Holiday train brings cheer, music and food for the needy

For the past 10 years Randy Marsh has spent three weeks of the winter living on a train, but the 14-car Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, decorated with over 30,000 feet of Christmas lighting, is no ordinary ride.

Marsh, a CP employee, rides with a small group of engineers and staff as they make over 100 stops from Montreal to Port Moody, British Columbia. The staff, along with accompanying musical artists, put together a festive, musical show as part of Canadian Pacific’s 13th annual food bank fundraiser.

When the brightly lit train comes to a halt, a box car folds out into a professional stage, allowing audiences to come closer and listen to the musicians and see Santa Claus. This year’s show features Canadian folk singer Valdy, accompanied by The Brothers Dube.

Putting together five to six shows per day, Marsh said his hours range from three in the morning to 11 o’clock at night. “When you’re on the train, you’re up early and doing everything,” he says. “One minute you’re vacuuming the train to make sure it’s clean or you’re making sure all the cars are serviced and next thing you know, you’re emceeing the show under some pretty cold weather. But it’s all great fun.”

At night, the train pulls into a siding and the back cars act as a motel as staffers sleep in for a few hours before starting the entire process over in the morning. At each stop, the crew works with the area’s local food bank.

“I think that’s why this whole program has become so popular,” Marsh says. “People have an opportunity see a beautifully decorated train with a free musical show and it’s a great opportunity for them to come out and support food banks.”

CP said their rolling fundraiser is all about food banks and the critical role they play in our communities. “The cold reality is that hunger touches every community in some way,” said CP spokesperson Ed Greenberg. “We recognize the importance of supporting local food banks and their battle against hunger – everything collected at a location stays in that community for local distribution.”

On Nov. 29 the train will make its Toronto stop at Lambton yard near Dundas Street West and Runnymeade Road, with donations of non-perishable food items going to the Daily Bread Food Bank.