It has been less than one month since the APRHF Rail Rangers program officially launched, and already several upcoming events are planned for this fall that the public are invited to participate in. So, get ready and mark your calendars and buy your tickets now! APRHF Rail Rangers Executive Director and Chicago Coordinator Robert Tabern explains, “We really weren’t planning to do much outreach right off the bat because I thought we would need some time just to settle in to our new roles and get things organized. We thought we would do a really soft launch of our group, but several offers were put on the table for us to do special excursions that we couldn’t pass up. It was hard to say ‘no’… so we’re going to do them and see what people thing of our new program. We are set, ready, and very anxious to knock the passengers’ socks off with our narration and educational programs. We are so grateful to the private car owners for these amazing and outstanding opportunities within days of our program being announced.”
In case you have not heard of the APRHF Rail Rangers program yet, that’s okay. The group was founded as an affiliate of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation on Monday, July 20, 2015… yes, just a few weeks ago. Executive Director and Chicago Coordinator Robert Tabern heads up the group from his office in Wadsworth, Illinois, along with his wife and Assistant Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern. Founding members also include APRHF President Bob Cox, and his wife and APRHF’s Vice-President Amy Cox; they will help the APRHF Rail Rangers program from the non-profit’s headquarters in La Plata, Missouri. For three years, the Taberns and the Coxs worked together to administer the APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief between Chicago Union Station and La Plata, Missouri. Assistant Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern explains, “The National Park Service told us in early June (2015) that the APRHF could no longer be a sponsor of Trails & Rails. Instead of getting angry or upset, we decided just to accept their decision; the last run was on July 19th. The next day we formed APRHF Rail Rangers. It will be very much like what we did with Trails & Rails — the route guides, the narration, the fun interactions with passengers, and even a junior ranger program — except our programs will take place on private railcar excursions — and we will get to fully manage the program without interference, grief, and problems that certain individuals within the National Park Service caused us when we were managing the Trails & Rails program.”
Besides their involvement with Trails & Rails, the Taberns have been doing narration aboard private rail cars for more than five years now. They have narrated and presented on-board and off-the-train educational programs for such groups at the Friends of the 261, Iowa Pacific, the Illinois Railroad Museum, the 20th Century Railroad Club, and the Iowa Interstate Railroad. Now, their educational efforts will have the backing of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation and will include the formal name, APRHF Rail Rangers.
The Rail Rangers program will be a long-term outreach effort of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation. Earlier this week, APRHF President Bob Cox appeared on the Let’s Talk Train Show and told host Nathan Chidester, “The Rail Rangers program really fits nicely into our outreach mission. For years, we have been trying to reach out to private car owners and tell them about all of the things we at the APRHF have been doing. APRHF Rail Rangers is going to be that key link, I think. We are reaching out to get private car owners to have our volunteers aboard right now and maybe for the next year or so, but my long-term goal would be for private car owners to actually come to us and request our volunteers be aboard. We are hoping to make a really good name and reputation for our APRHF Rail Rangers program.”
So how can you get a chance to see the APRHF Rail Rangers in action? Very simple… here is their upcoming schedule of events:
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2015 – This date will mark the official launch of the APRHF Junior Rail Rangers program. Kids (of all ages) can earn a badge, sticker, small paperback book, certificate, and gold Junior Ranger badge by completing a train-themed fun and educational activity book. Look for an article in September 2015 on the APRHF website for more details on how this will work!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2015 – You can be part of the very first official APRHF Rail Rangers on-board event by riding in a historic full-length dome car on the back of Amtrak’s Empire Builder (Train #8 and #28) from St. Paul Union Depot to Chicago Union Station. APRHF Rail Rangers are joining forces with the “Zephyr Route” to bring you live commentary on Sunday, October 4th for more than 400 miles through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Learn about the Mississippi River and the location/story behind the “Crazy Man’s Castle”… find out the secret location of an Iraqi War Village — deep in the heart of Wisconsin… or maybe what’s behind Santa’s Super Rocket and a track-side grave near the Wisconsin Dells… plus all about the urban Milwaukee-to-Chicago corridor. Tickets are going quick, so book now. This tour is part of a three-day weekend package being offered by “Zephyr Route” for a get-away to the Twin Cities; passengers may board at either Chicago Union Station or the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. Rail Rangers will only be aboard on Sunday, October 4th. For more information and tickets, log onto www.zephyrroute.com. When booking, please mention you heard about the trip from APRHF Rail Rangers and we will receive a donation from the “Zephyr Route” group to help cover the APRHF Rail Rangers cost of this trip!!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2015 – The APRHF Rail Rangers will be back in the Twin Cities the following weekend to participate in their first on-board event involving a steam engine! That’s right folks… what could be better than listening to an APRHF Rail Rangers program in the luxurious full-length Super Dome car while being pulled by the famous Milwaukee Road 261 steam engine! Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern and Assistant Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern will be on board providing you specialized commentary about the route between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin in the Super Dome Car. This excursion features various levels of service including coach, first class, and three premium class cars. The Rail Rangers will be roaming the train, but the main narration will take place only in the Super Dome car… so when you make your reservations at www.261.com — you will need to specifically request the Super Dome #53 car if you wish to hear the program. This special excursion passes through the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities and up into the Northwoods along the old Great Northern line to Superior, WI and Duluth, MN. From the Twin Cities to the Twin Ports – the APRHF Rail Rangers will keep you occupied with inserting stories about the passing scenery. Book your tickets now!! Premium Class is almost SOLD OUT! Make sure you tell the Friends of the 261 that you appreciate their support of the Taberns’ narration. Custom route guides will also be for sale… you can’t buy them on-line or anywhere else besides on the train!!!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2015 – The APRHF Rail Rangers will be making a brief appearance at Minneapolis Junction, Minnesota prior to the departure of the Friends of the 261 steam engine trip to Willmar, Minnesota. Join Executive Director Robert Tabern and Assistant Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern from 7:30am to 8:45am aboard the train and at the Friends of the 261 station to purchase your copy of the exclusive route guide from the Twin Cities to Willmar. While there will be no live narration on this trip due to a scheduling conflict, you will want to have this handy route guide to tell you about all of the important landmarks on your way out to Willmar. This special route guide book won’t be for sale on-line or anywhere else except from the APRHF Rail Rangers prior to the departure of the Friends of the 261 excursion from Minneapolis Junction. So, make sure you get your tickets now at www.261.com and arrive early so you can purchase your route guide from the APRHF Rail Rangers before the train leaves the station. A significant amount of the profits from the route guide sales will go to the Friends of the 261; all other profits will go toward travel expenses for the APRHF Rail Rangers to come to the Twin Cities.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2015 – Don’t have time to ride, but want to hear about the APRHF Rail Rangers program? Then head over to the Galesburg, Illinois Public Library on Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 1:30pm for a special presentation put on by the Rail Rangers! How did the program form? What are the future goals? And, what interesting landmarks are there to see on the BNSF line between Chicago, Galesburg, and La Plata, Missouri. The Rail Rangers will tell all in a special off-the-train presentation, plus stick around to browse the special selection of route guides that will be sold and autographed by the authors – what better Christmas presents for the railfan on your list?
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14 and SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2015 – The APRHF Rail Rangers will be holding a special informational session during Train Fest 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Head over to the Wisconsin Expo Center on the State Fair Grounds in West Allis from 9:00am to 5:00pm both days. It’s called the largest train show in the world — so why not come out and check out all of the model railroads on display and vendor booths? Various members of the APRHF Rail Rangers team will be on-hand to tell you about the non-profit program and what exciting things are planned for 2016. Also, come out and help contribute to some of the special events that will be taking place by making a donation to the APRHF Rail Rangers by purchasing one of the many route guides that will be for sale. APRHF Rail Rangers is honored to be part of the special, well-known, and historic gathering in the Badger State!
The APRHF Rail Rangers are currently in negotiations with other private car operators and organizations to possibly participate in other special events during Fall 2015 and throughout 2016. Stay turned to the APRHF website for more updates! Of course, the ultimate goal is to have enough private car excursions that we can begin taking new applicants who would like to volunteer for the APRHF Rail Rangers program; we are hoping this might even happen for some of the 2016 events that are in the works. Stay tuned!