Every year, Canadian Pacific Railway runs its Holiday Train across Canada and the USA to support local food banks. This is its 20th year of operation. It actually runs two trains, one through Canada and the other through the US.
I try to catch it every year, with varying success. I caught it in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. I’ve been trying to vary the locations I photograph it at, so it isn’t the “same old train, same old location”. In 2017 I photographed it in daylight in Portage la Prairie. This year, I decided to photograph it in Whitemouth instead of Winnipeg.
This post originally appeared at https://www.traingeek.ca/wp/2018-cp-holiday-train/ and is not approved for copying to any other site.
About the Train
Traditionally the train has one locomotive, several boxcars, a stage car, and passenger cars on the rear. The boxcars show the words “Canadian Pacific Holiday Train” – one word per boxcar – as well as winter scenes. The passenger cars are from CP’s fleet and carry the performers and staff. I believe there is a generator car in the train as well to provide power for all of the lights.
The town of Whitemouth is located a bit over an hour east of Winnipeg. It’s about 60 km from the Ontario border, and is on the CP Keewatin subdivision, part of CP’s main line through Manitoba. I’ve been through Whitemouth before and I noted how open the area was around the tracks through town. I thought it would be a great place to photograph the Holiday Train.
There’s a caboose on display in Whitemouth, if you’re in the area.
I set out from Winnipeg just after 5 PM. I wanted to photograph the train as it rolled into Whitemouth at 6:45 PM, so that gave me a bit of time to set up. I drove straight east from Winnipeg along highway 15 toward Elma. This parallels the CN Redditt subdivision in places, but I didn’t see any trains there.
At Elma, I turned north on highway 11 and drove to where it intersects highway 44, which goes east through the Whiteshell to the Ontario border. I had scouted the area using Google Maps and I found a small crossing just north of that intersection that looked promising. From the satellite view, I didn’t see any trees or buildings obstructing the view of the train.
I drove over the crossing, turned my car around, and parked it at the side of the road. I set up my tripod, then went back into my car to wait and stay warm.
At about 6:46 PM, CP 2249 came rolling along, towing a bright neon train.
As the train was approaching, a pickup truck came up the road behind my car. I was afraid they were going to pull up to the crossing and totally get in my shot. Thankfully, they stopped before they passed my car, and killed their headlights. I gave them a wave of appreciation!
For those who are interested, I was shooting with a shutter speed of 1/40 seconds, aperture f/2.8 and ISO 6400. Yes, that’s right, ISO 6400. I’ve never used that before, but I had to go that high to get a half decent shutter speed. I would have liked to go faster than 1/40s, but it was super dark with no lights around and an overcast sky.
My Canon 77D is so much better at high ISO settings than my old T1i was, one of the main reasons why I bought the 77D this spring.
After the train passed, I drove into Whitemouth. The fire department was out in full force, directing traffic and routing people to parking spots. Thank you!
I parked and walked toward the train. Most people were down toward the tail end of the train, watching the show. You can see from the photos that the train was very visible, and the lack of lights around it really made it “pop”.
CP 2249 is one of the two “ECO” rebuilds pulling the Holiday Trains. The other is CP 2246, which must be pulling the American version of the train.
I walked down toward the show, taking a few photos along the way. I took this panorama with my iPhone.
The train carries its own staff and performers along with it, and they perform at each stop in a converted boxcar with drop-down doors on the side. It makes it easy to set up a stage quickly, do the show, then fold it up and move on to the next stop. Since they often perform four shows a day, you need to be quick!
The Canadian train is featuring three-time Juno winner Terri Clark along with Sierra Noble and Kelly Prescott. I’m not a country music fan, but I’ve definitely heard of Terri. The American train has the Sam Roberts Band and JoJo Mason. Sam Roberts’ Where Have All The Good People Gone is on my phone right now.
When I reached the stage area, Terri Clark was performing and she was putting on a great show.
I wandered up to the head end again, took a few photos, and headed for my car. I wanted to be ready for the departure. As I neared my car, I heard the engine bell start and the engineer gave a few toots as the train got underway. Perfect.
I set up the tripod and recorded the train’s departure from Whitemouth. My camera wouldn’t auto focus so I switched the lens to manual and focused using these techniques.
Getting out of town was difficult – so many cars! It took close to 30 minutes to leave. While I was waiting in line, a westbound freight train rolled through town. Maybe I should have sat trackside until the cars cleared out…
Here’s my video of the train, including its arrival in Whitemouth, some views of the train, and its departure toward Winnipeg.
The Holiday Train runs to raise funds and collect food for local food banks. I had forgotten to bring food, so I made a cash donation on site instead. You can make a donation too – visit Foods Bank Canada to make a donation.