hero Boy gets back to his house, the train starts departing and the Conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, but since Hero Boy could not hear, the Conductor puts his hands around his mouth and shouts it just as the train leaves.
- On the soundtrack version of the title song, the Conductor is singing it with a chorus of children, which is also heard in the credits of the film. However, in the version that plays during the middle of the film, only the children's vocals are heard.