ATCO’s North Edmonton Operations Centre shines a little brighter during the holidays.
In a quiet warehouse, where everything from facial tissues to equipment parts are housed, a loyal employee of 32 years and four months has repurposed, refurbished and recycled cardboard, wooden pallets and lights into a magical scene from the movie The Polar Express.
“I’m a Christmas guy at heart,” Emanuel Cordeiro told Global News
“I love listening to Christmas music all year long. I love watching Christmas movies, so I thought why not incorporate that into my day.”
This year’s display includes a giant train, complete with a working smoke stack, a tunnel, and the train cars with Tom Hanks’ character keeping watch at the back.
As you move through, the movie plays where people can enjoy some holiday treats.
“We always try to shock people, but when you are doing a display this large, it’s very hard to hide the train,” he laughed.
Christmas music, or as Cordeiro calls it “happy music,” blares through the space.
The entire thing cost only around $60 to put up.
“If you love what you’re doing you don’t even realize you are spending any money,” Cordeiro said.
Cordeiro has been putting up elaborate holiday creations for 28 of the 32 years he’s worked at ATCO.
“It started at the old service centre and I was the shipper at the time,” he said.
“I had an office with a big window and two bay doors so that just screams out holiday lights and Christmas trees and a fake fireplace.”
As his space grew, so did the displays. He moved into another warehouse nearly 20 years ago and “that’s where it became extravagant.”
He moved into the location in north Edmonton 12 year ago.
Cordeiro has created everything from The Grinch, to a gingerbread house, Santa’s workshop, and a giant advent calendar. He’s never repeated an idea.
“When I noticed people enjoyed that I thought ‘well I enjoy it too so why not continue that,'” Corderio said.
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The self-proclaimed Christmas fanatic said his love of the season started as a kid. His family didn’t always have a lot of presents, but he said his house was filled with friends, food and Christmas decorations. Cordeiro’s mom would create giant Christmas villages as part of the display.
“I was very fortunate to have a very good family and we always had a great Christmas.”
This year, more than 100 hours of time on coffee breaks, lunch breaks and after hours were put into the creation and Cordeiro hasn’t done it all on his own.
“I’ve always said I’m doing it for me, if anyone else enjoys it that’s great,” he said. “I found out that when you have other people helping with the same kind of vision, it makes it fantastic.”
Carolyn Vickers works with ATCO at the North Edmonton Operations Centre. She has volunteered to help since Cordeiro started working at the warehouse there.
“Every year it seems to be a little bit more elaborate,” Vickers said.
The displays have become a destination for many including staff, retirees and delivery drivers.
“I think they are taken aback, flabbergasted at what we can do,” Vickers said and added this year they are “going out with a bang.”
That’s because after 32 years, Cordeiro is saying goodbye to the company.
“I’ve always enjoyed my job at ATCO so I’m not the person who’s excited to retire and get out,” he said. “It’s been exciting and scary at the same time”
No one has stepped up to take over the decorating, so when he comes back to take down the display in January, another one won’t replace it next year.
“There’s always happy music playing,” Cordeiro said. “There’s always good conversations and that’s what I’m going to miss the most.”