By Ethan Nahté
Families who anxiously await the arrival of the festive KCS Holiday Express train will see a big difference this year. The tour of the former KCS train with its holiday-themed rail cars pulled by an engine with the smiling face of Rudy, who looked like a brother of Thomas the Tank Engine, appears to be no longer.
The merger of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads (CPKC) has done more than increase the number of trains rumbling through Mena. It’s also switched from the Holiday Express to the CPKC Holiday Train.
The Holiday Train is celebrating its 25th anniversary, supporting food banks and food shelves across their network by raising money, food and awareness for food insecurity issues. CPKC makes a donation to the local food shelf at each stop and encourages attendees to also donate. Since its inception in 1999, the Holiday Train has raised more than $22.5 million and more than 5 million pounds of food for food banks across North America.
The train will embark Nov. 20 with its first stop the next morning in Hermon, Maine. The journey will take what appears to be a pair of trains to New York, across the U.S./Canadian border to cities such as Toronto and Detroit as it travels west to the Chicago region and then going south through Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and throughout Texas, ending in Houston before returning north to make stops northwest of Chicago up toward Calgary.
A second train appears to be traveling west, looking at their online map of stops, from Toronto and across Canada to Edmonton, Calgary, and eventually to Vancouver on the Pacific coast.
CPKC has not responded to The Pulse for clarification of the itinerary.
Professional musicians tour with the train, playing free concerts on the train’s stage. This year, there are 10 different groups, with a pair of acts rotating and performing at each stop. Both Mena and Heavener will be entertained by Seaforth and Kiesza.
In addition to the festive painting along the train cars, there are lots of bright neon lights flashing holiday designs during the music performance, although a bit of the razzle dazzle might be lost for the Mena performance taking place in the morning during typical business hours on a school day. If Polk County families want to see the light display, they might prefer making the drive to Heavener the evening before.
- Heavener, Oklahoma – arrives at 8:15 p.m. on Nov. 28 along Main Street between Ave-nue F and Avenue C with the 30-minute event beginning at 8:30.
- Mena, Arkansas – arrives at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 29 at the Mena Train Depot with the 30-minute event beginning at 10:45.
- The train will then travel to Texarkana and stop on the Texas side for a 4:45 performance.
Kiesza is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose breakthrough single “Hideaway” (2014) has re-portedly accrued a billion streams. A car crash put her career on hold for a couple of years. She released her second album in 2020. She also promotes Run Renegade apparel. Her videos can be found on YouTube. The pop video for her single “Love me With Your Lie” is a bit reminiscent of early Madonna or Paula Abdul with the sound and risqué look.
Seaforth is a country music duo from Australia. One of their singles, “What I Get for Loving You” has reportedly gotten 40 million on-demand streams to date. Fans of groups such as Flor-ida Georgia Line might find Seaforth to their liking.
Community response for the train’s first appearance in Mena will be difficult to judge with it arriving so early in the work and school day, but perhaps it will still draw a crowd.