Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #27 – Mark Twain Zephyr Open House & More – October 15, 2020

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The Midwest Rail Rangers is excited to announce that — for the first time since March 2020 — one of our partners will be hosting an in-person event. The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wisconsin will be hosting an “Open House Event” for the Mark Twain Zephyr, which the railroad acquired earlier this year. The Mark Twain Zephyr was one of the most famous trains in the Midwest back in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s… operating along the scenic Mississippi River through part of Iowa and Missouri. Even though the last car arrived up at the WGNRR just before Labor Day, crews have made remarkable progress!  In fact, the train is probably already in its best shape in more than 50 years, after passing through the hands of several owners who neither had the time nor finances to complete its refurbishment. As we prepare this E-newsletter this morning, some of the final windows are being put in the Mark Twain Zephyr.

The Midwest Rail Rangers is proud to be a supporter of the Wisconsin Great Northern’s efforts. You may recall, that we became partners with the WGNRR in 2019, presenting a couple of “Open House” events on their Sky Parlour Car (former Santa Fe Hi-Level Lounge and Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car). These were a success, drawing crowds of between 200 and 300 people to see our displays on Amtrak and Santa Fe History.

Next year, we look forward to hosting additional history events on select weekends up at the Wisconsin Great Northern — both aboard the Sky Parlour — and on the Becky Thatcher Museum Car on the Mark Twain Zephyr.

Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 24, 2020 or Sunday, October 25, 2020 and stop by the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad between 10AM and 4PM CDT. Staff from the railroad will be on-hand both days to provide self-guided tours of the exterior and guided tours of some of the interiors of the cars that are being renovated. You will be amazed at the quick progress being made. Special photo opportunities will also be available with the original medallion from the Mark Twain Zephyr, which has not been on public display since 1962!  Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern and Vice President Robert Neil will be greeting passengers both days. Midwest Rail Rangers Educational Officer Kandace Tabern will also be helping to lead tours on Sunday.  The WGNRR gift shop will also be selling route guidebooks from the Midwest Rail Rangers on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

In other news… we have begun working with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to secure a two year extension in our partnership agreements, so that we can continue brining you onboard educational programs on the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana approximately two weekends per month, year-round. The Midwest Rail Rangers began doing our on-board educational programs on the South Shore Line back in August 2017. We have reached out to thousands of passengers over the past three years who have enjoyed the narration provided in one of the eight cars of the train on Saturdays or Sundays. While our programs currently remain suspended due to the Corona Virus, we look forward to having an agreement in place through Spring 2023, which means we will be ready to return to the rails when it is safe to give talks to medium-to-large sized groups again. We will keep you updated on the progress going on behind-the-scenes here.

Finally… we appreciate everyone who have enjoyed our “virtual programs” over the past couple of months. We did our first “virtual program” in June 2020… and have produced two of these every month since. In fact, our next virtual program, on Sunday, October 25, 2020, will mark our 10th virtual program!  The focus of the Midwest Rail Rangers will continue to be our in-person educational programs aboard trains… however while that remains not possible right now… we will continue to “virtual programs” so that we can remain connected… and so that you can enjoy fun rail destinations and topics from across the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin).  The plan at this point is to continue to produce two “virtual programs” every month through the course of 2021, as we transition back to in-person programming. Beyond that, in 2022, we will probably do one “virtual program” every couple of months, so we can re-focus on our in-person programming. Virtual programs take place at 7:00PM CT on select Sunday evenings. A complete schedule of programming through November 2021 and topics is posted on our website. Our next program on October 25th will be broadcast from Rochelle, Illinois at the famous railroad diamonds.  Our November 2020 “virtual programs” will focus on celebrating the Midwest Rail Rangers’ 5th Anniversary. Our November 8, 2020 program will be broadcast LIVE from our headquarters in Barron, Wisconsin… as we explain how the Midwest Rail Rangers was founded and what some of our favorite memories have been. Our November 22, 2020 program will be broadcast from La Plata, Missouri, which was our headquarters for our first few years. We will offer a special holiday program in late December about Christmas trains.


Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President

Bob Neil, Vice President

Dave Poole, Treasurer

Kathy Bruecker, Secretary

Kandace Tabern, Educational Officer