Rail Rangers November/December 2017 Events: NARP Chicago, Trainfest, South Shore Trips, North Pole Express

November and early December 2017 is shaping up to be another busy period for the APRHF Rail Rangers with special excursions planned for NARP’s 50th Anniversary ‘Rail Nation’ Celebration in Chicago, a memorable weekend at Trainfest in Milwaukee, two special South Shore Line trips that coordinate with the busy Thanksgiving travel season, and the Friends of the 261’s North Pole Express in St. Paul, MN In fact, we have events going on 5 weekends in a row! How about that for staying active in the community?

Let’s provide a quick rundown of what we have going on:

Earlier this week, the APRHF Board of Directors received a phone call from Bruce Becker, NARP’s Vice President of Operations. He inquired if the APRHF Rail Rangers would be able to serve as Interpretive Guides on two special excursions that were being planned for the organization’s ‘Rail Nation’ Event in Chicago on the weekend of November 4th and 5th. Since the APRHF and NARP share some of the same goals of advocating the advancement passenger rail, we were happy to oblige, even with the short notice.


SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2017 – Dome Car to Milwaukee Roundtrip: Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern, Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern, and Lead Interpretive Guide Robert Neil will be presenting an onboard educational program for passengers on the NARP’s “Afternoon Hiawatha” round-trip excursion between Chicago and Milwaukee. Passengers will board at 1:05pm at Chicago Union Station, have a brief 25 minute layover in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and return back to Chicago at 4:39pm. Those who buy tickets for this special excursion will be treated to amazing views of the passing Illinois and Wisconsin countryside aboard the Friends of the 261 “Super Dome #53”, which has been featured on many previous APRHF Rail Rangers journeys. Tickets include round-trip seating in the dome car, the onboard educational program/narration by the APRHF Rail Rangers, a lite lunch (assorted sandwiches, chips, and cookies) and soft drinks, 2 free beers and/or wines, and additional beer or wine available for purchase. Those who purchase tickets for this excursion will be able to take a tour of Chicago Union Station at 11:45am and view various special Amtrak equipment displays — even a new Viewliner II Dining Car is expected to be shown. Come and join the Rail Rangers to learn about such sites as the cabbage fields of Racine County, historic mansions that once lined the tracks around Lake Forest, the Great Rondout Train Robbery, the famous ‘Save Ferris’ water tower in Northbrook, and a historic airbase that several former Presidents served at… plus much more. The Rail Rangers will be selling copies of their Chicago to Milwaukee and Chicago to St. Paul, MN route guidebooks on this trip with a portion of the sales being donated to NARP. As of October 26th, a very limited number of tickets were still available for $149 for registered NARP Rail Nation attendees or $169 for the general public. Ticketing is handled through NARP (Rail Rangers, nor Friends of the 261 is handling ticketing). For more information and a link to get your tickets, please check out their website: https://www.narprail.org/events/rail-nation-chicago/


SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2017 – South Shore Line to Michigan City Roundtrip: After riding with the APRHF Rail Rangers to Wisconsin on Saturday, why not head the other direction to Indiana on Sunday and really see the whole tri-state area? We will once again be partnering with NARP to present a rare Sunday morning onboard interpretive program on the South Shore Line between Chicago-Millennium Station and Michigan City, Indiana. This excursion departs Chicago-Millenium Station at 10:45am on Train #603, arriving in Michigan City-Carroll Avenue at 12:30pm. After a 20 minute layover, we’ll board westbound Train #506, which leaves Michigan City-Carroll Avenue at 12:52pm and arrive back at Chicago-Millenium Station at 2:39pm. This trip is also presented in partnership with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District/South Shore Line. Narration will be presented going eastbound to Michigan City, with Interpretive Guides roaming the train and answering questions from passengers going westbound. Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern, Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern, and Lead Interpretive Guide Robert Neil will once again be your hosts for this special excursion. Travelers will have the option of purchasing on of the Rail Rangers’ 120-page route guidebooks for the South Shore Line, with a portion of each sale being donated to NARP. Travelers who have their Passport To Your National Parks passport books will also want to bring them along, because guides will have a special cancellation stamp for the South Shore for Pullman National Monument, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Kankakee River National Water Trail. Ticketing information for this trip is provided on NARP’s website (the Rail Rangers can not hold seats, nor do we handle any ticketing issues): https://www.narprail.org/events/rail-nation-chicago/

As they say, there is no rest for the weary — as the following weekend the APRHF Rail Rangers will be busy attending their biggest outreach event of the year — at Trainfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Simply put, it’s the largest model train show anywhere in the world. Come out an join us between 9:00AM and 5:00PM on either SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2017 or SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2017. The APRHF Rail Rangers will be making their third appearance in a row at Trainfest to meet with attendees and talk about private rail excursions and their year-round programs on the South Shore Line. As always, the APRHF Rail Rangers will be selling copies of all 11 editions of their route guidebooks and their Junior Rail Rangers program (prices range from $10 to $35). On Saturday afternoon, Junior Ranger Aida Frey, who is 16-years old and has visited 299 National Park Service units will be making an appearance to talk to visitors about taking trains to national parks and be signing copies of her new book. Aida is known as the ‘Sweetheart of the National Park Service’. Members of the National Park Passport Club will also be having a special event at our booth on Saturday afternoon, as they come out to get some new cancellations stamps exclusively available through the Rail Rangers. In addition, APRHF Vice President Robert Tabern and APRHF Secretary Kandace Tabern will be giving special talks at Trainfest for the first time this year. On Saturday, November 11th at 2:00pm, learn about what it takes to write railroad route guidebooks. The Taberns will share some thoughts about what makes a good writer and route guidebook, in addition to sharing some of their funny experiences over the past five years writing their books. On Sunday, November 12th at 1:00pm, the Rail Rangers will hold a special clinic to talk about some of the private cars theyhave rode on in the past three years as part of the program. The special programs are included with your Trainfest admission, but you must pre-register at: https://www.trainfest.com/events/list/?tribe_paged=2&tribe_event_display=list


This year will feature an expanded set-up for the APRHF that will include SIX tables (versus the usual TWO). One table will be for book sales, two tables will feature model railroad car displays, one table will feature information about how you can earn Junior Ranger badges on trains, and another two table will feature displays about the APRHF Rail Rangers private railcar and South Shore Line trips.

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and what better time to ride the South Shore Line to get to Grandma’s house this year? The APRHF Rail Rangers continue to present onboard educational programs aboard the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend. Programs will be presented on SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2017 and SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2017. Come out and learn about the interesting things along the 90-mile route… including the buildings of Downtown Chicago, the historic steel-mill area of Northwest Indiana, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the rural farmscape of La Porte and St. Joseph Counties. Live narration will be provided on one car, with the program being presented at no additional cost beyond your normal South Shore Line fare. Our eastbound programs begin at 8:40am CST at Chicago-Millenium Station and end at 12:10pm EST at South Bend-Airport Station. Our westbound programs begin at 1:05pm EST at South Bend-Airport and end at 2:39pm CST at Chicago-Millenium. Route guides will be available for sale on both of these trips; Passport cancellation stamps will be available on the November 26th trip only. We are offering a special program on Sunday, November 26th, as this is one of the busiest travel days of the year following the Thanksgiving holidays.

And finally, mark your calendar for SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2017, as the APRHF Rail Rangers will once again be working with the Friends of the 261 to staff the North Pole Express in Saint Paul, Minnesota this day. There are multiple departures, including 10:00am, 11:30am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:30pm, 6:00pm and 7:30pm. As of October 26th when this press release was written, tickets are available for some excursions, however some trips have already sold out. Traditionally, all departures have sold out weeks in advance, so do not wait much longer! APRHF Rail Rangers Robert Tabern, Kandace Tabern, Robert Neil, and Dave Poole will serve as car hosts on this train, welcoming people aboard and building up the anticipation to Santa. This is the largest fundraiser of the year put on by our partner organization, the Friends of the 261, which operates Milwaukee Road Steam Locomotive 261. The Friends of the 261 has been a strong supporter of the APRHF Rail Rangers and one of our original partners – so we enjoy ‘paying back the kindness’ and working this magical holiday train every year. Ticketing is handled exclusively by the Friends of the 261, with tickets available on their website at: https://www.showclix.com/event/north-pole-express-2017

Explore Fall Foliage with the APRHF Rail Rangers

It’s beginning to get colder outside and the leaves on the trees outside are changing from summer green to the brilliant yellows and reds of autumn. That means it’s the perfect time for a train ride before the busy holiday season is here before you know it. And what better way to ride a train than with the APRHF Rail Rangers… where you can learn about the sites outside your window. During the month of October, the APRHF Rail Rangers will be presenting onboard educational programs through no less than four states in the Upper Midwest.


Three APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides will be aboard the Zephyr Route private rail excursion that will take place between Chicago, Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities between October 13th and October 15th. Two private cars will be placed on the back of Amtrak’s westbound Empire Builder on Friday, October 13th through Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Passengers will have the entire day on Saturday, October 14th to explore around the Twin Cities, including the Mall of America and other sites. Then, the private cars will be placed back on Amtrak’s eastbound Empire Builder train on Sunday, October 15th for the 410-mile return journey. Those aboard will be treated to beautiful fall colors in the urban Chicago-Milwaukee corridor, through the Driftless Area of Central Wisconsin, and along the Mississippi River in Minnesota. Making the journey will be CB&Q observation cars Silver Lariat and Silver Solarium. This excursion has unfortunately been SOLD OUT for several months now. Be sure to keep watching the Rail Rangers’ website (www.railrangers.org) if you wish to be part of this trip in 2018. We anticipate dates to be chosen and tickets to go on sale around February or March 2018.


You can still join the APRHF Rail Rangers and enjoy the season’s colors by participating in one of their excursions on the South Shore Line. In case you haven’t heard — the APRHF and the South Shore Line have joined forces to educate passengers about what they are seeing out their window through Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Our Interpretive Guides will be on select weekend departures of the South Shore Line round-trip between Chicago-Millenium Station and South Bend-Airport Station. Upcoming programs are slated for October 6, October 21, November 18, and November 26. Guides leave Chicago on the 8:40am CT train and arrive in South Bend at 12:10pm ET. After a brief layover, guides will present a similar program for westbound passengers on the train that leaves South Bend at 1:05pm ET and arrives back in Chicago at 2:40pm CT. Narration will take place in one designated car (usually towards the middle of the train). The train line between Chicago and South Bend passes through or near four units of the National Park Service — including the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, Pullman National Monument, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Kankakee River National Water Trail. Enjoy varied landscapes during the 2.5 hour train journey — as we move from the skyscrapers of Downtown Chicago to the historic steel-mill region near Gary to the Indiana Dunes and finally the farm lands of La Porte and St. Joseph Counties.

The best part is the program is FREE once your paid the standard fare for your South Shore Line ticket. Seating in the Rail Rangers car is on a first come, first serve basis only; we are not able to reserve seats for people in advance.


Finally, an APRHF Rail Ranger guide will be aboard the 20th Century Railroad Club’s Amtrak coach charter between Chicago and Springfield, Illinois on Saturday, November 11th. Learn about such interesting landmarks as Route 66, coal mining in Illinois, and our 16th President Abraham Lincoln. More details on this trip, including possible ticket availability, can be found on the 20th Century Railroad Club’s website at www.20thcentury.org.

You can also mark your calendars for two special outreach programs that will also take place during this time period. Guides with the APRHF Rail Rangers will be giving a one-hour presentation at the Morton Grove Public Library in suburban Chicago at 11:00am on Saturday, October 21st. Learn how the Rail Rangers was formed, the connection between railroads and our national parks, plus more about our route guidebook series. Then, join us on Saturday, November 11th or Sunday, November 12th at Train Fest 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. APRHF Rail Rangers volunteers will be on hand to talk with you about private railcars and out railroad route guidebooks. Special guests this year include APRHF President Bob Cox and APRHF Treasurer Amy Cox who will be bringing the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation’s layout to Trainfest for the first time. Be sure to check out www.trainfest.com for more details. You can even register to attend two special lectures being put on by APRHF Vice President Robert Tabern and APRHF Secretary Kandace Tabern. The duo will speak on November 11th at 2:00pm about writing railroad route guidebooks and on November 12th at 1:00pm about private railcars that have made recent appearances in the Midwest. You must pre-register for these clinics on the Trainfest website.

It’s a busy October and November for the Rail Rangers — and we hope you can be part of our fall!

And don’t forget — we will be getting together in late November with several of our private rail partners to discuss 2018 trip ideas. If you have a great idea for a destination — drop us an e-mail at info@railrangers.org before November 20th.