In the UK, you can always tell it’s nearly Christmas when the Coca Cola adverts start appearing on TV (…The holidays are coming….the holidays are coming!). There’s a big truck and a big train covered in Christmas lights driving through the snow with Father Christmas on the back. When I discovered there was a real life train version run by Canadian Pacific (not Coca Cola!), that was going to be passing through Dubuque Iowa, I just had to go and see it!
The CP Holiday Train first started in 1999 and has now been running for 18 years! There’s a Canadian route that passes through all of the Canadian provinces, and a US/Canadian route going through: Quebec (Canada), New York, Ontario (Canada), Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and finishing up in Saskatchewan (Canada). The aim of the train is the raise awareness of local food banks and people are encouraged to make donations in the form of food or money.
The train stopped at a crossroads in Dubuque on an old, almost disused industrial estate. I was surprised at how close to the train line people were able to stand. There were plenty of marshals to ensure people didn’t get too close though. In hindsight, we were too close to the tracks. I wanted to be able to get pictures but I think it would have been best viewed from a little way back. It arrived slightly later than scheduled, at 8.45pm instead of 8.30pm, blowing its horns on approach. Each of the 14 boxcars were covered in rope lights, the front 4 shining with Canadian – Pacific – Holiday – Train. The following cars had light pictures of reindeers and sleighs and presents and elves with guitars (the elves being my favourite!).
Here’s a video of the train arriving in Dubuque!
As Dubuque was one of the scheduled stops (roughly 4 each day), when it came to a halt, the sides of one of the cars folded down to reveal a stage! The musicians this year were Kelly Prescott and Colin James. They sung a mix of Christmas songs and regular songs in a blue grass/country style for around 30 minutes!
The sides then folded back up and the train went off on its merry way! I loved seeing the train, it’s such a unique Christmas event and the weather was perfect for it (dry and above freezing point)!
The full train schedule and more information can be found on the Canadian Pacific website. I even discovered by reading the FAQ page that the lights on the train stay on the whole time during its journey, day or night! The only time they switch them off, is when they go through customs at the Canadian/US border in Detroit!
Have you seen the Holiday Train before? Does your local town hold any unique Christmas events? I’d love to hear from you!