Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
The Canadian Pacific Railway has one extremely festive route.
Everyone knows the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the plucky misfit who earned his place at the head of Santa Claus’s pack by guiding his sleigh through a particularly hazardous Christmas Eve snowstorm. Midwesterners know a different legend about Christmas.
It turns out that old Saint Nick has got a second-favorite form of transit: the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. When he’s not flying through the skies in his sleigh, he’s sitting in the cafe car on the Holiday Train, sipping hot cocoa with a dash of nutmeg. You see, every season, Santa gives his reindeer team a brief break when he reaches the Midwest. He stables his team just outside of Sheboygan and hops aboard the Holiday Train to run his route along the U.S.–Canada border.
Perhaps you know the song!
Randolph the Christmas Freight Train
Had some very shiny lights
And if you ever saw them
You would say, “Gosh, that’s bright!”
All of the other freight trains
Carried presents to and fro
Nobody stocked poor Randolph
With December gift cargo
Then one Midwest Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
”Randolph, traffic’s hell tonight!
Can’t I take the train tonight?”
Then how the Midwest loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
“Randolph the Christmas Freight Train
Take me down to Milwaukee!”
The train runs from Port Moody in British Columbia to Saratoga Springs in New York. Part of its route takes it right through the Midwest, where it chugs past some of the most populous cities along its circuit outside Calgary. It used to run from Schenectady in New York to Sunbury in Pennsylvania and on down to the Norfolk Southern railroad system. But since Canadian Pacific sold the track in 2015, its stops in the U.S. are relegated to the Midwest and New York.
The Holiday Train makes frequent stops to entertain folks. This year’s performers include Kira Isabella, Wes Mack, Doc Walker, and Chic Gamine. Canadian Pacific helps to organize a food drive at every destination. There’s no boarding the Holiday Train, however; It’s not a passenger service.
And just like with Santa’s sleigh, there’s no way of knowing exactly when the Holiday Train will pass through your town. It runs its lights the entire time it travels, though, so if you just stand near the train tracks in a frozen town along the Canadian border, you’re bound to catch a few seconds of holiday cheer eventually!