Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #17 — Merry Christmas from the Midwest Rail Rangers / 2019 Year in Review — December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas & Happy New Years from the Midwest Rail Rangers

The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors and our Interpretive Guides would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!  The holidays are a very special time — and we want to take a few minutes to thank you right here on Christmas Eve morning for your support in 2019.

Since this will also be our final E-Newsletter sent out to our supporters in 2019, we also decided to take a minute and look back at what was a very monumental and pivotal year for our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization – and where things stand as we head into a new decade! We no doubt had a very fun and action-packed past 358 days… and we sincerely hope that you were able to take part in at least one of our partners’ excursions or one of our outreach events.
You may recall that 2019 started with the Midwest Rail Rangers becoming its own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For the initial almost four years of its existence, the Rail Rangers had been associated with a railroad historical group in Missouri. As our goals for became increasingly different that that of our former parent organization – it was clear in late 2018 that it was in everyone’s best interest to file the paperwork needed to become our own independent group. This process was completed following the government shutdown that took place for most of January 2019… and has been no doubt a very necessary move for the future of the Rail Rangers. It let our newly formed Board have local control over the organization and its finances… and focus strictly on our mission of providing onboard educational programs for passengers. I would like to take a minute and thank my fellow 2019 Board Members — this includes Vice President Robert Neil, Treasurer Dave Poole, Secretary Kathy Brucker, and Educational Officer Kandace Tabern — for going above and beyond this year. The first year of any new organization is no doubt the most challenging and stressful and our team met each and every challenge head-on and got everything and anything asked of them accomplished in record time. The transformation of the Rail Rangers into its own entity would no doubt have gone as smoothly without their hard work – and the hard work of all of our Interpretive Guides and you, our faithful supporters.
The middle portion of the year saw tremendous growth for the Midwest Rail Rangers once again — with the addition of three new partners. In the spring, we formed a partnership agreement with Keith White — owner of the beautiful private car “Hollywood Beach”. This led to us providing onboard educational programs aboard a number of his private railroad excursions — including a round-trip to Carbondale and one-way trips down to St. Louis and Kansas City. If you rode with us this year, you will agree the “Hollywood Beach” might be one of the finest single-level observation cars around… with Keith being one of the nicest and most down-to-earth private car owners. We also formed a partnership agreement with Blue Pine Rail, a start-up group out of Northwest Indiana that provided a private car charter on the final run of Amtrak’s Hoosier State over the summer between Indianapolis and Chicago. This group is run by two gentlemen in their early 20’s who no doubt have a bright future in historical railroading in the Chicagoland area. Finally, in the fall, we formed a new partnership with the family-run Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad. They have been in business for 23 years now with their popular bed and breakfast/dinner trains, but have just acquired a former Santa Fe Hi-Level lounge car/Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car. We had the opportunity to do one “test run” with them in October where we set up various Santa Fe and Amtrak memorabilia aboard their car and welcomed passengers aboard open-house style while parked at the depot in Trego, Wisconsin. We had somewhere between 200 and 300 visitors — some coming from as far as the Twin Cities and Chicago to attend. We very much appreciate these three new partners (as well as all of our other returning partners such as Zephyr Route, Friends of the 261, Paxrail, 20th Century Railroad Club, Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, the South Shore Line/NICTD, Iowa Pacific, etc.) and are excited about what 2020 will bring with each of these great organizations.
One of our main focuses for the last quarter of 2019 has been on re-locating the Midwest Rail Rangers Headquarters/Office from Elm Grove, Wisconsin (suburban Milwaukee) to Barron, Wisconsin (about 90 minutes away from the Twin Cities). Once we are finished unpacking and getting settled in… we will have approximately three times the office space than we have had in the past. This will allow us to have more room to administer all things Rail Rangers related… as we begin our 5th full year of operations. Things went well with the initial move on December 8, 2019 and we hope to have our office up and running fully by Monday, January 6, 2020. Relocating to Northwest Wisconsin means we will closer to our new partner — the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad — as we look forward to doing many more educational programs aboard their Sky Parlour Car starting up again in the Spring. We will also be closer to the Twin Cities — where a lot of private rail equipment is housed (much more than Chicago!).  While two of our staff members will be relocating as a result… most of our crew and our Board will remain in the Chicago/Milwaukee areas… as they remain close to the South Shore Line program and our other endeavors. Simply put, this move will benefit the organization — and let us truly be the MIDWEST Rail Rangers — instead of just being mainly focused on just Chicago-based activities.
Finally, our whole Board and all of our Interpretive Guides (and hopefully you, too!) are looking forward to whatever 2020 will bring. We expect to continue to offer our on-board educational programs on the South Shore Line between Chicago, Illinois and South Bend, Indiana two to three times per month year-round throughout 2020. This has been one of our most popular features for the Midwest Rail Rangers over the past three years — and our contract with the South Shore extends into 2021 now. Starting in 2020, we will be partnering with the Indiana Dunes State Park to better educate our Guides — and promote our program dates. We’ll have more on this for you in one of our future E-Newsletters when more details are worked out — but this is something new and exciting to look forward to as we flip our calendars. The goal will be to have our programs on the South Shore be official state park interpretive programs and be on their online calendar. Meanwhile, our Board is already well into discussions with our private rail partners and the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago to provide you with fun and exciting trip destinations. Some of the trips being discussed include excursions to St. Louis, Michigan, Northwest Wisconsin, and much, much more. We understand that 2020 may be another difficult year for private railcar owners and excursion organizers as Amtrak’s restrictions on where cars can operate to continue… but we… and our partners are going to do whatever they can to continue to provide you with fun trips to ride along on — and we will work our hardest to bring you the fun and educational commentary you have grown to expect from us. Last but not least, this will be the first full year that the Wisconsin Great Northern will operate its Sky Parlour Car service — and we will soon be hammering out our schedule of dates our Guides will be at the railroad to share the car’s exciting and rich history. We hope you will make the trek up to Trego, Wisconsin in 2020 and attend one of the weekends the Rail Rangers will be helping out share more about these rare and historical lounge cars that once graced the Santa Fe’s El Capitan and Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.
If you have any questions or suggestions, we’re always here to listen to you!  Just drop us an e-mail at board@railrangers.org and we promise you a quick and prompt reply. Please keep checking our main website (www.RailRangers.org) in the months ahead as we begin to post confirmed trip dates. Updates will be sent via E-Newsletter, too.  You can also show your support for the Midwest Rail Rangers by purchasing our railroad route guide books, e-books, or podcasts to take along on your next personal railroad trip.  It’s almost like having someone narrate to you aboard the train! – they are that good. And your purchases help support our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and keep things rolling.  The Midwest Rail Rangers Store can be accessed 24-7 at www.MidwestRails.com!
We hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas, Holiday, and New Year!

Sincerely, Robert Tabern – MRR President