Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #26 — 2020 Season Update / Mark Twain Zephyr / Ocean View Dome — August 19, 2020

Untitled

We hope everyone is enjoying the summer season (as much as possible right now)… and are staying healthy and well during these difficult times. We greet you this morning with some important updates about the Midwest Rail Rangers — mainly where we are headed, both in the short-term and the long-term.

 First, we wanted to announce that the MRR Board of Directors has decided to suspend all of our onboard educational programs on the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend through at least the end of the year (December 31, 2020). We were really hoping that conditions would improve by the fall, but that is clearly not the case… and we do not want to encourage extra crowds to develop on the train during the pandemic to hear our in-person programs. We will re-evaluate conditions in early December and make a decision then about our what our early 2021 programming may look like. As a reminder, you can still ride the South Shore Line on your own (they’re back to a normal schedule) and learn about the route. The Midwest Rail Rangers had made our podcasts for the South Shore Line completely FREE during the time our docents are off the train. You can also purchase one of our hard copy route guidebooks… or one of our PDF e-Books. All of the above are available at the Midwest Rail Rangers On-Line Store. Head to our website (http://www.railrangers.org) and click on the “Rail Rangers Store” link.

The 20th Century Railroad Club’s Board has informed the Midwest Rail Rangers that all of their remaining trips for 2020 will also be cancelled. This includes the “Great Lakes and Trains Featuring the Grand Hotel” departure on October 3, 2020… and the “St. Louis, MO Adventure” departure on November 13, 2020… which we were planning to have some of our Interpretive Guides aboard for. We look forward to partnering with the 20th Century Railroad Club once again in 2021, for some exciting trips.

Now that we have all of the cancellation news out of the way… we are happy to report that the Midwest Rail Rangers isn’t going anywhere during the months ahead. While our in-person programs have come to a halt, we are happy to report that we are committed to producing TWO brand new episodes per month of our “virtual programs”. These take you to exciting rail destinations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. In fact, we now have enough topics and locations lined up to continue releasing TWO brand new episodes every month through at least August 2021. Hopefully well before then, we can begin a return to our in-person talks and programming and can cease the virtual visits. We do appreciate your support and the positive comments we have gotten about these shows… we sure hope you are enjoying them!  Some of the upcoming topics include:  Part 2 of 2 at the Wisconsin Great Northern Dinner Train Cars (August 23rd), Tour of the CB&Q Depot in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (September 13th), and Ride on the Laona, Wisconsin Steam Train (September 27th). A complete listing of “virtual program” topics and dates can be found on our website. Be sure to mark your calendars and join us on Sunday evenings this fall and winter — as we do the traveling for you.

We have some exciting news to share involving two of our rail partners, too!

In case you haven’t heard, the Midwest Rail Rangers will be extending our partnership with the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wisconsin. The WGNRR recently announced that it has purchased the historic Mark Twain Zephyr train set. Built in 1935 for the CB&Q, the train ran on a number of routes across the Midwest until 1958… but was primarily used on the Burlington, Iowa to St. Louis, Missouri scenic line along the Mississippi River. Back on August 1st, the engine of #9903 arrived at the WGNRR in Northwest Wisconsin; the other four cars will be following in the weeks ahead. The Midwest Rail Rangers will be helping the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad to raise funds for the “museum car”, which will be built aboard the “Becky Thatcher” (former baggage car). The Midwest Rail Rangers had used your donations to acquire a number of items already that will go on display — including an old lantern, an old watering can, a set of CB&Q violet pattern dishes, and much more. Monetary donations can be made by going to www.MarkTwainZephyr.com. Memorabilia relating to the CB&Q and Zephyrs is also welcome. E-mail board@railrangers.org to discuss your tax-deductible contributions. The WGNRR is hoping to have the trainset up and running by Late 2021. When that happens, the Midwest Rail Rangers looks forward to having our docents aboard on select runs to give tours of the “museum car” and to show movies in the on-board “theater car”. The museum will be really world class with your financial support and donations.

One of our other partners, PaxRail, announced yesterday that it has acquired Amtrak’s last remaining dome car “Ocean View”. Built for the Great Northern’s Empire Builder, “Ocean View” has been used on special excursions — mainly in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southern California — in recent years… as well as being used as a private business car for Amtrak executives. The car was deemed “too costly” to continue to maintain, and Amtrak put it up for sale in November 2019. In March 2020, Jim Evenson, with PaxRail, contacted us and gave us the news his company was the winning bidder. We agreed to keep things quiet until a press release was put out… but behind the scenes we were helping Jim develop the history section of PaxRail’s website about “Ocean View”. Of course, the Midwest Rail Rangers operates the history page about the car, which you can view at http://www.AmtrakDome.com. The Midwest Rail Rangers had partnered with PaxRail on numerous excursion in the past…and look forward to the invite to have our Interpretive Guides aboard “Ocean View” on select Midwest excursions the car will make, beginning in 2021.

In the end… yes, things look pretty bleak right now. It is not fun putting out e-Newsletters to announce more cancellations… when pretty much the whole year has been full of that… both with the Midwest Rail Rangers… and a lot of other things going on in our lives. However, things like being able to design a “museum car” at the Wisconsin Great Northern’s Mark Twain Zephyr… and having a beautiful full-length dome car to do our programs on… gives us hope. And it should give you hope, too.  We are fighting for survival right now, like many non-profit organizations, but we have made the commitment not to drop off the map during the pandemic. While our “virtual programs” are not as much fun as being with all of you,at least it does let us connect and be together (sort of) every couple of weeks.  And for that opportunity, we are very grateful.

          Sincerely,

          Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

          Robert Tabern, President

          Bob Neil, Vice President

          Dave Poole, Treasurer

          Kathy Bruecker, Secretary

          Kandace Tabern, Educational Officer