It’s one of the largest model train shows in the Upper Midwest — and the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF) will be there — as part of our recent expanded outreach efforts. This weekend (Saturday, February 20th and Sunday, February 21st, 2016), members of the APRHF Rail Rangers program will be on hand to greet thousands of visitors at the 49th Annual Mad City Rail Show. This event, which is sponsored by the South Central Wisconsin Division of the National Model Railroad Association, draws crowds from Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and numerous surrounding states. You can have your chance to meet with APRHF representatives each day from 9:00AM to 5:00PM at the Alliant Energy Center. There will also be numerous model railroading suppliers in attendance, as well as railroad memorabilia dealers. So, yes, something for everyone!
The APRHF Rail Rangers program was founded in July 2015 by APRHF President Bob Cox, APRHF Vice-President Amy Cox, Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern, and Assistant Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern. Interpretive guides Kathleen Bruecker, Dave Poole, Robert Neil, Fred Glure, and Joe Kuczynski were also recruited to join the growing staff of volunteers. The primary mission of the APRHF Rail Rangers is to provide experienced docents and printed route guide materials for private rail car and group rail excursions. In just its founding year, APRHF Rail Rangers provided on-board programs between Chicago and Galesburg/Quincy, Illinois (June 2015 “pilot program”); Minneapolis, Minnesota and Boylston, Wisconsin (October 2015); and between St. Paul, Minnesota and Glenview, Illinois (October 2015). APRHF Rail Rangers volunteers also helped to staff the Friends of the 261 North Pole Express train on four different dates in St. Paul, MN during December 2015.
Because of its’ non-profit 501(c)(3) status, APRHF Rail Rangers is able to provide an extremely low-cost (and often times, no cost!) step-on guide service to private rail car owners and group rail organizers. Charter partners from last year include the Friends of the 261 (based at Minneapolis Junction, MN) and Zephyr Route (based at Saint Charles, IL). Often times, private car owners have a plethora of details to worry about when it comes to organizing a trip… and sadly… quality route guides and educating passengers about the interesting landscape passengers will be traveling through often fall by the wayside. That is where APRHF Rail Rangers has stepped in to fill the void. What might appear to passengers as hours of boring corn and soybean scenery can turn into an interesting afternoon of history, education, and fun when you have interpretive guides aboard to share some of the stories. All guides involved in Rail Rangers live in the Midwest (Missouri, Illinois, or Wisconsin) and have multiple years of experience car hosting and providing educational programs about the Upper Midwest.
Besides providing these on-board programs, APRHF Rail Rangers also commit to attending at least three outreach events per year in order to promote their private car partners and upcoming trips. While much of what the APRHF does remains centered around La Plata, Missouri, Rail Rangers expands the organization’s overall mission to other areas of the Midwest. Rail Rangers outreach programs that will likely remain an annual event include Mad City Rail in February (Madison, Wisconsin), the Chicagoland Railroad Collectibles Show in April (Glen Ellyn, Illinois), and TrainFest in November (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Other outreach events are occasionally held on a more sporadic basis.
So what will be happening this weekend in Madison? Well, the APRHF Rail Rangers will be unveiling their new tri-fold display board which was created over the winter months. This display will give visitors a great overview of what the APRHF and APRHF Rail Rangers do. For the first time, we will also be making public some of the dates that we have excursions planned for in 2016 — some exciting destinations are in the works that you will want to be part of! Outside the Rails Books will also be on hand sending some of their books — including new route guides from Chicago to St. Louis and Chicago to Milwaukee. And, last, but not least, from 12:00N to 4:00PM on Saturday, February 20th, “Junior Ranger Aida” will be making an appearance at the APRHF Rail Rangers booth. You may recall Aida has earned more than 220 National Park Service Junior Ranger badges — and she’s just 14 years old. Aida earned her 209th Junior Ranger Badge from the APRHF while on a visit to La Plata, Missouri on July 19th, 2015. She will be encouraging children and teens to visit national parks and to participate in the APRHF Junior Rail Rangers program.
If you aren’t able to come and visit us in Madison this weekend, make sure you follow APRHF Rail Rangers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/railrangers – we will post updates from the weekend there and information about our upcoming trips. If you are not on Facbeook, there will be an article coming soon here to the APRHF page about our upcoming 2016 trips.