The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will once again roll down the rails from Canada to Bellevue.

The ever-popular and unique Christmas-themed engine and accompanying rail cars are scheduled for a 6:45 p.m. whistle-stop on Tuesday, Dec. 4 on the tracks near Horizon Hall.

The lights, music and winter cheer of the event will help to benefit the Bellevue Bread Basket to feed those in need this coming holiday season.

Collections will be taken on site and everyone in Jackson County is encouraged to come and witness the magic of helping others.

City officials, as well as the Bellevue Fire Department and Police Department have already begun the discussions on logistics for the massive crowds expected to attend from the area. Two years ago in 2016, the performance location was changed to be on the opposite side from the event in 2014, when approximately 5,000 people showed up in the Horizon Hall parking lot and traffic was stalled, with parking minimal. As a result, the stage car, featuring the live bands and the check donation to the Bellevue Bread Basket was changed to the Jefferson Ave. side of the tracks, as will be the case next Tuesday night. Live musical entertainment from one of the train’s lighted boxcars will feature Canadian music stars The Trews and Willy Porter from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Times are approximate for the train and the musical performance, so spectators are encouraged to arrive early.

The decorated, lighted train, which rolls through Bellevue every two years, raises money and goods for food pantries and also raises awareness of hunger throughout the United States and Canada. The Holiday train has made stops here in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 which resulted in thousands of dollars in donations and truckloads of needed food.

The last stop at Horizon Hall in Bellevue in 2016 raised well over $4,000 for the Bellevue Bread Basket, and brought upwards of 5,000 to town.

At their 2010 and 2012 visits, Canadian Pacific officials presented $1,000 checks to the Bellevue Bread Basket, which distributes food 2-4 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month from the Bellevue Community Center.

Organizers also pass the hat for cash donations and gathered donations of foods and other non-perishable goods from spectators.

The train’s prime-time stop in Bellevue is sandwiched between stops near the Sawmill Museum in Clinton at 4:30 p.m. and the Hawthorne Street railroad crossing in Dubuque.

The Canadian and the U.S. holiday train will make a total of about 150 stops this year. Since it’s 1999 inception, the train has raised more than $9.5 million and collected more than 3.3 million pounds of food for pantries in both countries.

The Holiday Train program has gained a tremendous following in its 18 years and has really become part of the social fabric for many communities during the holidays. In some places the Holiday Train program can raise the majority of money a food bank requires for the year.

For those who have never witnessed the CP Holiday Train, a typical stop goes something like this: The train arrives and pulls to a safe stop in front of the crowd. The stage door lowers and the band opens with its first song. After that, a brief ceremony takes place which involves local food bank officials and other dignitaries. Once complete, the band resumes its show.

After about a half hour that usually includes a mix of traditional and modern holiday-themed songs, the band plays its farewell song, the boxcar door closes, and the train slips off into the night on its way to the next stop.   

“The Holiday Train shines a bright light on the importance of supporting food banks and how local residents can join the Holiday Train's spirit in feeding our communities across the country,” said a Canadian Pacific spokesperson. “The program is an important community initiative for CP employees as more than 15,000 of us live and work in more than 1,100 North American communities. Hunger is an issue that can, and does, impact all of our neighbors.”

As well as the stop in Bellevue, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will makes stops this year in six Canadian provinces and seven states in the continental United States.

"For nearly 20 years, CP has watched communities turn out to enjoy a wonderful event while taking a stand against hunger," said E. Hunter Harrison, CP's Chief Executive Officer.

"We are proud of the role the Holiday Train plays, but more importantly, we're proud of the people and families that come out year after year to help their neighbors. They're the reason we keep bringing the train back."

In 2018, Canadian Pacific will celebrate 20 years of collecting food and raising funds for food banks across North America.

The CP Holiday Train program launched in 1999 and has since raised more than $14.5 million and gathered 4.3 million pounds of food for communities along CP's routes in Canada and the United States.