Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #15 — Midwest Rail Rangers Moving Headquarters to Barron, Wisconsin — November 4, 2019

Here is a look at some of the news items that we shared with subscribers of the Midwest Rail Rangers E-Newsletter on Monday, November 4, 2019:

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The MRR Headquarters is Moving

Sometimes the most exciting things in life are the unexpected… and that no doubt applied to the Midwest Rail Rangers in 2019… as we gained a major new partner that we were not expecting this time last year… the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad and their Sky Parlour. This new partnership is exciting… and will actually result in our headquarters city moving to Northwest Wisconsin in the coming weeks… so that our Interpretive Guides can have a bigger presence on the car and at the railroad in 2020. (Don’t worry, we will still continue with all of our Chicago-based on-board programs, too!)

Here’s the exciting details and how it all happened:

For a period of time… the Midwest Rail Rangers have maintained historical passenger train websites for people to browse through and enjoy —– such as LoungeCars.com, AmtrakDome.com, and PacificParlourCar.com… among others. One of the individuals who liked reading our websites was the owner of the family-operated Wisconsin Northern Railroad. So, when his organization (based in Trego, Wisconsin) ended up the successful bidder of a former Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car in April 2019… the Midwest Rail Rangers were among the first organizations contacted.

During this past spring and summer… the Midwest Rail Rangers and the Wisconsin Great Northern worked hand-in-hand to develop a fun program that could be presented to passengers on the former Pacific Parlour Car (now called a Sky Parlour Car) — whether people were riding or open houses were held on select weekends. Our first “open house” aboard the Sky Parlour took place on Saturday, October 5, 2019… and was a humungous success with more than 200 people showing up to take a tour through the car — looking at our exhibits of old Santa Fe and Amtrak memorabilia. Some people came from as far away as Eau Claire, the Twin Cities, and Chicago. We were simply in awe how many other people had special memories made aboard this car over the years.

After a successful “dry run” last month… we look forward to expanding and enhancing our partnership with the Wisconsin Great Northern beginning this spring. In addition to our talks two to three weekends per month on the South Shore — educational programs at the Wisconsin Great Northern on the Sky Parlour will be one of the two primary focuses in 2020 for the Midwest Rail Rangers. Expect to find Midwest Rail Rangers Guides at the WGNRR on select weekends between May and November 2020… with our schedule to be release in the coming months.

And… with that… our HQ move.

As the Wisconsin Great Northern’s Sky Parlour will become a significant point of focus for the Midwest Rail Rangers in the new year — our Board of Directors has decided to re-locate our official headquarters city — effective in a few weeks from now. We will be leaving Elm Grove, Wisconsin in the western suburbs of Milwaukee… and moving 300 miles northwest… to put down new stakes in Barron, Wisconsin — located along the historic Soo Line about 90 minutes east/northeast of the Twin Cities. (The town’s depot has even been renovated into a very nice coffee house!)

While our President will be relocating, too, you really won’t notice many changes to our programs. Most of our Interpretive Guides will be remaining down in the Chicagoland area… and yes… we will still be offering just as many programs on the South Shore as we did last year despite the move. We will also be working hard to have our guides be on board as many private rail excursions as possible in 2020. And the real win-win… is we will have a couple of our Interpretive Guides working just down the road from the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad too, now, to offer more regular programs to those of you who live in Northwest Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota.

The only real change you will notice is our mailing address.

If you need to send us “snail mail”… starting November 8th… please use P.O. Box 184 Barron, WI 54812.

To celebrate our headquarters move… we will have five of our Midwest Rail Rangers docents meeting and greeting passengers at the Wisconsin Great Northern on Saturday, December 7th. Meet us before, during, or after their 11AM and 2PM “Pizza with Santa” train rides (tickets are going fast!)

Our move to Barron, Wisconsin also allows us to have more office space as the Rail Rangers enters its 5th year of operations — and continues to grow our services. We are even hoping to have a small varea (open by May 2020) to greet visitors by appointment. More details on this in our Winter and Spring E-Newsletters ahead on how this is all going to work.

Got a Suggestion for a 2020 Private Rail Excursion?

As just about all of the leaves are now done falling from the trees… and the first snowfall of the year hit some parts of the Midwest on the last day of October… things will begin slowing down a bit for the Midwest Rail Rangers in the months ahead (with the exception of our move!) This isn’t really a bad thing though — as the fall and winter months are typically used as a “time out” to plan out all of the exciting trips for the upcoming year.

After memorable private rail car excursions this spring and summer with Keith White’s “Hollywood Beach”, Zephyr Route tours, and Blue Pine Rail — the Midwest Rail Rangers and our private car partners want to know where you want to go in 2020 in a vintage observation car from the 1950’s or 1960’s. If you have any trip ideas, drop us an e-mail soon at board@railrangers.org. Your feedback is very important in the planning process… and any creative (but practical!) ideas you have will be passed along to the appropriate private rail car owner(s). Trips this year have included such destinations as Chicago, St. Louis, Carbondale, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Lafayette (Indiana), Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities. We hope to offer some new choices in 2020. As you are likely aware… Amtrak has both raised the costs on private car owners to run their car, while also severely limiting destinations and when private cars can run on the back of trains. This has caused many private rail car owners to sell off their cars, permanently park their cars, and/or cut back on the number of excursions offered to the public. Sadly, the Midwest Rail Rangers has also been impacted — with a lot less onboard educational programs offered in 2019 aboard private cars compared to the years past. We expect this trend to continue into 2020… however… know our Board of Directors remain committed to having the private car component be at least part of our overall mission — and we look forward to working with any and all operators bringing private car excursions through the Midwest. The best way to find out about upcoming private railcar trips with Midwest Rail Rangers volunteers aboard is to remain on our e-newsletter list. We hope to begin announcing some new private car trips around February or March 2020… however a lot depends on our private car partners who are responsible for organizing the trips.

Do You Also Have A Suggestion for a 20th Century Railroad Club Trip for 2020? We’re All Ears!

The Midwest Rail Rangers also had another exciting season partnering with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago on their Amtrak coach train/motorcoach charters.The 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago has been the premiere railroad club of Chicago to be a member of since 1971… and we are very proud to have our Interpretive Guides provide narration and the route guides for most of their shorter two and three day trips. In fact, two of our guides were aboard just last weekend with the 20th Century Railroad Club — heading down to Carbondale on the Saluki for a two-day motorcoach tour of the Illinois Ozarks… with stops at a local winery, Shawnee National Forest, and Superman’s hometown of Metropolis. Other trips done earlier this year with the 20th Century included Green Bay, Milwaukee, Detroit, Galesburg, Quincy, and Hannibal. If you have any 2020 trip ideas to pass along to the 20th Century Railroad Club, you can also drop us an e-mail at board@railrangers.org. A few longer week-long trips for 2020 are already posted on the 20th Century’s website. We plan to meet with club officials in the coming weeks and months to hammer out our 2020 trip schedule with them. Stay tuned for some really good stuff! We expect some 20th Century/Rail Rangers partner trips to be announced around February or March 2020… if not sooner!

South Shore Line Programs Continue Over Winter

As we enter “planning mode” with less trips during the winter months ahead — remember our onboard educational trips on the South Shore Line between Downtown Chicago and South Bend, Indiana never have an “off-season”; they operate year-round. We feel this is important because the beautiful scenery of Illinois and Indiana — especially the Indiana Dunes State Park area — is someone that should be enjoyed every month out of the year. Upcoming program dates include November 17, November 30, December 14, December 15, and December 29. We hope to release our January 1-April 30, 2020 schedule around the end of November or beginning of December. We very much appreciate our ongoing partnership with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) and look forward to our third year together in 2020 bringing you onboard educational programs on America’s last interurban railroad. There are some exciting additions coming to our program too in 2020. We can’t release the details quite yet —- but know you will definitely want to plan a trip with the Midwest Rail Rangers on the South Shore come Spring 2020 to learn even more about what’s out your window. Details will be coming soon in the next E-Newsletter.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #14: Midwest Rail Rangers Host Parlour Car “Open House” at Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad – October 5, 2019

Well, we have been teasing some big news going on with the Midwest Rail Rangers the past couple of days on our Facebook and Twitter pages… and here is the scoop (but first, a little history!)…

It was 63 years ago this summer that the Santa Fe rolled out its then-brand new fleet of Hi-Level equipment on the famed El Capitan train between Chicago and Los Angeles. Included were six Hi-Level lounge cars that featured panoramic seating on the upper level and the Kachina Coffee Shop on the lower level. These cars would go on to out-live passenger service on the Santa Fe… and on May 1, 1971… were sold off to Amtrak. They continued to be used on the combined El Capitan and Super Chief (and later Southwest Limited). The Hi-Level lounges were so sturdy, reliable, and beloved that they served as the inspiration for Amtrak’s Superliner Sightseer Lounge Cars that began to roll off the assembly line in the early 1980’s… and are still in use on many long-distance trains today. Five of the six former Santa Fe Hi-Level lounges got a second life in 1995, when Amtrak executive Brian Rosenwald came up with a plan to refurbish them and use them as first class lounge car on the Coast Starlight. For the next 23 years, these beautiful cars would be used as a diner/lounge knows as the Pacific Parlour Car. Perhaps you had the chance to ride them through California, Oregon, or Washington State?

Times are no doubt changing at Amtrak… and by February 2018… the company’s new CEO Richard Anderson made the decision to pull all five of the Pacific Parlour Cars out of regular service and sell them off to private individuals through an auction process. One of the successful bidders was the Vreeland Family, who owns and operates the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad outside of Spooner/Trego, Wisconsin (in Washburn County). Yes, through the Vreeland’s hard work and dedication — a former Pacific Parlour Car would be coming here to the Midwest to be preserved! Ex-Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car “Napa Valley” #39972 arrived at the Wisconsin Great Northern on July 11, 2019… and has been used this summer and fall for Sunday wine and cheese trains… re-named as Sky Parlour Car “Namekagon View” (named for a local river that the train passes by).

In fact, the Wisconsin Great Northern is currently THE ONLY place in the entire country that is offering regularly scheduled rides on a former Santa Fe Hi-Level / Pacific Parlour Car. Given how special and rare this car is… the Midwest Rail Rangers has agreed to partner with the Wisconsin Great Northern for a special event on Saturday, October 5th to help promote the history of the car… and for people to come out and experience why this private car is so special.

Midwest Rail Rangers Educational Officer Kandace Tabern explains, “Over the past four years now, the two major goals of our non-profit 501(c)(3) organization has been to promote the history of the South Shore Line… where we do regular on-board educational programs on… and then, of course, presenting programs on private railcars all across the Upper Midwest. When we first started up the Rail Rangers in 2015, our team of guides would present between 10 and 15 programs a year on private railcar trips that were run on the back of Amtrak trains. But, because of Amtrak’s new restrictions on private cars and the huge increase in costs for these kind of trips — the number of traditional private car trips has dropped off by around 60 to 70 percent a year that pass through the area. So, our Board has decided we need to look at alternate methods of education on private railcars. We will still do traditional private car trips whenever we can. But this will also mean teaming with organizations such as the Wisconsin Great Northern, who owns some very beautiful private cars. They might not run 79mph on the back of an Amtrak train… but it’s very important people come up and support the organizations like the Wisconsin Great Northern —- who have bought these cars and are preserving them. So we are here today to announce a new test partnership where our Interpretive Guides will be aboard the car.”

So, come out and join the Midwest Rail Rangers on Saturday, October 5, 2019 at the Wisconsin Great Northern. Between 10:00am and 4:00pm, a FREE “Open House” will be held at the railroad’s depot in Trego, Wisconsin… located about 2 hours from the Twin Cities… 5 hours from Milwaukee… and 6.5 hours from Chicago. But yes, it’s worth the drive up! Remember this is the only place in the country you can currently experience one of these special cars. Come and meet with Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern, Educational Officer Kandace Tabern, and Interpretive Guide Bruce Stahl. Besides a tour of the car — there will be over two dozen pieces of historic memorabilia on display from the Rail Rangers collection. A movie about the history of the car will also be shown… and a special new 52 page book about the history of the car will also make its debut (books will be available for purchase in the gift shop — then bring them out to the car to be autographed).

And while you’re there on Saturday, October 5, 2019 for the Sky Parlour Open House — why not go for a ride? Tickets are still available for the 12:00n pizza train plus the 2:00p and 3:00p sightseeing trips. And while the Sky Parlour will be stationary for the Open House… you can come out the following day (Sunday, October 6, 2019) for a ride on the 11:00am wine and cheese train.

For tickets, just head to www.SpoonerTrainRide.com or call Wisconsin Great Northern.

Midwest Rail Rangers President says, “Partnering with the Wisconsin Great Northern to promote their luxurious private railcar that has so much history on both the Santa Fe and Amtrak fits in so well with the Midwest Rail Rangers’ mission. We look forward to the event and hope a lot of people come out to experience the special displays, including a new book and movie that we will be working hard to finish up production on in the next couple of weeks”.

If this event is deemed a success, the Midwest Rail Rangers is hoping to offer multiple days in 2020 that its Interpretive Guides will have a presence on the Sky Parlour at the Wisconsin Great Northern. Stay tuned for more details on that in the months ahead…

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #13: Last Call for September Private Rail Excursions; Midwest Rail Rangers Visits the WGN

 

This is going to be your “LAST CALL” to come out an ride with the Midwest Rail Rangers between Chicago, Galesburg, and Kansas City in a few weeks aboard historic lounge car “Hollywood Beach” — with just a handful of discounted day trip tickets remain available.

Here is what is available:

Sunday, September 15 (Chicago to Kansas City, MO): “Hollywood Beach” will operate on the rear of Train #3, departing Chicago at 2:50pm and arriving in Kansas City at 10:00pm. Enjoy an on-board educational program provided by Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides Robert Tabern, Kandace Tabern, and Dave Poole from Chicago to Galesburg, Illinois. The trio will provide free route maps and tell you interesting stories about the people, places, and history seen along the route — including about the infamous Cherry Hill Coal Mine, whose slag hill you can see from the train. $299/per person for the one-way ride — includes train ride from Chicago to Kansas City, snacks, and meal.

(NOTE: You can return home on Monday morning from Kansas City by flying or riding Amtrak’s regularly schedule Southwest Chief train). Hotel in KC at your own cost.

Saturday, September 21 (Kansas City to Chicago): “Hollywood Beach” will operate on the rear of Train #4, departing Kansas City at 7:28am and arriving in Chicago at 2:50pm. Enjoy an on-board educational program provided by Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides Robert Tabern and Kandace Tabern the entire way from Kansas City to Chicago. The duo will provide free route maps and tell you interesting stories about the people, places, and history seen along the route — including the scenic and historic crossings of the Des Moines River and Mississippi River. $299/per person for the one-way ride — includes train ride from Kansas City to Chicago, snacks, and meals.

(NOTE: You can head out from Chicago to Kansas City on Friday by flying, or taking Amtrak’s regularly scheduled Southwest Chief train. Hotel on Friday night in KC at your own expense).

To book, please contact Keith White, owner of “Hollywood Beach”. To get these special rates, you must mention “Midwest Rail Rangers” at the time of making your reservation. You can e-mail Keith at onecniccat@prodigy.net OR call him at (708) 446-1269.

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This is also going to be your “NEXT TO THE LAST CALL” to purchase tickets to ride with the Midwest Rail Rangers’ special fall colors excursion — presented in partnership with Zephyr Route Tours.

Friday, October 4, 2019 (Chicago or Milwaukee to St. Paul) &

Sunday, October 6, 2019 (St. Paul to Milwaukee or Chicago):

Looking for something special to do this year to see the fall colors? Then come out and ride with the Midwest Rail Rangers and Zephyr Roue Tours through parts of Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, and along the Mississippi River in Southeast Minnesota. Instead of fighting traffic and other leaf-peepers, sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery aboard full-length dome car “Prairie View”… a former Great Northern “Great Dome”.

This trip will depart Chicago, Glenview, and Milwaukee in the afternoon of Friday, October 4, 2019… with narration provided between Chicago and around the Wisconsin Dells by the Midwest Rail Rangers. Enjoy a dinner prepared freshly aboard the train and drinks… before arriving in the late afternoon in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Enjoy the Twin Cities “on your own” on Saturday, October 5, 2019… or partake in a half-day bus tour of the area arranged by Zephyr Route (extra cost applies).

We return to Milwaukee, Glenview, and Chicago mid-afternoon on Sunday, October 6, 2019. The real highlight will be riding along the Mississippi River between St. Paul and La Crescent. Often times, eagles and black pelicans are seen here flying along with the train. Enjoy narration from the Midwest Rail Rangers. Enjoy breakfast and lunch prepared freshly aboard the train.

This is part of a weekend package deal that includes an 800+ ride in a historic dome car through three states… two nights hotels… three meals… all transfers… and free narration and route guide sheets provided by the Midwest Rail Rangers. $949 per person based on double occupancy. For more information or to reserve your space, please contact Zephyr Route Tours directly at zephyr360@att.net or (630) 542-3607.

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Did you know that the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, a tourist and freight railroad located between Spooner and Trego, Wisconsin, is now the only place in the country you can ride on a former Santa Fe Hi-Level lounge car (and ex-Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car) on a regularly scheduled basis?
After Amtrak made the decision to sell off their first class Pacific Parlour Cars in 2018… Greg and Mardell Vreeland, owners of the Wisconsin Great Northern, decided to put in their bid for one of these historic cars. They found out they were a winner… with #39972 arriving at its new home on July 11, 2019. Pacific Parlour Car “Napa Valley” has been re-branded as Sky Parlour “Namekagon View”. It will be running two times every Sunday (through at least the end of October) as a cheese and wine train. Be sure to head up there sometime in the next couple of weeks and buy a ticket for this special experience. Not only will you get to ride on a former Pacific Parlour Car in the Midwest — you will get to sample local wines and cheeses.

WGN’s website: www.SpoonerTrainRide.com

Tickets are a very reasonable $50 per person and include a train ride in the Sky Parlour Car, wine, cheese, and fruit.

Robert & Kandace Tabern, two members of the Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors, got to visit on August 11st, and report back the Wisconsin Great Northern is truly a “first class operation”… and will be an excellent home for this beautiful car.

The Midwest Rail Rangers are currently in negotiations with the owners of the Wisconsin Great Northern to have a role in helping to share the car’s history with passengers in the future. Some ideas thrown around have been producing a short film to show to passengers… and a book that can serve as a fundraiser for the car. We are even hoping to have some of our Interpretive Guides aboard the car on select weekends to talk with passengers and show off historical timetables, advertisements, and other items involving Santa Fe Hi-Level cars.

STAY TUNED for more information on this once we reach an agreement with WGNRR!

Once dates and more specifics are confirmed, we will post them here.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #12: Day Riders Wanted for Private Car Excursion – Confirmed Trips to K.C., St. Louis & Chicago!

Thanks to your support, all of our September 2019 private rail excursions aboard private railcar “Hollywood Beach” are now a confirmed “go”. We have a very limited number of DISCOUNTED day ride seats available for trips through Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.

Thanks to your continued support — we found out this weekend that enough tickets have been sold to make all of the September 2019 private car excursions with our private rail partner, “Hollywood Beach” — a confirmed go now. This includes narrated trips with us to Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, and other intermediate points.

However, only a handful of deep-discounted day ride tickets still available to those on exclusively on the Midwest Rail Rangers E-Newsletter list.

As a favor to us and you… Keith White, the owner of “Hollywood Beach” will continue to offer these lower priced tickets for the next couple of weeks, but please act very fast. We expect the small batch of tickets being held for Rail Rangers supporters (that’s you!) to sell out very quickly… possibly in the next few days. With increased costs and restrictions implemented by Amtrak, there are very few private rail excursions being out of Chicago this fall, too, so now is the time to book for sure if you want to go on these routes with us.

Here is an overview of your options to ride and the deep discounted prices being offered to those on the Midwest Rail Rangers E-Newsletter list:

Saturday, September 14 (St. Louis to Chicago):  “Hollywood Beach” will operate on the rear of Train #304, departing St. Louis at 3:00pm and arriving in Chicago at 8:40pm. This is a “dead head move” to get the car up to Chicago, but a limited number of lounge seats are available to the public. While this particular trip will NOT feature any on-board educational programs from the Midwest Rail Rangers, our special negotiated pricing will still apply for those who still want to go along for the ride.  $249/per person for the one-way ride — includes train ride from St. Louis to Chicago, snacks, and meal.

(NOTE: You can ride Amtrak Train #301 on Saturday morning from Chicago to St. Louis… and easily have enough time to connect with this private car trip back north).

Sunday, September 15 (Chicago to Kansas City, MO):  “Hollywood Beach” will operate on the rear of Train #3, departing Chicago at 2:50pm and arriving in Kansas City at 10:00pm. Enjoy an on-board educational program provided by Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides Robert Tabern, Kandace Tabern, and Dave Poole from Chicago to Galesburg, Illinois. The trio will provide free route maps and tell you interesting stories about the people, places, and history seen along the route — including about the infamous Cherry Hill Coal Mine, whose slag hill you can see from the train. $299/per person for the one-way ride — includes train ride from Chicago to Kansas City, snacks, and meal.

(NOTE: You can return home on Monday morning from Kansas City by flying or riding Amtrak’s regularly schedule Southwest Chief train).  Hotel in KC at your own cost.

Saturday, September 21 (Kansas City to Chicago):  “Hollywood Beach” will operate on the rear of Train #4, departing Kansas City at 7:28am and arriving in Chicago at 2:50pm. Enjoy an on-board educational program provided by Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides Robert Tabern and Kandace Tabern the entire way from Kansas City to Chicago. The duo will provide free route maps and tell you interesting stories about the people, places, and history seen along the route — including the scenic and historic crossings of the Des Moines River and Mississippi River. $299/per person for the one-way ride — includes train ride from Kansas City to Chicago, snacks, and meals.

(NOTE: You can head out from Chicago to Kansas City on Friday by flying, or taking Amtrak’s regularly scheduled Southwest Chief train. Hotel on Friday night in KC at your own expense).

Sunday, September 22 (Chicago to St. Louis, MO):  “Hollywood Beach” will operate on the rear of Train #303, departing Chicago at 9:25am and arriving in St. Louis at 3:00pm. Enjoy an on-board educational program provided by Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides Bob Neil and Bruce Stahl the entire way from Chicago to St. Louis. The duo will provide free route maps and tell you interesting stories about the people, places, and history seen along the route — including themes such as the I&M Canal, Abraham Lincoln, Route 66, and the Gateway Arch. $249/per person for the one-way ride — includes train ride from Chicago to St. Louis, snacks, and meal.

(NOTE: You can ride Amtrak Train #306 back northbound from St. Louis to Chicago on Sunday night to return home the same-day, if you so choose).

To book, please contact Keith White, owner of “Hollywood Beach”. To get these special rates, you must mention “Midwest Rail Rangers” at the time of making your reservation.  You can e-mail Keith at onecniccat@prodigy.net OR call him at (708) 446-1269.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #11: A Busy Summer for the Midwest Rail Rangers

Join us on the South Shore… historic private rail trips to St. Louis, Kansas City, and the Twin Cities… or Amtrak charter trips to Detroit, Milwaukee, and Carbondale!

It has definitely been a busy summer so far for the Midwest Rail Rangers — but the best is yet to come with plenty of trips on our schedule.

Before we get into that… we want to take a quick minute and thank all of you who we met in the past couple of weeks… including at Galesburg Railroad Days the weekend of June 22-23. Plus, we also are welcoming a new private car partner to our roster. We were contacted by Blue Pine Rail… who organized a private rail excursion on the last run of the Hoosier State on Sunday, June 30th. We were asked to narrate between Lafayette, Indiana and Chicago on this previously sold out excursion that involved two historic Pennsylvania Railroad cars. We hope to partner with Blue Pine Rail in the future and make their trips available to those of you on our Roundhouse E-Newsletter List.

Even though the July 4th Holiday weekend has come and gone… we still have a lot in store for you this summer and fall.  Here is a quick update —–

South Shore Line:

Our on-board educational programs continue on the South Shore Line!  We are taking a break for a couple of the upcoming weekends due to Taste of Chicago and other major events going on in the city that will result in sold out trains.  But, don’t worry… we will be back on-board with a Rail Rangers “Doubleheader Weekend”.  Docents will be aboard on both Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28.  Additional dates in August are posted. In the next week or so, we will also post our remaining dates through December 2019… plan ahead and come out and ride with us and experience the fall foliage of the Indiana Dunes.

Amtrak Charters with the 20th Century Railroad Club:

If you are looking to catch the Midwest Rail Rangers aboard Amtrak, look no further than our charters organized by the 20th Century Railroad Club. Tickets are still available for upcoming excursions to Michigan (July 19-21),  Milwaukee and on to Green Bay via motorcoach (August 17), and of course our “signature” trip of the year — a two-day weekend excursion down to Carbondale on October 26-27. This excursion to Southern Illinois was designed by both the Midwest Rail Rangers AND the 20th Century RR Club. We will see the best of the southern part of the state via rail and motorcoach. Included are narration on the train and bus — plus an organized walk with a U.S. Forest Service Ranger and free time in Superman’s Hometown of Metropolis.  We and the 20th Century Railroad Club are looking for ideas for 2020 Amtrak Charter Trip ideas!

Private Rail Excursions:

Of course, our most popular trips that we offer involved private rail cars —- many of you have had the chance to ride with us aboard historic 1940’s, 1950’s, or 1960’s railcars. We partner 7 different private car owners and excursion organizers to bring you fun and entertaining on-board educational programs aboard excursions.  Our private rail excursion we hope you join us on will be aboard “Hollywood Beach”.  Sleeping car space and day trip space are available for this special trip that will be operating in September. Rail Rangers guides will be aboard between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois on Sunday, September 15… between Kansas City and Chicago on Saturday, September 21 (NEW TRIP ADDED!!!)… and Chicago and St. Louis on Sunday, September 22.  This excursion will only run if enough seats are sold — especially two remaining sleeping car compartments. We would love to ride the rails and bring you fun stories once again aboard “Hollywood Beach”… one of the most beautiful single-level railcars out there.  A handful of tickets are also available for a special full-length dome car excursion that the Midwest Rail Rangers will be doing on the weekend of October 4-6, 2019 in partnership with Zephyr Route.  Zephyr Route was one of the Midwest Rail Rangers’ charter partners in 2015 and has offer an array of fun excursions over the year.  This “fall colors” trip will be no different — as we head up and down along the Mississippi River.  This is a fun and relaxing trip with a full day to relax in Minneapolis-St. Paul between excursions.

No matter if it’s on the South Shore, an Amtrak charter, or a private rail excursion… we hope that you can make Rail Rangers part of your summer plans this year!

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #10: New Private Car Trips Added for “Hollywood Beach” Private Car in September

First, we would like to thank everyone who joined our “Roundhouse E-Newsletter List” during this weekend’s private car rides on the “Hollywood Beach” to Carbondale (Saturday) and/or St. Louis (Sunday). We hope everyone had a good time and enjoyed our commentary about all of the interesting landmarks along the route. We are glad to have you added to “The Roundhouse”. Whenever we get word one of our partners will be having a newly announced private rail excursion — we sent out a notice — much like this one so that you can be among the first people to get tickets. Don’t be left at the gate! We have had trips that sold out in just a matter of hours of going on sale. And don’t worry, we will NEVER sell, trade, or spam you. “The Roundhouse” is sent out by our Board of Directors one to three times a month to keep you updated on upcoming trips and our upcoming coach charters and other outreach events.

For the rest of you… Have you ever wonder what it would have been like to travel like a true ‘rail baron’ of the 1940’s or 1950’s? Well, now you have the rare opportunity to do just that — and in your own backyard — thanks to an upcoming series of excursions aboard a historic rail car sponsored by the Midwest Rail Rangers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization.

The Midwest Rail Rangers will be partnering with the owner of “Hollywood Beach”, a historic 1956 railroad passenger car, to give riders three rare opportunities of seeing what First Class travel was all about during the “Golden Age” of railroading. For those who remember this time period… a ride on the “Hollywood Beach” private car will no doubt bring back many memories of riding in the lap of luxury. For those who were perhaps maybe too young to experience this on a regular rail line… you also are definitely still invited aboard to see how much more comfortable and refined rail travel was “back in the day”. The large picture windows and overhead curved glass windows of the car make “Hollywood Beach” one of the most panoramic single level cars ever constructed. It’s perfect for enjoying the picturesque Illinois countryside in the late summer and early fall seasons.

The first excursion being offered takes place between Chicago and Kansas City on Sunday, September 15th via Naperville, Mendota, Princeton, Galesburg, Fort Madison (Iowa), and La Plata (Missouri). The train departs Chicago Union Station at 3:00pm and arrives in Kansas City around 10:00pm. Interpretive Guides from the Midwest Rail Rangers will be aboard for most of the journey providing interesting stories about the trackside towns the train is passing through. For example, did you know one of the deadliest coal mining disasters in American history took place near the train line at Cherry, Illinois? Plus… just how muddy is the Mississippi River? And where can you still see remnants of an original 1926 highway tucked away in a farmer’s field? All of those questions and more will be answered during the Midwest Rail Rangers’ fun and educational narration program for passengers. There will plenty of time for Q&A, too! Travelers will also enjoy meal and drink service for the duration of their 450-mile-long ride.

“Hollywood Beach” will also operate an eastbound private rail trip between Kansas City and Chicago on Saturday, September 21st… however no narration will be provided on this date. This trip departs Kansas City Union Station around 7:30am and is scheduled to arrive into Chicago Union Station around 3:30pm.

The final excursion available to passengers this season will take place on Sunday, September 22nd, when “Hollywood Beach” operates between Chicago and St. Louis (via Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, and Alton). Passengers will depart Chicago Union Station at 9:25am and arrive into St. Louis Gateway Station at 3:00pm. Interpretive Guides from the Midwest Rail Rangers will also be aboard this trip to share stories about the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal, Route 66, Illinois’ Coal Country, and Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. This unforgettable 284-mile-long journey will also feature meal service and beverages as part of the tour package being offered.

“Hollywood Beach” was one of just three Sun Lounge cars built in 1956 for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. It was constructed with five double bedroom sleeping car rooms and a lounge for the exclusive use of First Class passengers aboard the railroad’s flagship “Silver Meteor” train, which operated between New York City and Miami. This was a popular train route taken by many celebrities and other rich socialites of the time looking to escape to the beaches and warmth of the Sunshine State. Even though it was designed to operate strictly on the east coast, “Hollywood Beach” definitely had a Midwest connection – as it was built by the Pullman-Standard Company, which got its start on the south side of Chicago. The car was later re-named “Sun Ray” and saw service with the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. After operating on various Amtrak into the 1980’s, the car was sold off and has been owned by various private individuals. Keith White, the current owner, has spent a lot of time and energy to restore “Hollywood Beach” to its former beauty and is looking forward to welcoming you aboard — along with the Midwest Rail Rangers who provide the educational component of the trips.

Tickets for all three excursions mentioned above are currently on-sale, with limited space left on each trip. Both the Chicago-Kansas City excursion on September 15th and the Kansas City-Chicago excursion on Saturday, September 21st are $299 per-person one-way. The Chicago-St. Louis excursion on Sunday, September 22nd is $249 per-person one-way. This is a very special experience and we expect tickets to sell very fast. For more information, or to make your reservation, please contact Keith White at (708) 446-1269 or e-mail onecniccat@prodigy.net – please mention the Midwest Rail Rangers to get the discounted prices offered in this article.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #9: Our First Private Car Trip of 2019 This Weekend; Additional Private Car Dates to be Announced Monday!

Check that beautiful photo of “Hollywood Beach” out!  Our private car ride this weekend is attached to Amtrak and ready to rock this weekend… this photo is just an hour or so old from the yards in St. Louis where the car will be “dead-heading” up from this afternoon!

We are happy to report that this upcoming weekend the Midwest Rail Rangers will be participating in our first private rail excursion of 2019 with our new partner — Keith White, owner of “Hollywood Beach”. This beautiful car, built in 1956, was once part of the Seaboard Air Line’s New York to Florida Service. It was later owned by the Seaboard Coast Line and Amtrak. This weekend’s excursions between Chicago and Southern Illinois did sell out very quickly… however, if some of you have free time and will be out and about with your camera this weekend… we would certainly appreciate your photos of the car in service.

The first of three excursions departs Chicago on Amtrak Train #391 on Saturday (June 7) at 8:15am and heads south into Carbondale, Illinois at 1:45pm.

Meanwhile, the northbound trip on this line will operate the same afternoon (Saturday, June 7) on Amtrak Train #392; departing Carbondale just after 4:00pm and arriving into Chicago just before 10:00pm.

Stops to photograph the car on the first two trips mentioned above include Homewood, Kankakee, Gilman, Rantoul, Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia, and DuQuoin.

The following day (Sunday, June 8) “Hollywood Beach” will be on Amtrak Train #303, doing a one-way positioning move from Chicago to St. Louis.  The train departs Chicago at 9:25am and arrives into St. Louis at 3:00pm. Intermediate station stops will be in Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, and Alton. Please e-mail your photographs to the Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors at board@railrangers.org.

If you didn’t get your chance to book tickets on “Hollywood Beach” for this weekend’s trips – stay tuned!  An announcement of additional trips will be coming out via a special Rail Rangers Roundhouse E-Newsletter on Tuesday morning (June 11th).  Please check your e-mail inbox for dates, details, and prices!  Just like this trip —- a limited number of seats will be made available and expect whatever inventory there is to sell out in a manner of weeks.  Remember, those one our E-Newsletter list get first crack at tickets. We will not post anything publically for a few days after the notice of the new trip dates go out to you. Encourage your friends who may be interested to sign up for the E-Newsletter through our website… www.railrangers.org.

A limited number of tickets are also available for our other planned private rail excursion —- this takes place October 4-6, 2019  between Chicago and the Twin Cities and is presented in partnership with Zephyr Route Tours and features a full dome car.  Please contact Mike Abernethy at zephyr360@att.net or (360) 542-3607 for details on this “fall colors” trip through Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #8: Limited Number of Seats Left on Private Car Trip: June 9, 2019 — Chicago to St. Louis for just $149!

The Midwest Rail Rangers are eagerly counting down to our first private rail car excursion of 2019 — and if you have not gotten your tickets yet — there are just a few seats left for you!  This week will be your absolute last chance to get a very deep discounted ticket for a ride with us aboard private car “Hollywood Beach” on Sunday, June 9, 2019 (that is coming up in just three weeks from today!).

Tickets for “Roundhouse E-Newsletter” subscribers and supporters of the Midwest Rail Rangers are just $149 for the one-way between Chicago and St. Louis (or Alton, IL).

MRR Executive Director Robert Tabern says, “$149 is an amazing deal for an almost 300 mile ride on a private car that is as beautiful and as historic as ‘Hollywood Beach’ is. We have never seen such a good deal and appreciate the owner of the car offering our supporters such a special discounted price to celebrate our new partnership together.”

The Midwest Rail Rangers and the owner of ‘Hollywood Beach’ initially partnered together to offer a round-trip excursion between Chicago and Carbondale, IL on Saturday, June 8, 2019. That trip sold out in such a quick fashion — that an additional trip was added between Chicago and St. Louis (one-way) the following day on Sunday, June 9, 2019. And now… there are just a few tickets left to see before this trip also becomes sold out, too.  So please consider calling this weekend to claim your spot for these special trips.

The excursion that is set to take place on Sunday, June 9, 2019 will depart Chicago at 9:25am CDT and make intermediate station stops in Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton, and arrive into St. Louis at 3:00pm CDT.

Rail Rangers Educational Coordinator Kandace Tabern explains, “Even though this is a ONE-WAY trip on the private car… there are a lot of easy options people can take back to Chicago… even if they have to be at work the next Monday morning. A group of passengers who already booked with the Rail Rangers are jumping off at Alton, IL — which is an option — and will be catching Amtrak #304 back to Chicago… and that gets you home before 9pm.  You can ride down to St. Louis and wait for Amtrak #306 which is a later option back to Chicago. Some passengers will also be flying home after arriving in St. Louis as there are several flight options back to Chicago-Midway and Chicago-O’Hare. In fact, we will be guiding those who want to follow us to the airport after the excursion if they are unfamiliar with St. Louis’ MetroLink Rail System. Don’t let having to go to work on Monday or the unfamiliarity with St. Louis deter you from this special trip”.

Tickets for the June 9th trip from Chicago to St. Louis  are available by contacting Mr. Keith White at (708) 446-1269.  You can also e-mail Mr. White at onecniccat@prodigy.net.

Additional private car trips are planned too later this year with the Midwest Rail Rangers.

We are firming up plans with the owner of ‘Hollywood Beach’ for day-trips from St. Louis to Chicago and from Chicago to Kansas City on the weekend of September 15th —- and also a day-trip from Chicago to St. Louis the weekend of September 22nd. When pricing and other details are finalized… you will be among the first to know.

We also have some tickets available for the “Fall Colors” Excursion that we are partnering with Zephyr Route Tours on. This trip departs Chicago on Friday, October 4th and operates from Chicago to St. Paul, MN.  You will have all day to explore the Twin Cities on Saturday, October 5th.  The trip in a full-length dome car returns from St. Paul to Chicago on Sunday, October 6th.  Get your tickets NOW before people begin to think about fall colors — and then it will be too late.  This trip has SOLD OUT every year for the past 5 years now.  So, get your tickets now.

Tickets for the Fall Colors Trip between Chicago at St. Paul for October are available by contacting Mr. Mike Abernethy at zephyr360@att.net or call (630) 542-3607 between 10am CT and 9pm CT, please.

We are glad that we and our partners can bring you atleast some private car trips this year —- as we mentioned in our last e-newsletter, times remain tough for private railcar owners who have many limitations and higher fees placed on them by Amtrak.

We will bring you as many private car excursions as possible… but our focus will also remain on our South Shore Line trips that operate 2-3 weekends per month year-round… and the Amtrak charter trips that we also narrate on in partnership with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago.

 

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #7: New Private Rail Excursions Announced with Lounge Car “Hollywood Beach” including Chicago & St. Louis – June 7th & 9th!

We are excited to report back to you tonight that in just a mere weeks after going on sale… all space aboard private railcar “Hollywood Beach” has now SOLD OUT for the round-trip journey that is planned between Chicago Union Station and Carbondale, Illinois on Saturday, June 8th. This is one of the first private car trips to operate on the former Illinois Central main line in recent years. Narration will be provided by the Midwest Rail Rangers for the entire run via Homewood, Champaign, Mattoon, and Effingham.

Because of the extremely heavy demand by passengers to ride a private railcar excursion that weekend… the Midwest Rail Rangers has worked hard with the owner of “Hollywood Beach” to add more space.

Tickets are going on sale TONIGHT for a ride in the “Hollywood Beach” between St. Louis and Chicago on Friday, June 7, 2019.  The train departs St. Louis Gateway Station at 3:00pm and arrives in Chicago Union Station at 8:40pm.

Tickets are also going on sale TONIGHT for a ride in the “Hollywood Beach” between Chicago and St. Louis on Sunday, June 9, 2019. The train departs Chicago Union Station at 9:25am and arrives at St. Louis Gateway Station at 3:00pm.  Passengers who ride on Sunday will be treated to an on-board educational program by the Midwest Rail Rangers via Joliet, Dwight, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, and Alton.

Tickets for either one-way is just $149 per person; or ride the round-trip for $298.

Midwest Rail Rangers Educational Officer Kandace Tabern says, “Tickets are going to go very quick for these additional trips — so book now!   The addition of a Friday northbound trip and a Sunday southbound trip is a great opportunity for rail enthusiasts in St. Louis and Southern Illinois to come up to Chicago for a weekend. Even though they would have to book their own hotel rooms in Chicago for Friday and Saturday night — how often can someone from St. Louis ride ROUND-TRIP to Chicago for a weekend excursion?  It’s very rare… I would jump on it.”

Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern says, “This is also a great deal for people to ride from Chicago who were maybe wanting to take a shorter ride or a more economical ride than the Carbondale round-trip allowed for on Saturday.  Sometimes the Amtrak fare between Chicago and St. Louis is over $80… for just over $100 more, you get to ride in an amazing 1950’s vintage railcar.”

A portion of each ticket sold will donated by the owner of “Hollywood Beach” to the Midwest Rail Rangers to support our on-board educational programs.

The best way to secure your spot on either the northbound from St. Louis to Chicago on Friday, June 7 — or the southbound from Chicago to St. Louis on Sunday, June 9 (which will feature the Rail Rangers program) — is by calling Mr. Keith White, who is handling ticket sales for this excursion.  His phone number is (708) 446-1269.  You can also e-mail Mr. White at onecniccat@prodigy.net.

Also, mark your calendars for September 14, 15, 21, and 22.  Additional trips on the “Hollywood Beach” on various train lines into and out of Chicago are being discussed for these details.  Those on our “THE ROUNDHOUSE”  E-Newsletter will be among the first to get the details.

We are glad that we and our partners can bring you atleast some private car trips this year —- times remain tough for private railcar owners who have many limitations and higher fees placed on them by Amtrak.

Update: Tickets Are Going Quick for Carbondale Private Rail Excursion

We wanted to send out a special message to all of those on our E-Newsletter list as a reminder that tickets are going VERY QUICK for the upcoming private car trip to Carbondale, Illinois that is planned for Saturday, June 8, 2019.

If you do not purchase you ticket with-in the next week or so… you may not be able to ride with us… as day-trip space is becoming limited at this time.

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This trip, presented in partnership with the Midwest Rail Rangers, will take place aboard “Hollywood Beach”, which you have seen some photos of above. The car was built by Pullman in 1956 and was used in service on Seaboard Coast Line’s New York to Florida ‘Silver Meteor’ Train.  You may have rode in this car when it was operated by Amtrak between 1971 and 1989.  This is a beautifully restored solarium lounge car with five bedrooms and parlour and dining seating.

Besides the day-trip… there is also limited space to sleep aboard the car before and/or after the excursion. That’s right — enjoy a rare evening sleeping aboard the “Hollywood Beach” in your private bedroom — watching the overnight activity of Chicago’s busy Amtrak passenger yards from your window.  Packages are available to overnight on the car either Friday, June 7 or Saturday, June 8 in Downtown Chicago.

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Some overnight accommodations must be sold in order to make the day-trip to Carbondale financially do-able for the car owner and the Midwest Rail Rangers… so please consider purchasing a bedroom before and/or after the ride.  Plus, it will make it that much more enjoyable not having to get up early for the ride and/or fight Saturday night Chicago traffic to get back home after the long day we will have together.

HERE’S MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE TRIP:

We will depart Chicago Union Station at 8:15am CT on the morning of Saturday, June 8th. An on-board educational program will be presented by the Midwest Rail Rangers for passengers in the lounge section of the car through the morning and early afternoon hours… as we roll south through Homewood, Kankakee, Gilman, Rantoul, Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia, and DuQuoin. Our experienced Interpretive Guides will tell you plenty of interesting stories about the towns that line the old Illinois Central main line.  Learn about an Air Force Base that was established in Illinois at the height of World War I.  Who was really behind the building of the Illinois Central?  And hear stories about Illinois’ “coal country”.

Arrive in Carbondale around 1:45pm CT… where you will have approximately two hours to stretch your legs. There is a nearby Italian restaurant where you can get a bite to eat, too.  Re-board around 4:15pm CT and head back north to the Windy City.  Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides will remain aboard “Hollywood Beach” to answer any questions you might have about the passing landscape. Scheduled arrival time back into Chicago is at 9:45pm on the same day – Saturday, June 8th.

We have secured SPECIAL PRICING for those on our Midwest Rail Rangers “Roundhouse E-Newsletter” list for this trip. Those who call/write and mention that they heard about this trip through the Midwest Rail Rangers will be offered a discounted price of just $298 per person for the 15+ hour round-trip journey in one of America’s most exciting private cars.  Again, you must mention Midwest Rail Rangers to get this special price.  With such a good price and more than 600 people on our E-Newsletter List… tickets will go VERY QUICK.  We recommend that you book your spot in the next 24 to 48 hours.

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We also realize that the 8:15am arrival and 9:45pm return might be hard for those who live outside of the immediate Chicago area.  Because of this… an extremely limited number of bedrooms will also be made available on the “Hollywood Beach” for passengers.  Accommodations on the car are available the night before the trip (Friday, June 7) and/or the night after the trip (Saturday, June 8) for an additional $250 per person per night based on double occupancy.  (Solo travelers may also occupy a room for $500 per single per night, or both nights for $1,000).

Checks payable thru:

“Keith’s Rail Way, LLC”

2904 Chevy Chase Lane

Naperville, IL  60564

onecniccat@prodigy.net

This will be a very special trip that we look forward to offering you.  In the almost five years that the Midwest Rail Rangers has been in operation… there have been NO private car day-trips from Chicago offered on the Chicago to Carbondale line. It may be that long again before something like this comes about… so jump on it!

Limited lounge space is also available on “Hollywood Beach” from St. Louis to Chicago on Friday, June 7th… and from Chicago to St. Louis on Sunday, June 9th. Tickets are just $149 per person, one-way.  No narration or on-board educational programs will be provided on the St. Louis portions of this trip, unfortunately.

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