After two years of virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train resumed its food bank tour with a stop in the Montreal area on Sunday evening.

The train first visited Montreal's west end around 7 p.m. to offer a free festive concert, and then did the same in Beaconsfield later in the evening.

This year, two 300-metre-long illuminated trains will travel through eight U.S. states and six Canadian provinces that run along the CP rail tracks to raise awareness about food insecurity and the importance of the work of community organizations.

Several Quebec organizations are involved in the event, including Moisson Montreal, which has been participating in the food drive for over 20 years.

Stacy Patenaude, the company's manager of government affairs, explained in an interview the magical experience that the train offers to the municipalities it serves.

"We will be travelling through 168 communities to offer concerts this year. Not only does CPR give donations to local food banks, but concert-goers are also asked to bring food items to be donated to needy organizations," she said.

This initiative helps to spread the holiday spirit across North America, as well as collect donations and food for needy households.

"We don't have any specific collection objectives, but we have given, for example, $5,000 to food banks in Megantic. These are donations that remain in their community and are managed locally by the people in charge of the banks," said the manager.

Canadian Pacific's acquisition of the Chemin de Fer du Centre du Maine & du Québec (CMQ), which runs through the Eastern Townships, also made it possible to offer concerts in this region for the first time since the program's inception. Five thousand dollars were donated to the Moisson Estrie organization during the show in Sherbrooke on Thursday night.

"To my knowledge, this is the only train that does this," said Patenaude. "When we arrive at our destination, we lower a stage, we offer a Christmas concert, and then the stage goes back up and we leave. It's all about sharing the magic of the holiday season."

The Holiday Train, which has been in existence since 1999, will travel from the east to the west of the continent, with one ending in British Columbia and the other in Missouri.

Since its inception, the Holiday Train has raised over $21 million and 2.2 million pounds of food for community food banks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 27, 2022.