Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #39 – 12/16/21 – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Midwest Rail Rangers

Thursday, December 16, 2021

It’s hard to believe… but Christmas is now just nine days away… and we will be rolling into 2022 in just over two weeks from now. With that… we dedicate this portion of our e-Newsletter to a quick “look back” at the year that was — 2021.

First, we want to thank you for your continued support of the Midwest Rail Rangers through the early part of COVID-19 pandemic. In the end, we were off trains for a period of nearly 16 months. This time last year you may recall we weren’t sure if we would even be back on at all in 2021. There were days we thought about throwing in the towel on our onboard Interpretive Programs… however we put in too much effort… and received too much encouragement and positive feedback from you, our passengers, to actually do something like that.

2021 will be remember by the Midwest Rail Rangers as the year we returned to doing our regularly scheduled programs on the South Shore; this happened on July 1, 2021. We have done multiple runs over the past six months between Chicago and Michigan City and South Bend. We are happy to report a lot more passengers riding with us thanks to the Indiana Dunes State Park promoting our programs on their website and through a poster at the Dune Park South Shore Line station. Starting this summer our onboard talks on the South Shore Line are an official interpretive program of the Indiana Dunes State Park. This is a win-win partnership for both the Rail Rangers and the State Park, as our guides receive extra training from the Indiana Dunes professional staff… while the state parks gets to count our volunteer hours in their totals. We look forward to working even closer with the Indiana Dunes SP in the year ahead… including attending additional training sessions and getting advice on enhancing our programs aboard the South Shore even more.

We also returned to doing private railcar programs in July 2021… which is what started up the Midwest Rail Rangers in the first place, circa July 2015. We performed multiple trips during the last week of July between St. Louis and Kansas City. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer private cars operating in the Midwest, but we will seek out and provide programs aboard when possible.

Our outreach events also continued in 2021. Three of our Interpretive Guides helped to work an “open house” event at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad for the Mark Twain Zephyr over Memorial Day weekend. Between 600 and 700 people showed up and toured the partially restored trainset. We look forward to having our Guides back up at the WGNRR in 2022, as it appears passenger operations is likely to resume (more on this in future e-Newsletters!).  We also had two Guides attend a train show in Green Bay this year for the first time. Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s Trainfest was cancelled for the second year in a row… but seems to possibly be returning next year. We are already signed up to attend train shows in Madison (February) and Green Bay (April) in 2022… so there will be plenty of time to catch us at various outreach events.

We also resumed our onboard educational programs with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago, who reserves space or charters various Amtrak equipment for short trips. In September, one of our Guides headed to Indiana and Michigan with the group. The following month, another one of our  Guides took an excursion to Springfield, Illinois. As many as five excursions are in the possible works for 2022 with the 20th Century Railroad Club. We will also have more details about this in future E-newsletters as their plans progress.

Our “Rail Rangers on the Road” virtual programs have also continued to grow this year. Through the entire year of 2021 we provided two virtual programs per month for people to enjoy. Starting in March 2022, we will be cutting our virtual programs back to one per month… in order for our Board and the hosts to focus more on our in-person programming. “Rail Rangers on the Road” programming will air the first Sunday night of every month at 7:00pm Central Time. You can also watch the programs “on demand” after they debut.

You can watch our 2021 Christmas Special on Sunday night (December 19th) at 7:00pm Central Time. We will take you to Owosso, Michigan for a ride on their Pere Marquette Parlour Cars (former Amtrak Pacific Parlour Cars) which will be pulled by the 1225 steam engine. This is part of their “North Pole Express” train.

Finally —- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to you, your family, and friends. We look forward to our adventures together in 2022.

(P.S. — Our offices will be closed between December 19, 2021 and January 4, 2022 in order to allow our Interpretive Guides to spend time with their families. There will be no programs offered during this period, e-mails and phone calls received will be returned in the New Year, as well as any book orders received.)