BROWNVILLE, Maine — A holiday train decked out in twinkling lights — and equipped with a boxcar that transforms into a stage for performers — plans to stop in Piscataquis County this winter.
Canadian Pacific Railway’s holiday train will visit Brownville to put on a free concert and raise funds for an area food pantry, though a date and performer haven’t been announced.
The railway company has two holiday trains that travel to more than 170 communities each year — one to Canada and the other to the United States and parts of Quebec and southern Ontario, according to an informational packet provided by the company.
Canadian Pacific Railway, which has a presence in Maine that dates back to the 1880s, is adding the state to its list of holiday train stops for the first time this year.
The company sold its railway corridor that runs through Brownville in 1995 but bought it back in 2020, spokesperson Andy Cummings said. The railway — which is considering stops in Maine beyond Brownville — had hoped to bring its holiday train to the state sooner, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed plans.
“We’re looking at multiple locations [in Maine], but the schedule won’t be out until October,” Cummings said.
The railway streamed virtual shows in 2020 and 2021. It raised $1.7 million and about 112,000 pounds of food for 201 food banks through its virtual programming in 2021, according to information provided by the company.
The railway company considers multiple factors, such as population and Canadian Pacific employee presence in a community, when it makes its selections for stops, Cummings said. Brownville is a key location because Canadian Pacific train crews work there.
The train has stopped in places such as Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Illinois in past years, according to media accounts.
The holiday train program has raised about $21 million and 5 million pounds of food for food banks since launching in 1999, he said. Canadian Pacific makes a corporate donation to each food pantry that it selects for a stop, which usually amounts to $4,500 or more depending on the size of the community.
Once the 1,000-foot-long holiday train with 14 decorated railcars arrives in a community, the boxcar with motorized doors drops down and creates a stage for performers. Along with the concert, Canadian Pacific presents its donation to local officials.
Event attendees are encouraged to bring cash donations and canned goods, and the receiving food pantry is asked to have a collection area set up, Brownville’s interim Town Manager Felice Lyford said.
A food pantry has not yet been selected because event planning is still in the early stages, she said. The closest food bank is Dyer’s Hope House in Milo, and there are others in nearby towns and across Piscataquis County.
“We typically talk to municipal leadership and ask who they support and like to work with,” Cummings said. “We’re having those discussions with the town.”
Canadian Pacific will announce its schedule and performers in mid-October, and more information can be found on the website. The holiday trains travel from about Thanksgiving time to Dec. 17 or 18, Cummings said.