New Private Car Trip Announced: Chicago to Carbondale, IL Round-Trip on Saturday, June 8, 2019

As you probably have heard by now… record flooding is hitting parts of the Upper Midwest very hard. In fact, as I write this… Amtrak has announced that it will suspend operations of the famed California Zephyr between Chicago and Denver for the next couple of days due to deteriorating conditions and freight traffic in Iowa on the Union Pacific “detour route” that it had been using the last week or so. Well, all the flood waters will be heading south and east into the Mississippi River… eventually going down to New Orleans.  In anticipation of this… emergency management officials have decided they will need to keep the spillways open for the next several months.  This means the City of New Orleans will terminate in Jackson, Mississippi… with passengers being bused between there and New Orleans through at least June. Sadly, this will impact the private car trip that we had announced and were planning to do in partnership with the owner of “Hollywood Beach” on the weekend of May 4th and May 5th. This nearly sold-out trip is officially CANCELLED due to the flooding. We were looking forward to narrate for a select group of passengers between New Orleans and Memphis… but it was not meant to be.


But, we at the Midwest Rail Rangers are known for not giving up!  So, we will be replacing the original trip we had planned with a special round-trip day-trip from Chicago down to Carbondale… also using “Hollywood Beach”.  We want to give those of you on our “Roundhouse E-Newsletter” List the first crack at tickets… so mark your calendar for Saturday, June 8th… and below are the details and pricing that you need to know.

We will depart Chicago Union Station at 8:15am CT on the morning of Saturday, June 8th. An on-board educational program will be presented by the Midwest Rail Rangers for passengers in the lounge section of the car through the morning and early afternoon hours… as we roll south through Homewood, Kankakee, Gilman, Rantoul, Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia, and DuQuoin. Our experienced Interpretive Guides will tell you plenty of interesting stories about the towns that line the old Illinois Central main line.  Learn about an Air Force Base that was established in Illinois at the height of World War I.  Who was really behind the building of the Illinois Central?  And hear stories about Illinois’ “coal country”.


Arrive in Carbondale around 1:45pm CT… where you will have approximately two hours to stretch your legs. There is a nearby Italian restaurant where you can get a bite to eat, too.  Re-board around 4:15pm CT and head back north to the Windy City.  Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides will remain aboard “Hollywood Beach” to answer any questions you might have about the passing landscape. Scheduled arrival time back into Chicago is at 9:45pm on the same day – Saturday, June 8th.

We have secured SPECIAL PRICING for those on our Midwest Rail Rangers “Roundhouse E-Newsletter” list for this trip… as well as those who follow our blog, Facebook site, and Twitter Feed. Those who call/write and mention that they heard about this trip through the Midwest Rail Rangers will be offered a discounted price of just $298 per person for the 15+ hour round-trip journey in one of America’s most exciting private cars.  Again, you must mention Midwest Rail Rangers to get this special price.  With such a good price and more than 600 people on our E-Newsletter List… tickets will go VERY QUICK.  We recommend that you book your spot in the next 24 to 48 hours.


We also realize that the 8:15am arrival and 9:45pm return might be hard for those who live outside of the immediate Chicago area.  Because of this… an extremely limited number of bedrooms will also be made available on the “Hollywood Beach” for passengers.  Accommodations on the car are available the night before the trip (Friday, June 7) and/or the night after the trip (Saturday, June 8) for an additional $250 per person per night based on double occupancy.  (Solo travelers may also occupy a room for $500 per single per night, or both nights for $1,000).

Checks payable thru:

“Keith’s Rail Way, LLC”

2904 Chevy Chase Lane

Naperville, IL  60564

 This will be a very special trip that we look forward to offering you.  In the almost five years that the Midwest Rail Rangers has been in operation… there have been NO private car day-trips from Chicago offered on the Chicago to Carbondale line. It may be that long again before something like this comes about… so jump on it!

 Limited lounge space is also available on “Hollywood Beach” from St. Louis to Chicago on Friday, June 7th… and from Chicago to St. Louis on Sunday, June 9th. Tickets are just $149 per person, one-way.  No narration or on-board educational programs will be provided on the St. Louis portions of this trip, unfortunately.


Private Car Trip Added! Midwest Rail Rangers Goes Hollywood… Hollywood Beach, that is!


Hopefully you got the very special edition of our E-Newsletter on Wednesday morning. However, in case you missed the BIG NEWS… we are proud to announce that the Midwest Rail Rangers is now its own independent 501(c)(3) educational non-profit.  With a headquarters much closer to where our private rail car trips, South Shore Line public trips, Amtrak coach charters, and outreach events are… we look forward to serving you even better than we have before. The Rail Rangers had been part of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation for almost the past four years now… but it is time to spread our wings. We wish them well in their future endeavors. And thank you to everyone who has shared a kind word or two in the past couple of days — or has opened up their wallets and made a donation so our general fund we can be off to a good start.

But… that is not all!

In order to celebrate this big change, we are hoping to do our first on-board educational program outside of the Upper Midwest!  That’s right — the Midwest Rail Rangers are heading to the Deep South! (But no, we won’t be changing our name again!)  We want to take YOU and seven others along for the ride.

The Midwest Rail Rangers is in a test partnership agreement with Keith White, the owner of private car “Hollywood Beach”, for a once-in-a-lifetime trip down to the Big Easy.

That’s right — New Orleans.


This special trip will leave from Chicago Union Station on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 8:00pm. You will ride in style on the back of Amtrak’s famed “City of New Orleans” train. You will sleep good knowing you’re riding down the historic Illinois Central — more than 300 miles down to the far southern tip of Illinois.  From there, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump across the Ohio River into Kentucky… and by the time you are waking up on Wednesday, May 1st, you will be in Memphis, Tennessee. Sit back and relax during the morning hours as the train passes through the Delta Region of Mississippi. By the time lunch rolls around… you’ll be crossing into Louisiana.  Be on the lookout for gators… sometimes you can see them along the tracks as you ‘round Lake Pontchartrain.  “Hollywood Beach” will be your unforgettable “hotel on wheels” for the evenings of Wednesday, May 1st… Thursday, May 2nd… and Friday, May 3rd at New Orleans’ trains station. Come and go as you want.  There’s a lot of options to sightsee around New Orleans (and do we dare mention there are a lot of street cars to ride, too?).

The Midwest Rail Rangers will join in on the festivities in New Orleans on the afternoon of Saturday, May 4th. Two of our Interpretive Guides will ride aboard “Hollywood Beach” to present an on-board educational program between New Orleans, Louisiana and Memphis, Tennessee as you begin your northbound journey home. We’ll talk swamps, jazz music, Civil War history… and a lot more. As they say… not knowing what you are seeing out your window on a train ride… is like watching the Travel Channel or History Channel on mute. Your trip will come to life as you learn about all of the interesting small towns the train passes through in Southern Louisiana and South and Central Mississippi.  The trip comes to a close on the morning of Sunday, May 5th… as we all roll back into the Windy City of Chicago!


Since the Midwest Rail Rangers was founded in July 2015, we have never attempted to do an on-board educational program outside of the Upper Midwest… and it may be a very long time before it ever happens again. We would love to teach you and your fellow passengers about this exciting region of our country. But, you need to act now!  Why?  We want this trip to be an intimate experience for our passengers — so ticket sales will be limited to just the first eight people who respond. Yes, only eight people will get to go on this fantastic and memorable trip with the Midwest Rail Rangers to learn all about the Deep South and New Orleans.

And how could we not mention the fantastic private car, “Hollywood Beach”?  It is a five-bedroom lounge car with two shower facilities, no less than 24 pieces of beautifully framed railroad art-work depicting scenes of its Seaboard Air Line heritage. It is equipped with TV, DVD, CD, and radio reception, as well as electrical outlets dispersed throughout the car.  The solarium lounge, where our on-board educational program will take place on Saturday, May 4th from New Orleans to Memphis, offers new tinted glass throughout… including the dome.  The views equal or exceed any rail transit car in the world. There is even a large library of books, official guides, and timetables of the Seaboard Air Line.


The fare is a very reasonable $2,995 per person, double occupancy for one of the bedrooms on “Hollywood Beach”.  (Remember, you will be saving a lot of money by sleeping on the car in New Orleans instead of paying for a high-priced hotel room on Bourbon Street!  Plus, sleep soundly at the station away from the noisy crowds and bars when it’s time to retire.)

In order to make this trip “a go”, the Midwest Rail Rangers need all eight spots to be sold… but we’re hoping that this won’t be a problem thanks to you.  We would love to come and put on a special on-board educational program away from our home region and to have you be a part.  Remember —- with the restrictions that Amtrak put on private car moves about a year ago —– these type of trips out of Chicago are becoming more and more rare.  Jump on this chance before it might be too late someday in the future.


Because we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization — the Midwest Rail Rangers will only be presenting the on-board educational program on “Hollywood Beach”; we are not allowed to sell tickets for this excursion.  If you are interested in going, please contact:  Mr. Keith R. White, 2904 Chevy Chase Lane, Naperville, IL  60564.  If you have questions, you should e-mail Mr. White at  E-mail is preffered, but he can also be contacted by calling (708) 446-1269.   Checks should be made payable to “Keith’s Rail Way, LLC”.


We apologize for the short notice of this private car trip — but we were waiting until we got out official clearance we were a 501(c)(3) non-profit… and that just happened earlier this week.

If you live near St. Louis, there is a boarding option for you at St. Louis Gateway Terminal for the same price. This car will be “dead-heading” to Chicago on April 29th and “dead-heading” back home to St. Louis on May 6th.  Limited space may be available for day passengers, however we really want riders to join us for the whole run — especially for our narration on the afternoon of Saturday, May 4th between New Orleans and Memphis.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #5: Midwest Rail Rangers to Become Independent 501(c)(3) Non-Profit on March 10, 2019; No Longer Affiliated with APRHF

The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors is excited to announce that the on-going transition of our organization into an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit will finally be complete, as of Sunday, March 10, 2019.

Looking back, our formal on-board educational efforts launched more than six years ago. Between December 2012 and July 2015, our group of volunteers provided on-board educational programs to more than 50,000 passengers on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief train through portions of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. During that time period, we were affiliated with Trails & Rails… an organization run up by the National Park Service that oversaw narration on numerous Amtrak train routes across the United States. Our local Trails & Rails group was additionally co-sponsored by the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF) in La Plata, Missouri, which helped to fund hotel rooms for our Chicago-based Interpretive Guides during their layovers.


In July 2015, Trails & Rails management decided they no longer wanted to partner with private non-profit organizations, such as the APRHF. This resulted in the Chicago-to-La Plata, MO Trails & Rails program ending, but almost immediately re-launching itself as the APRHF Rail Rangers. The original sole focus of the APRHF Rail Rangers was to provide on-board educational programs aboard private rail excursions. Numerous private railcar owners saw the value of having experienced Interpretive Guides aboard their excursions… including Friends of the 261, Zephyr Route Tours, American Rail Excursions, Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Paxrail, and the 20th Century Railroad Club. Our group of Interpretive Guides had very busy schedule almost right off the bat… narrating on private rail trips across seven states in the Upper Midwest. The APRHF Rail Rangers continued to grow in recent years… with Interpretive Guides providing on-board educational programs on public rail trips too, including Iowa Pacific’s Hoosier State (November 2016 to February 2017) and the South Shore Line (August 2017 to Current)… giving off-the-train historical power point presentations/talks… and adding PDF e-books and MP3 podcasts to the collection of railroad route guides for sale.

The APRHF Board of Directors and leadership with-in the Rail Rangers reached an agreement in December 2018 that called for the Rail Rangers to be spun off into its own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The transition process commenced on December 23, 2018 with the newly re-named Midwest Rail Rangers becoming a temporary chapter of the APRHF. This allowed the Rail Rangers to remain non-for-profit, while obtaining its own general liability insurance policy and tax-exempt status with the IRS and State of Wisconsin.

Both of these tasks and all other necessary paperwork have been completed, and the Midwest Rail Rangers will break all affiliations with the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation on March 10, 2019… including its temporary “chapter status”.


Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern explains, “There are many reasons why leaving the APRHF at this time is a necessary step for the continued growth of the Midwest Rail Rangers. Instead of having a headquarters in rural Northeast Missouri, a location more than 300 miles away from most of our activities…. our new organization is incorporated in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, a vibrant western suburb of Milwaukee. This will help our marketing and communications going forward, as our new headquarters city is situated much closer to where most of our private rail trips, public rail trips, and outreach events take place… in addition to being much closer to where most of our Interpretive Guides actually reside.”

The Midwest Rail Rangers will now be overseen by a new pro-active hands-on Board of Directors made up of our own Interpretive Guides who will meet multiple times per year to make sure things are headed in the right direction for our group.

Finally, our supporters can now be assured that all of their tax-deductible donations will stay completely with-in the Rail Rangers program and will be used for on-board educational programs… instead of funneled into other projects that often had very little to do directly with railroad history and on-board education.


Tabern adds, “We have a bright future… and to that we owe our thanks for our increasing numbers of supporters who know that ‘not knowing what you are seeing out your window, is like watching the Travel Channel with the audio turned off’!  We are glad you have stuck with us through a lot of changes.”

All on-board educational programs scheduled for 2019 will continue as scheduled… including a handful of private rail excursions, five Amtrak coach charters with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago, and nearly one dozen outreach events.  In fact, the Midwest Rail Rangers is in final negotiations stages with the South Shore Line/NICTD for a new contract that would secure on-board educational programs would continue through atleast March 2021. Plus, there is work to a secure a big new partnership agreement when it comes to the South Shore Line programs!   (Stay tuned for more on these soon!)