Early Monday afternoon, a festively decorated train will arrive at Portage’s Amtrak station, 400 W. Oneida St.
Here’s what you need to know about the annual visit of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train.
What time does the train arrive?
Its Portage arrival is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. From 1:30 to 2 p.m., one of its cars will open up to form a stage for musical performances.
Is the Holiday Train making other stops in the area?
Yes. It’s scheduled to arrive at 9:05 p.m. Sunday at the Amtrak depot in Columbus. After it leaves Portage on Monday, its next stop is at 2:45 p.m. at the Amtrak depot in Wisconsin Dells, followed by a 4:15 p.m. stop at the Division Street railway crossing in Mauston.
Is there any charge to see the Holiday Train?
No. However, a key reason for the Holiday Train’s annual journey is to create awareness of hunger, and to collect food and monetary donations that will stay in the communities where the Holiday Train stops.
In Portage, two food pantries — the Portage Food Pantry and the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry — will benefit from the train’s visit. CP Rail officials will present a check to the Portage Food Pantry, and any monetary donations that attendees bring will go to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. The two pantries will split the food donations that people bring to the train.
What kind of food donations would be most welcome?
This year, CP Rail is focusing heavily on heart-healthy food, to combat the upswing in heart disease throughout North America. Some heart-healthy non-perishable foods that would be welcomed include whole grain crackers, hot and cold whole grain cereals, brown rice, canned vegetables and fruits, 100 percent fruit juice (the Portage Food Pantry prefers unbreakable plastic bottles), canned meats and fish, peanut butter, dried or canned beans or lentils and products labeled as “reduced sodium.”
What’s the weather expected to be like for the Portage stop?
The Holiday Train has visited Portage in all kinds of weather, including heavy snowfalls and, in 2016, brisk, cold winds. This year, the National Weather Service’s extended forecast for Monday calls for a 70 percent chance of rain, with a continuation of the recent warming trend. The high temperature is expected to be about 48 degrees.
Is the Holiday Train decorated for the season?
Yes — even for daytime stops, like the one at Portage. According to the Canadian Pacific Railroad website (cpr.ca/holiday-train), the train is about 1,000 feet long, with 14 cars decorated with brightly colored LED lights in holiday motifs. CP Rail officials say the lights stay on all the time, except when the train is in the process of clearing U.S. Customs from Canada.
At each stop, one of the cars opens at the side to form a stage, where traveling performers offer a selection of seasonal songs.
What performers are scheduled to be on the Holiday Train in Portage?
Singer-songwriter Kelly Prescott, featured on last year’s Holiday Train, is scheduled to be back this year. Joining her are country music performers Dallas Smith and Terri Clark.
Can attendees get a ride on the train to Wisconsin Dells?
Not this year, according to Portage Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marianne Hanson. Although rides have been offered in the past, the CP Rail is focusing on the performance aspect of the train. A few CP Rail employees and their families may have arranged in advance for a train ride, but it’s not being offered to the public this year.
Is it worthwhile to arrive early?
Absolutely. Starting at 12:30 p.m., the Portage Rotary Club will serve free refreshments, including hot chocolate and cookies, while supplies last. Magnum Communications also will be on hand to play holiday music before the train’s arrival.
Where is parking?
Most attendees park on area streets.