Let’s start from the top. The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train travels throughout the Northern United States and Canada, bringing holiday cheer to hundreds of thousands of people. If you bring donations of food or money for the local food banks to the train, attendees receive a fun 30-minute concert of holiday tracks and pop / country hits.
In 2017, I was fortunate to photograph the train as it arrived in Mechanicville. I blogged about the experience, and had a good time at the event.
Last year, I was able to snag a beautiful shot of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train as it chugged over the Cohoes-Waterford Bridge.
Look at this fantastic picture.
And after I blogged about the photo, and made a donation to the local food pantry … Canadian Pacific gave me a nod on their Twitter account.
This year … I want to improve on that shot from 2018.
And I want every functional camera in my arsenal to succeed on this. I don’t care if I haven’t used some of these cameras in years. This week … they get dusted off and they shoot one more time.
I shall explain.
Last year, I discovered that the route the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train must take brings it through Albany twice. Once on the way down from Lacolle, Quebec, and once on its way to Menands (new stop!), Mechanicville and Saratoga Springs. The train has to pull into the Kenwood Yard in Albany, where the train would need to turn around for the journey north.
Last year I tried to get the train as it crossed the Cohoes-Waterford Bridge. Although I got a beautiful lit-up version of the train, it was just the lights – without the physical train attached to the lights. So let’s see if I can get the whole train itself – chassis, lights and all – as it does its “deadhead” run from the North Country to Albany.
The train itself has to travel from its last performance spot, Lacolle, Quebec, and pass through customs at Rouses Point before traveling all night to Albany. How do I know this?
You are aware that I’ve researched every possible option for this train, right?
And look what appears on the Twitter feed of train performer Alan Doyle. It’s a clue.
He posted what looks like a performing itinerary. And look what it says. The train has to travel all night to get to Albany by 8:35 in the morning. So it HAS to pass over the Cohoes-Waterford Bridge. This totally works for me. I have no idea as to how the train will turn around, but I’m sure Canadian Pacific has that ALL figured out.
I got to the location in plenty of time. I also made arrangements with the factory whose offices border the bridge, so that I could park in their lot.
Okay. 7:45. No train.
8:00. No train.
8:10 – there’s the train … and it’s arriving BACKWARDS???
So THAT’S how they do it. They don’t turn the train around at Kenwood Yard so it can go north, they must turn it around somewhere else, most likely a junction at Ballston Spa – and then they BACK IT UP thirty miles into Kenwood Yard. Wow. That’s some serious parallel parking. 🙂
Plus I know that by looking at the itinerary, they have to get to Menands by 4:15 for the concert, so it makes more sense to back the train up, than have it come straight down head-first and find a way to turn the entire apparatus around. Yeah, Canadian Pacific knows what they’re doing.
The train has to come out of the Kenwood Yard, and in doing so, it drives inbetween Interstate 787. But … it also has to stop at that location to allow for switching and such. So it may be parked there for ten minutes, it may be parked there for an hour. Now the cool picture would be if the train actually stops in front of the SUNY Administration building – which was originally the headquarters of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad – that would be a super-swank coincidence.
I want this shot right here.
Weapon: Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, loaded with Kodak Ektar 100 film.
As 3:00 rolled around, I saw some cars pull up – and several drivers jumped out, cameras in their hands, leaping toward various shooting locations. Apparently I had the same idea as they.
Because, lo and behold, here comes the Holiday Train as it parks RIGHT IN FRONT of the SUNY Admin building!
They took the shots, and then discussed their next shot destination – the Cohoes-Waterford Bridge. One of the photographers was griping that the new show in Menands meant that the train had to leave Albany early – and that he couldn’t get a decent picture of the train today because of the sun’s glare.
Me … I’m just happy that not only did I get the train photo …
I got a selfie with the train photo.
Look, you can’t get this lucky in your life.
I thought about shooting the Cohoes-Waterford Bridge one more time, but after I heard several of the “car-jumping” photographers talking about going there and shooting … I decided to try my luck at the Menands concert, the Holiday Train’s first stop in New York – and the first time it would stop in Menands.
Since I knew the parking would be insane, I was thankful that one of my FB friends mentioned Menands would offer a shuttle service out of the old Price Chopper parking lot on Broadway. I parked there, climbed on board the school bus, and rode up to the concert location.
And sure enough, there was the train, arriving just in time. Swank.
So what kind of crowd can you get with a first-time concert?
And that’s on one side of the train – the other side has twice as many people.
Oh, and in case I needed a smidgeon of good luck tonight…
I got in a selfie with Santa Claus.
Dear Santa … all I want is some great photos and videos of this train chase. Let me have this, and I won’t ask for Lynda Carter for Christmas again this year. I know, I’ve asked for Lynda Carter for Christmas ever since I was a kid, but there’s always hope, isn’t there?
This year, I want some concert footage. Rather than try to burn rubber to get to the train’s next location in Mechanicville, I’m going straight to Saratoga Springs and set up my gear there.
On the way to Saratoga Springs, I stopped at a grocery store. Purchased various foodstuffs, including two canisters of powdered infant formula. No, I’m not expecting a baby. But I do know that these concerts are designed to encourage attendees to donate to their local food banks and food pantries. That’s the idea of this train show – it’s Canadian Pacific’s way of helping feed families, one stop at a time.
I arrived at the Amtrak Station an hour before the scheduled concert. And parking was a nightmare, even at that point. I had to find a spot at the local AAA offices and walk the rest of the way. Because of that, I decided to leave my tripod and film gear in the car, and went strictly with my BlackBerry camera phone. And with four bags of groceries.
Don’t give me grief on this – BlackBerry was made in Canada, so technically this and the CP train are industry cousins. 😀
I handed the bags of groceries to one of the volunteers. Now it’s time to enjoy the show.
As I made my way through the crowd, I saw a wheelchair-bound woman – with seven or eight people in front of her. No way could she see the concert from that location.
“Hey,” I said to the crowd in front of her, “Any chance you guys could make some room for the woman behind you?”
A few seconds later, some of the crowdmembers cleared a path, and the wheelchair-bound woman and her family were escorted to the front of the crowd. That’s cool. That’s the holiday spirit.
And then the train arrived.
You think this kid on her father’s shoulders has the best seat in the house? Yeah, I do as well.
The concert car pulled right up next to us. I haven’t had this much good luck since the time I put $20 on Mugshots Bro to win the Open Handicap at Saratoga Harness and he won by two lengths.
So yeah, I captured the full concert by this great group, Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Band. Do you want to see the concert? Of course you do!!
Weapon of choice: BlackBerry KEYone camera phone. Natch.
The band performed three Christmas classics, interacted with the crowd – apparently frontman Alan Doyle has family in Saratoga Springs, which is quite a commute from his home in Newfoundland and Labrador. They also performed two of their original songs, “When I’m Up” and “1, 2, 3, 4,” which got the crowd dancing. Well, they danced for the other Christmas songs as well.
Okay. Concert ended. Time for sleep. I’ve already booked a room at Saratoga Casino Hotel (no, I’m not gambling tonight), just so I don’t have to drive all the way south to home. Especially when I need to drive north tomorrow.
Revilee, revilee, up and at ’em, rise and shine.
On Wednesday morning, the CP Holiday Train has to travel to Fort Edward.
This is significant, because Fort Edward has a beautiful restored train station. And how awesome would it be to get a photo of the train as it pulls into this depot? Way awesome.
I went back to my three-dimensional camera setup. This way, I can get the train … one of the crossing signs … and the depot, with the crowd in front of it … in one shot.
As the crowd grew in anticipation of the CP Holiday Train’s arrival, I confirmed with some CP Railway police that I would not be in their way, and that I would follow their directives if I needed to move my camera out of the area. They said that as long as I stayed put in that specific location … I could get the train photo I wanted.
This would be interesting. I could photo the train … but the concert boxcar would only open on one side, so I could hear the show – but not see it.
I’m okay with that. I’m starting to dig the Alan Doyle and Beautiful Band show.
The train pulled up. Nikon EM’s at the ready.
And I got this three-dimensional shot.
It kinda looks like this if you do it as a free stereo view. Relax your gaze until the two images blend together. Don’t cross your eyes, just relax them.
Got the image I wanted. Sweet.
Then I listened to the show – great concert – and it was over. The train pulled out to its next destination.
After the show, I ran into one of the Canadian Pacific Railway police. He was handing out little plastic badges to some kids. I asked him if I could get a badge for my kid.
Let me tell you, he just made a 56-year-old kid very happy. 😀
Okay. Train’s cleared out. I need to get to the next location.
What the heck am I doing in Ticonderoga? There’s no concert stop in Ticonderoga this year.
But the train itself has to stop at a location called Montcalm’s Landing – to allow Amtrak passenger train 68 to travel south from Montreal to Albany. Once the Amtrak train passes, then the Holiday train can move forward.
So it has to stop.
Which guarantees me tack-sharp images. Because the train is STOPPED.
But apparently it also guarantees me some company. At least fifteen railfans – all armed with cameras – were at Montcalm’s Landing just as the train arrived.
Well, let them get their photos. I want my own.
I set up my camera gear – this time using my Kodak Medalist II for some artistic shots.
This is kinda cool.
Damn. That looks like a classic postcard.
Okay, I can’t hang around forever. I need to get to the final stop. The stop I planned for weeks, the stop that I scouted and planned out.
There’s a railroad crossing in Crown Point – next to an old autobody shop – and if I get the shot lined up precisely, I should be able to snag the train – as well as the crossing lights as it passes through the crossing. And it will pass at sundown, so if everything works out well, I’ll be in the Golden Hour of photography.
Weapon of choice: Nikon Df with 15mm f/2.4 Irix ultra-wide lens.
Got the camera and tripod set up. And as I’m focusing and composing my shot …
A pickup truck pulls up next to me.
Someone who thinks I’m trespassing on their property?
Nope … just a couple of locals whose first words to me were, “Has the train come yet?”
“It’s on the way,” I smiled.
I could hear the train horns in the distance.
“It’s coming,” one of the locals said to me. “It won’t be long now.”
And sure enough …
Look what arrived.
And then … I got this shot from the Nikon DF as the icing on the cake.
Did I get everything? Let’s see. Flashing train crossing sign and guard. Check. Locomotive and “Canadian – Pacific – Holiday – Train” boxcars. Check. American and Canadian flags fluttering. Check. Chuck got a good photo? Check.
There were weather reports of torrential rain on the way, and just as the train passed, I felt raindrops on my face. Great. I got the photo just in time. Now I need to pack up my gear and get back in the car before the heavens open up.
The heavens opened up three minutes after I drove away from Crown Point.
Now I need to drive home. My pro lab of choice, McGreevy Pro Lab in Albany, is doing a special photo developing run Wednesday night, and I don’t want to wait until next week to get these images developed.
Despite the rain and the holiday traffic, I made it to Albany with minutes to spare, and dropped off all my film.
Which is why you see it here in today’s blog.
My sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Canadian Pacific Railway, its workers, staff and employees. I also extend a hearty thanks to Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Band for their concert performances – hey, if you can hear a group three times and they sound great each time, that’s a positive. McGreevy Pro Lab, you are the best in film development. Can’t thank you enough.
And now … it’s time to unwind.
What a fantastic train chase. Don’t know if I’ll undertake such a large run next year … maybe I’ll just be happy with one spot or one concert.
But this time, I wanted to go all the way and photograph as much as I possibly could.
And honestly … I’m so glad I did.