There are not too many trains that come with a live band.
The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train with multicolored lights depicting Christmas trees, gift boxes, candy canes and snowmen chugged into its stop at the ALCO Heritage Museum on Thursday — slightly ahead of schedule.
Onlookers took video and pictures as the train pulled into view. Young children sat on the shoulders of adults.
“Awesome,” said Dawn Farone of Scotia, who was attending the event for the first time.
Then, in what some kids said was the coolest part, the side of one of the cars swung down, revealing the stage. With a brief introduction, the Claytones and Canadian country music performer Tracey Brown were off and running, with a country-rock sound mixing traditional classics such as “Joy to the World” and “Little Drummer Boy” with fun favorites of “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Christmas Don’t Be Late” by the Chipmunks — complete with distorted high-pitched vocals.
People were dancing and even jumping to the upbeat music. Christie Grygiel of Niskayuna was enjoying the sight of watching her children dance. “We get to watch their awesome moves,” she said.
People were encouraged to bring a canned food item or donate money at the event. Schenectady Salvation Army Maj. Michael Himes was grateful for the food that people were dropping off, especially a donation of much-needed infant formula.
“Thank you so much. You get to ring the bell when you put some food in,” he said to 4-year-old Kara Ferguson of Providence, who happily obliged.
These donations will go right into the some 500 food baskets that the Salvation Army will prepare for the needy at Christmas.
Train officials presented a $1,000 check to Himes. “We’re going to feed a lot of hungry people,” he said.
Since its inception in 1999, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train has raised more than $6.4 million and collected more than 2.6 million pounds of food in Canada and the United States.
All the money collected at the train stops will be tallied and a matching donation of up to $250,000 will be provided by CP to Feeding America, whose member food banks are providing nutrition and other supplies to those affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Before arriving in Schenectady it stopped at the Cobleskill Fire Department and the Main Street crossing in Delanson. It was to make a later stop at the Saratoga Springs Amtrak station. This is the second consecutive year the 14-car train made a Schenectady stop on its tour to raise money for local food pantries.
Mayor Gary McCarthy welcomed the train with a brief speech. “We want to be thankful for the things that we have and this gives us an opportunity to help some of those less fortunate,” he said.
In keeping with the festive atmosphere, multicolored lights and snowflake images were projected on the exterior of the ALCO Museum.
The train, and the band, were a hit.
“It’s really cool. I haven’t seen something like that before,” said 9-year-old Ashley Christman of Guilderland.
“It was great. We loved it,” said Margaret Martin of Scotia.
“That was so much fun,” said 4-year-old Nathan Tinker of Watervliet.
When asked what he wanted for Christmas, Nathan was honest, saying “lots of stuff.”
It was a special event for 5-year-old Hannah Williams of Niskayuna who just had major surgery to correct a problem with her intestine.
“She couldn’t wait,” said father Joe Williams Jr. “She knew exactly when she was going to see Santa Claus. This is good for her.”
Williams said he was having fun himself. “This is a blast. Every year it seems like there’s more people.”