Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #47 – 8/01/22 – Track Work to Impact Upcoming Rail Rangers South Shore Programs

Monday, August 1, 2022

We hope everyone has been having a fun and memorable summer… but can it really be August already?

Our partners at the NICTD/South Shore Line have been working very hard over the past year  to improve their rail line between Chicago and South Bend. When this project is complete in 2024, there will be long stretches of double track, faster and more reliable service, and a much smoother ride. The Midwest Rail Rangers… along with many South Shore Line riders… are looking forward to the completion of this major construction project in a couple of years.

In order for all of the above benefits to become a reality though, there will have to be some temporary “growing pains”.

Since March 1, 2022, the South Shore Line has been bussing passengers between the Dune Park Station and the Michigan City – Carroll Avenue Station. This has resulted in the Midwest Rail Rangers temporarily scaling back our onboard education programs to operate only between Chicago – Millennium Station and Dune Park (roundtrip) this spring and early summer.

Under normal times, our Interpretive Guides on the South Shore Line “turn” much farther east at either Michigan City-Carroll Avenue or South Bend-Airport Station.

The South Shore Line reconstruction project will enter one of its most intense phases staring in about two weeks. On or about August 15, 2022, South Shore Line passengers will be bussed between Gary and Michigan City. The temporary closure of the rail line is expected to last through Spring 2023. As a result, most upcoming Midwest Rail Rangers onboard education programs on the South Shore Line will only operate from Chicago-Millennium Station to Gary-Metro Station.

Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern explains, “Sure… on the surface we are disappointed our onboard programs will only operate a short distance between Chicago and Gary this late summer, fall, and winter period. However, we have been partners with the South Shore for over five years now… and hope to continue the partnership for many years to come. Our eyes are on the long-term… improvements for passengers equal many improvements for our talks, too. We look forward to returning to present our regular longer programs to Dune Park, Michigan City, and South Bend when we can… but for the months ahead… we are appreciate of South Shore Line management letting us do programs through to Gary. It makes the most sense not to have Guides aboard buses on a regular basis.”

Neither the Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors, nor the management at NICTD, wanted to suspend onboard ]programs on the South Shore Line during the upcoming construction… especially since programs had to be put on hold for 15 months (March 2020 to July 2021) due to COVID-19.

Planned upcoming South Shore Line Midwest Rail Rangers programs from August 1 to December 31, 2022, are available at:

www.railrangers.org

(click on the “Upcoming Programs” tab)

Bob Neil, Midwest Rail Rangers VP adds, “Besides most South Shore onboard educational programs operating between only Chicago and Gary due to the bussing situation… passengers may notice some other changes in this year’s late summer, fall, and early winter schedule. Our Guides will return to doing occasional weekend programs. We brought back Saturday and Sunday dates at the request of our supporters who wanted both weekday and weekend options. We will also be experimenting by offering some onboard educational programs on later trains. Instead of always leaving Downtown Chicago at 8:40am/8:45am, we will be offering some departures in the late morning and even early afternoon now. We will so how popular this ends up being and factor that in to our 2023 schedules. As always, we do not do programs on ‘peak trains’ during the rush hour… as commuters are not our target audience.”

Due to the changes mentioned above, those who plan to join the Rail Rangers on the South Shore Line in the coming months are encouraged to verify dates and which trains that our Interpretive Guides will be on. Those coming out to experience our programs are also encouraged to re-check the website a few days before the trip to verify there have not been any additional changes. Sometimes last-minute changes to program dates could result due to unexpected changes in bussing and construction activities.

Flexibility will be key in the months ahead… but again…we look forward to a much improved railroad and expanded programs returning when possible.

Oh, and yes… an important “SAVE THE DATE”…  Join Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern and Midwest Rail Rangers Treasurer Kandace Tabern as they give an hour-long talk at the Indiana Dunes National Park.  The Taberns will speak at 7:00PM CDT on Saturday, September 10, 2022 at the IDNP Visitor Center (1215 N State Rd 49, Porter, IN 46304) about their recent experiences visiting all 423 units of the National Park Service and their volunteer work on the South Shore doing the Rail Rangers program. There is no cost and no RSVP is needed. We will have additional information on this in our September 2022 e-Newsletter, but hope you will consider adding this event to your busy summer calendar now.

Sincerely,

The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President

Bob Neil, Vice President

Kandace Tabern, Treasurer

Michael Pace, Secretary

Interpretive Guides:

Kathy Bruecker, Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski and Lowell Olberg

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #46 – 7/05/22 – Sundays in the Sky at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad

Monday, July 5, 2022 

So far this spring and summer, hundreds of passengers have already enjoyed programs presented by the Midwest Rail Rangers aboard the Sky Parlour Car at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wisconsin. 

Paid passengers who purchase tickets for the Wisconsin Great Northern’s Wine & Cheese Train ($50/per person) get to watch an exclusive nine minute movie about the history of the former Santa Fe Hi-Level Lounge Car / former Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car that was produced in cooperation with the Midwest Rail Rangers. It is shown in the lower level of the car, which was the former Kachina Coffee Shop. The Midwest Rail Rangers also have numerous historical photos and displays for passengers to enjoy aboard the upper level of the car. Also, history books about the car, written by the Midwest Rail Rangers, are for sale onboard and in the Wisconsin Great Northern gift shop for $20 each. 

Select trips may feature a Midwest Rail Rangers docent aboard, too. 

The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad has been partners with the Midwest Rail Rangers since Fall 2019.

“The sweeping views you get from several points on the train… along with the tasty wine and delicious artisan cheese… and just the fun laid-back small group atmosphere of the train really adds up to a special one-of-a-kind experience”, says Harold Silverstein, who recently make the five-hour drive from Chicago to take the Wisconsin Great Northern’s Wine and Cheese Train.

“The Wine and Cheese Train has something to offer for everyone”, explains Wisconsin Great Northern’s Director of Passenger Development. “We have a cross-section of passengers aboard each week. This includes local couples looking for something fun to do on a Sunday afternoon… and day trippers from the Twin Cities, Duluth, Eau Claire, and other areas. It is also becoming a popular must-do ‘girls’ weekend’ activity up here in the Northwoods.”

The Wine and Cheese Train car is unique, in that it has seating on two levels. The top features a double row of windows for outstanding sightseeing; the bottom serves as a rebuilt as a 20-seat movie theater on wheels.

This train car was even featured in several movies and television programs over the years.

Wisconsin Great Northern’s Wine and Cheese Train operates every Sunday at 11:00am and 2:00pm through October 30th. Tickets are $50 per person and are available at www.SpoonerTrainRide.com, or by calling (715) 635-3200. Advanced reservations are required and seating is limited. It is highly recommended that passengers book now for the anticipated busy ‘fall color trips’ ahead in September and October.

Sincerely,
The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President
Bob Neil, Vice President
Kandace Tabern, Treasurer
Michael Pace, Secretary
Interpretive Guides:
Kathy Bruecker, Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski and Lowell Olberg