A train covered with holiday lights wended its way through the region this week. While the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train may brighten the holiday, its goal is to increase awareness about the needs of local food shelves.
It rolls into town in the dark of night with each boxcar festooned with blinking holiday lights. After it pulls into Plattsburgh’s rail station, the outer walls of one of the cars unfold, creating a stage, and the hundreds of people who have gathered around the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train are treated to a Christmas concert.
This is the 20th year CP Rail has run the Holiday Train in New York, Canada, and the Midwest. And it’s not just to show off. The local Joint Council for Economic Opportunity asks people to bring food items and donations for the region’s food pantries and every year CP Rail has presented a check to help local food shelves. JCEO CEO Bruce Garcia says this is one of their best annual fundraisers. “What we collect here tonight plus the donation that we’ll get from the Canadian Pacific and their employees is really critical for us this time of year to be able to keep our food pantries stocked. Through our food pantries we’ll help you know probably 6,000 families in a year. So there is a significant need in Clinton County.”
More than 1,200 pounds of food was collected and Garcia says Canadian Pacific donated $4,500 to the local JCEO. “They have two trains one in the Midwest and one on the East coast and they make dozens and dozens of stops and they leave checks like that every place. So the work that they do all year long in setting this up is just incredible and we appreciate what Canadian Pacific Railway does very very much.”
Departing the Amtrak Station in Fort Edward earlier in the day, the Holiday Train had already stopped at Ticonderoga and Port Henry before rolling into Plattsburgh. Mayor Colin Read had boarded the train in Port Henry to ride it back to Plattsburgh. “One of the themes we’re trying to develop with the holiday season here is unity and not enduring winter but actually celebrating winter. So I think this is just perfect. I’m so pleased to see the great crowd that’s come out for this.”
Among the crowd is 3-year-old Eliot and his mother Natalie Sharlow. “Lights. Ahh!”
Natalie: “The lights. Yes. We wanted to make a contribution and starting off the holiday season with a Christmas Train.”
Chelsea Barney brings her 7-year-old daughter Jillian and two sons Ian and Colton because it reminds them of the Polar Express. “It’s like the Polar Express. It’s just really exciting.”
Jillian: “Really excited. It’s really colorful. It means Christmas is coming.”
Marcy Brunet and Damon Jacobs drove from Potsdam to see the train for the first time. “He loves the trains so we had to come and check it out.”
Damon: “I was the Operations Manager for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for a few years before they closed down in Lake Placid. So it’s been on my bucket list to come see the Holiday Train for a while now.”
Marcy: “We drove two hours to come and see it.”
Damon: “Trains and Christmas kind of go together anyway you know the trains and the Christmas tree kind of thing. It’s the bygone days. You know. It’s how a lot of these towns were founded and established was with the railroad. Especially on that particular part of the line a lot of those towns wouldn’t even exist without the railroad coming through. So it’s a nostalgia kind of thing amongst everything else.”
Train Conductor: “The train will be rolling out shortly so we ask you to stay at least 15 feet away from the train and the tracks.”
The holiday concert concludes after about 45 minutes and the Holiday Train departs for its next stop in Rouses Point at the Canadian border.