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.

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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”.

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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.

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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!)

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TO HELP US BUILD UP A RESERVE FUND FOR OUR NEW 501(C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, PLEASE HEAD TO RAILRANGERS.ORG AND CLICK ON THE “MAKE A DONATION” BUTTON ON THE UPPER LEFT-HAND SIDE OF THE SCREEN.  ALL DONATIONS ARE NOW TAX-DEDUCTIBLE AS OUR NON-PROFIT STATUS HAS BEEN APPROVED BY THE IRS!   DONATIONS OF $20 OR MORE WILL RECEIVE A SPECIAL “THANK YOU” GIFT.