Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #45 – 6/06/22 – 20th Century Partnership Trips to Galena, Lake Geneva & East Troy This Summer

Monday, June 6, 2022

We are pleased to announce that the Midwest Rail Rangers will partner with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago on two additional trips later this year.

Here’s the details:

TRIP #22-D

Saturday, August 27, 2022

East Troy & Lake Geneva Trip

Board a motor coach with friends and family to take you to enjoy the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum and a vintage trolley ride, then move on to a pleasure cruise aboard one of Lake Geneva’s sightseeing vessels for a journey around the shoreline of Lake Geneva. Includes: Roundtrip Motorcoach, Admissions, Boat Ride and Box Lunch.

For fares and more information about this trip… click here!

TRIP #22-E

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Galena Country Fair Trip

Considered one of Galena’s most popular events, Galena Country Fair features more than 150 art, craft and fine art vendors selling high quality, original, handmade items. There will be food vendors offering chicken and pork chop sandwiches, baked potatoes, brats, tacos, caramel apples, homemade fudge, sundaes, and more. There is also a selection of domestic and local craft beers, plus a Gazebo Wine Garden serving Galena Cellars, white, red, sangria and more. For entertainment, there will be live music, Irish Dance performances, silent auction, raffle and more.

For fares and more information about this trip… click here!

Please note that these are mainly motor coach trips, however both excursions will feature Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides aboard. Reservations are handled exclusively by the 20th Century Railroad Club. Please DO NOT contact the Midwest Rail Rangers to make reservations for these trips, as we are not handling ticketing or reservations.

Meanwhile… we also look forward to seeing you aboard our South Shore Line program excursions this year, too, between Downtown Chicago and Dune Park. Upcoming program dates are: June 14, June 23, July 12, July 21, August 2, and August 25. Learn about the interesting landmarks on the South Side of Chicago and in Northwest Indiana. These programs are co-sponsored by the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

We will also be presenting programs at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad every Sunday between now and October 2nd. Paid passengers with valid tickets/reservations ($50 per person) on the Sunday 11AM & 2PM Wine & Cheese Train will get to watch an exclusive nine-minute movie about the railroad’s Sky Parlour Car produced by the Midwest Rail Rangers. Passengers will also have the chance to view a historical exhibit and scrapbook about the history of the car… which once served as a Hi-Level Lounge on the Santa Fe and on Amtrak as a Pacific Parlour Car. The Midwest Rail Rangers has been partners with the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, WI since 2019.

There is so much going on with the Rail Rangers this summer — and we want you to be part of the fun — whether that is a 20th Century Railroad Club Trip, our regular South Shore programs, the Sky Parlour programs in Northwestern Wisconsin, or our virtual programs and more.

Have a great June!


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 #43 – 4/02/22 – Summer 2022 Schedules for 20th Century & South Shore; Join us Next Weekend in Green Bay

Saturday, April 2, 2022

As the warm weather slowly begins to arrive, things are once again picking up for the Midwest Rail Rangers… as we roll into our 8th Season of doing onboard educational programs. We are happy to announce our 20th Century Railroad Club and South Shore Line partner Spring/Summer 2022 schedules are approved and ready for release. We also would like to invite you to visit our booth next weekend at a train show in Green Bay.

Let’s start with the 20th Century Railroad Club trips. For 51 years now, the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago has been offering fun and exciting rail or motor coach trips for both its members and the general public. The Midwest Rail Rangers have had a partnership with the 20th Century for the past 5 years, where we either staff their trips with an Interpretive Guides who provides narration… and/or we provide route guide handouts for passengers.

This year will be once again be no exception… as the 20th Century returns to doing its popular trips following a two-year hiatus. The first trip takes place on Saturday, May 14, 2022 and is called the “Indiana Doubleheader” and will feature a visit to the Hoosier Valley RR Museum and the Monon Connection Museum. Midwest Rail Rangers Vice President Robert Neil will be your Rail Rangers Guide for the day. The second trip takes place on Saturday, June 25, 2022 and will take passengers to Galesburg Railroad Days. This year, you will have an option to head directly to Galesburg… or take a tour of three historic railroad towns and depots. The Midwest Rail Rangers will be providing handout route guides for passengers on this trip. Finally, the third trip is three days / two nights and runs from Friday, July 15, 2022 to Sunday, July 17, 2022. We will ride the Boone & Scenic Railway, visit the Amana Colonies and the Threshers Heritage Museum. The Midwest Rail Rangers will be providing handout route guides for passengers on this trip, too. Links to more information about the tours can be found below. The 20th Century Railroad Club is a valuable partner of the Midwest Rail Rangers and we look forward to making memories for passengers together for years to come.

As mentioned, late spring and summer 2022 dates for Midwest Rail Rangers programs on the South Shore Line have been approved. Our next three program dates are below. Our complete schedule through August is available on our website, Due to ongoing track work this summer, our South Shore Line programs will ONLY operate from Downtown Chicago to Dune Park… and then from Dune Park back to Downtown Chicago. We will be using eastbound Train #7, which departs Chicago-Millennium Station at 8:45am and arrives in Dune Park at 10:03am. Guides will hold an informal “open house” at the Dune Park station from 10:15am to 11:00am. We will then be using westbound Train #116, which departs Dune Park at 11:13am, and arrives back in Chicago at 12:39pm. Looking ahead, at this point we plan to resume through programs to Michigan City and South Bend between November 2022 and February 2023. When track work picks up again next year and bussing is anticipated to be extended, we will do a mix of shorter and longer programs depending on the season. Because construction work can be quite fluid, it is recommended that riders who specifically plan on traveling to hear our programs always check our website a few days before the trip to make sure there are not any last minute schedule changes.

Finally, we hope you will join us next weekend for one of our last outreach events of the winter season. The Midwest Rail Rangers will have its own booth for the first time at the Titletown Train Show at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Come out from 9am-5pm on Saturday, April 9th… or 9am-4pm on Sunday, April 10th. We will have Interpretive Guides available to talk to you about the many interesting parts of our onboard educational programs. We will also have samples of our popular railroad route guide books which you can then purchase online (get them ahead of your summer trips!)

We love being busy… and hope you will be part of our exciting summer season!

Oh, and don’t forget to watch our newest online virtual program tomorrow night (Sunday, April 3) at 7:00pm CT… we are sharing the second part of our ride on the Texas Eagle from Los Angeles to St. Louis. Here’s the link you will need:


Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern – President

Bob Neil – Vice-President

Kandace Tabern – Treasurer & Educational Officer

Michael Pace – Secretary

Interpretive Guides:

Kathy Bruecker, Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski, Lowell Olberg & Steve Snyder

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.)

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #36 – 9/21/2021: Rail Rangers & 20th Century RR Club Heading to Indiana, Michigan, Springfield IL

uesday, September 21, 2021

Over the past six years, the Midwest Rail Rangers have been partners with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago, which plans excursions to fun locations across the region. Guides with the Midwest Rail Rangers ride along on the trip to provide route guide handouts to passengers, serve as car hosts, and even give an onboard educational program with narration about everything that is going on outside the window. Joe Kuczysnki, who serves as both a Midwest Rail Rangers Guide and 20th Century Board Member, coordinates efforts.

While the COVID-19 Pandemic put a stop to trips in 2020… two excursions are planned for this fall.

The 20th Century Railroad Club reports that next Saturday’s trip (September 25) to Michigan and Indiana is now totally SOLD OUT. Passengers will ride both Amtrak’s Wolverine train and the NICTD’s South Shore Line to visit the National New York Central Museum and Studebaker Museum. Midwest Rail Rangers Vice President Robert Neil will serve as Interpretive Guide on this trip.

There is still limited availability on the October 23 trip to Springfield, Illinois. This day trip to Illinois’ Capitol City leaves Union Station at 9:25am and arrives back at 8:40pm. Passengers will have their chance to tour the Abraham Lincoln Library, National Historic Site, Old Courthouse, or much more during the four to five hours in Springfield, Illinois.

For more information and to make reservations click here:

During the months ahead, the 20th Century Railroad Club and the Midwest Rail Rangers will be planning out their 2022 schedule. This will include some day trips and possible one or two overnight trips across the area. If you have any ideas for trips you’d like us to consider, email us at:

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #35 – 8/26/2021: Ride for free with the Midwest Rail Rangers on Eastbound Weekday Trips on the South Shore – Sept 1 to Oct 31, 2021

Thursday, August 26, 2021 The Midwest Rail Rangers will continue to be busy this summer and fall by providing onboard educational programs on the South Shore Line. And now… YOU can ride with us for free. Here’s how: To show appreciation for passengers continuing to utilize the South Shore Line throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and welcome those who are new or just returning, the SSL announces all weekday (Monday through Friday) eastbound trips will be free throughout the months of September and October 2021. The eastbound free rides will begin Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 and last through Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, excluding weekends. Passengers should simply board applicable weekday eastbound trains with no ticket purchase needed. Riders will be responsible for paying all applicable fares on weekend trips and weekday westbound trips. This means every regularly scheduled Thursday EASTBOUND Midwest Rail Rangers onboard educational program is free during the months of September and October. If you have never come out to see what we are all about… here is your chance. We think you will enjoy what we do… and that our narration will add a lot more to your train ride. Upcoming program dates on the South Shore Line include August 29, September 2, and September 19. Additional dates (now listed through the end of November 2021) are listed on our website… just head to and click on the “upcoming programs” tab.
If you are looking to make some memories this fall… consider a ride with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago. They are celebrating 50 years of organizing charters and special trips.  The Midwest Rail Rangers have been a partner of the 20th Century Railroad Club since our founding in 2015, with our Interpretive Guides riding along on most of their excursions. The 20th Century Railroad Club is currently taking reservations for the following day-trip excursions: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2021ELKHART & SOUTH BEND TRAINS & CARSClick here for the trip planner and how to make reservations SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2021SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOISClick here for the trip planner and how to make reservations Please consider purchasing a ticket and supporting our partners at the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago.
Sincerely,Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors Robert Tabern – PresidentBob Neil – Vice-PresidentDave Poole – TreasurerKathy Bruecker – SecretaryKandace Tabern – Educational Officer Interpretive Guides:Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski, Lowell Olberg, Steve Snyder & Bruce Stahl 

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #34 – 7/31/2021: Return to South Shore ‘A Success’ & 20th Century Trips ‘Back on Track’

In-person educational programs conducted by the Midwest Rail Rangers aboard South Shore Line trains were “suspended” for a long fifteen-and-a-half months due to the COVID-19 Pandemic… but now, we are back!

Our first program took place on Thursday, July 1, 2021… with three of the five Board Members serving as Guides to make sure things went smoothly. A second program with Interpretive Guide Bruce Stahl as narrator, took place last weekend, also without any glitches.

Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern says, “We are very excited to be back on the South Shore Line and interacting with passengers once again. Things are not quite back to ‘normal’ – we must continue to wear masks when on trains and at the stations through at least September 13, 2021 – however being able to share all of the history and nature out the window… even with a mask on… is a wonderful thing. We really missed everyone… and based off the first two trips we have done in July… the riders have missed us too. We had several people who came out just to ride with us and hear our in-person programming. A mom and daughter drove down from Traverse City, Michigan on our July 1st trip. We will continue to present our programs in a safe and professional manner, as we always have done since partnering with the South Shore Line back in mid-2017.”

Two to three times per month, year-round, Interpretive Guides with the Midwest Rail Rangers will be riding onboard select trains between Chicago’s Millennium Station and South Bend, Indiana’s Airport Station. Topics discussed include anything from Chicago trivia to the historic steel-making area of Northwest Indiana, Indiana Dunes State and National Parks, and even information about the rural “breadbasket of America”, when passing through western LaPorte and St. Joseph Counties.

In addition to increased safety protocols, two other noticeable administrative changes are now in place. The Midwest Rail Rangers programs on the South Shore are now official interpretive programs of the Indiana Dunes State Park. During the Pandemic-induced pause, a formal deal was struck between the Midwest Rail Rangers Corporation and Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources. This is a true win-win for both organizations. Also, Thursdays have been added as a date where programs may take place on off-peak trains. This is something the Board had lobbied for, knowing not everyone is off only on just weekends, when programming had previously been offered. This move also makes it easier for volunteers who are free on weekdays, but not on Saturdays and Sundays due to their employment or other concerns.

A listing of our upcoming onboard educational programs on the South Shore Line are included in this news letter and are posted at

We have more “good news” to share with you this afternoon, too… as the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago, one of our closest partners, will return to doing a handful of daytrips this summer and fall. Since 2016, the Midwest Rail Rangers has provided our Interpretive Guides as “car hosts” for some of their excursions on Amtrak charters.

Reservations are NOW being taken for their first trip back… this will be a day-trip on Saturday, September 15, 2021 from Chicago to SW Michigan and NW Indiana. Passengers will get to ride both Amtrak and the South Shore Line… while visiting the National New York Central Museum in Elkhart, Indiana and also the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana. Box lunch included, too!

For more information click THIS LINK! Much like Midwest Rail Rangers and most 501(c)(3) non-profits around the country, the 20th Century Railroad Club was hit hard by the lack of funding received during the pandemic. Trip revenue is very important to the future of our organization and theirs. Please consider taking this wonderful day trip. An additional day trip to Springfield, Illinois with the 20th Century Railroad Club is planned for October. If all goes well, the 20th Century Railroad Club plans to resume is normal schedule of offering overnight excursions, come 2022.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #33 – 6/21/2021: Rail Rangers Return to In-Person Onboard Educational Programs

Monday, June 21, 2021

We at the Midwest Rail Rangers have some very exciting news to share with you… our in-person onboard educational programs are FINALLY returning!

Writing that sentence is something all of us on the Board of Directors have wanted to share for a very long time now. It is something we are excited sharing with you… as much as the announcement about the formation of our group that was made in July 2015… or the announcement we would be becoming our own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in December 2018.

When the pandemic started, our in-person programs were going to be suspended for just 21 days… and everything was going to pass. Then, it was a month… then it was months. Every single month we carried on, never knowing when the thing was going to end because we were never really warned when the thing was going to begin. During that time, we found new ways to do things, we found new ways to reach our passengers (Rail Rangers on the Road virtual programs), we found new ways to communicate with you… and we found new ways to live as human beings. 

While we don’t know if the world will go back to “normal” tomorrow (our Guides will still have to wear masks when doing programs at least through September and we know not everyone feels comfortable traveling now)… we do indeed know the world is striving for a certain sense of normalcy… and we hope the return of our in-person programming will be part of that for you.

Our popular onboard educational programs will resume on the South Shore, effective Thursday, July 1st.  Additional program dates are shown below — we plan two to three trips per months. Our complete schedule of programs through November 30th are available on the Midwest Rail Rangers website. We will be doing programs on select Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Our Board and partners decided to add a weekday (aboard off-peak trains) into the mix for those who work on weekends, but want to hear our programming.

Our first onboard educational program aboard a private rail excursion will take place on Friday, July 23rd. Tickets are still available for the weekend round-trip between St. Louis, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri. Additional private car trips through the summer and fall are also listed below. The Midwest Rail Rangers was founded in 2015 with the intention of providing narration aboard private rail trips.

Our partnership with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago to do onboard educational programs on Amtrak charters will resume this fall. One trip is scheduled for September 2021 and another trip is scheduled for October 2021; details are listed below. We look forward to putting together custom trips in 2022. This is the 20th Century’s 50th Anniversary Season.

Our outreach events will also kick-up in earnest starting next month. Robert Tabern, Director of Passenger Development for the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad (and President of the Midwest Rail Rangers) will be going on a multi-stop book signing tour for the book he co-wrote, “Mark Twain Zephyr: History, Restoration & Re-birth”. The book was written for the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, with photographs and other assistance provided by the Midwest Rail Rangers. Stops include: Galesburg, IL; Burlington, IA; Mount Pleasant, IA; Fort Madison, IA; Keokuk, IA; Canton, MO; Quincy, IL; Louisiana, MO; Hannibal, MO; and St. Louis, MO.  Dates and times are posted on our website.

We want to thank you for your continued support during the very difficult time the past 15 months were. We hope our “Rail Rangers on the Road” virtual programming that we did was enjoyable and maybe in a small way helped you through everything. For now, we look forward to seeing you back on the rails whenever you are comfortable traveling again.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #28 – 2020 Midwest Rail Rangers Year in Review

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Hello everyone… we hope you had a Merry Christmas… and will have a fun and safe New Years’ Eve tomorrow!   We don’t need to tell you — but 2020 was like a year none of us have ever experienced before. Regardless, we decided to continue our annual tradition here at the Midwest Rail Rangers with sending out our “Year in Review” e-Newsletter to look back on some of the fun times we had in past year… and point out some of the exciting things we have to look forward in the New Year… plus give you a long-term preview of where things are headed with our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

January 2020 saw the official opening of our new Midwest Rail Rangers headquarters in Barron, Wisconsin. Where is that you ask? Well, we are about 45 minutes north of Eau Claire, or near where U.S. Highways 8 and 53 meet. In order to attract more potential partners than just in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas, our Headquarters and Main Office decided to make the move to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We now have part of our Board of Directors up here… while most of our Board and Interpretive Guides remain stationed down in Northeast Illinois and Southeast Wisconsin. We house all of our National Park Passport Stamps used on our various excursions here in Barron, WI.. so if you are ever in the area, let us know… make an appointment and we will be happy to meet you** (** = once the pandemic is over with!).


The year started off pretty much like any normal year… with our Interpretive Guides focusing on our South Shore Line programs in January and February 2020. While most other activities we present are seasonal…  our programs on the South Shore LIne always operate year-round. Some people ask why we run our programs year-round on the SSL… and the answer is pretty simple — there is very distinct beauty in all FOUR seasons when taking the train through the Indiana Dunes State and National Parks. You will never see the same thing in the same way when you ride with the Midwest Rail Rangers in various seasons. We got about five or six on-board educational programs in this year on the South Shore Line before we and NICTD decided to suspend programming in Mid-March 2020. While we had hoped to return in the summer or fall… the realty of the continuing spikes in COVID-19 cases made that impossible. Having people interact with the Interpretive Guide and sit close together in one car to hear program does not conform well to the guidance of social distancing and not gathering in large groups.

In order to encourage people to still ride (while maintaining a safe distance from others outside their immediate household) and hear our narration, the Midwest Rail Rangers and NICTD are offering a special program on weekends — where all westbound rides are free. And instead of having an interpretive guide on your train, you can download a free westbound South Shore Line MP3 podcast from the Rail Rangers to learn about what you are seeing out the window. This deal continues at least through February 28, 2021. The free podcast is available for download at the Midwest Rail Rangers Store… head to our main website ( and click on “Rail Rangers Store” and follow the prompts to download your free MP3 South Shore Line Podcast.

Currently, In-person on-board educational programs are suspended on the South Shore Line through May 30, 2021. We look forward to returning later this year.

We do have some exciting news to share though… we have extended our partnership with the South Shore Line (NICTD) to provide our programs at least through March 2023. So, we can’t wait to be back and be riding with you.


Despite most passenger operations being shut down since Mid-March, 2020 has been a very exciting year for our partners at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad. This family-run railroad near Trego, Wisconsin acquired the historic Mark Twain Zephyr over the summer and has been making amazing progress on restoring the train set.  If you have not checked out the website yet, spend some time at

While COVID-19 prevented us from hosting any of our planned “Open House” events on the Wisconsin Great Northern’s Sky Parlour Car in 2020, several of our Midwest Rail Rangers docents participated in giving guided tours of the Mark Twain Zephyr train set on the weekend of October 24 and October 25, 2020 during a special “Open House” to celebrate the train set’s 85th Anniversary. We had over 100 people show up — some from as far away as Kansas and Ohio — and watch our history presentations and walk through four of the five cars that were under renovation.

There is MUCH to look forward to in 2021 at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, too! The Midwest Rail Rangers look forward to assisting WGNRR Staff in whatever ways needed with more “Open House” events on the Mark Twain Zephyr and on the Sky Parlour Car next year.  Stay tuned to our website and e-Newsletters with more details on these events as the months go forward and the WGNRR is slated to resume normal passenger service again on May 1, 2021.

The Midwest Rail Rangers are also collecting CB&Q and Zephyr memorabilia and donations that will be given to the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad for inclusion in their “Becky Thatcher” Museum Car. This will likely the focal point of future “Open House” Events and Interpretive Guide talks with passengers.


Unfortunately, COVID-19 caused serious problems for owners of private cars who were planning excursions in 2020. Every private car trip this year that was planning to have Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides aboard was cancelled. We hope for a better 2021 and to offer you some fun private car experiences again. At this point, we do not have any definite trip dates for 2021, however we encourage you to watch our website and future E-Newsletters. Several of our private rail partners have mentioned that they will probably not run any trips in the first half of 2021, but are hoping to offer something during the second half of 2021.  Stay tuned and hope for the brightest!


Unfortunately, COVID-19 also caused serious problems for the Amtrak charters organized by the 20th Century Railroad Club in 2020. You may recall that we planned to have Interpretive Guides on about five different trips the club was offering. Every trip this year that was planning to have Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides aboard was cancelled. We hope for a better 2021 and to offer you some fun 20th Century narrated experiences again. At this point, we do not have any definite trip dates for 2021, however we encourage you to watch our website and future E-Newsletters. The Board of Directors of the 20th Century Railroad Club is expected to meet in January 2021 to discuss what offerings might be possible. Know that we look forward to being part of their trips once they get rolling again.  Stay tuned and hope for the brightest!


We were able to get one major outreach event under our belt in 2020 before COVID-19 set in. You may have caught us at MadCity Rail on the weekend of February 15th and February 16th at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.  Volunteers staffed our booth and sold our popular railroad route guides as a fundraiser for the Midwest Rail Rangers.  Unfortunately, our other major outreach event of the year — Trainfest 2020 — was cancelled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the venue was being used as a COVID-19 Field Hospital.  Looking forward, we know MadCity Rail 2021 is CANCELLED already. We hope to resume our outreach events with Trainfest in November 2021… and return to Madison, Wisconsin in February 2022.

Our outreach events are VERY important to the future of the Midwest Rail Rangers, as these let us interact with the public and help spread our name. They are also very important because they serve as a fundraise for our group. When you purchase a railroad route guide at Trainfest or MadCity Rail, it helps to pay for thing such as office supplies, our mandatory insurance needed to do our programs, speaker upkeep, and much more. Unlike a lot of railroad organizations, we do not offer “memberships”… we do not charge people yearly dues to hear our programs… in fact, our narration is always FREE to passengers when they purchase a ticket for an excursions. However, we do have a lot of costs and those are covered by you purchasing our railroad route guide books.

Please take a moment right now, and consider either making a donation to the Midwest Rail Rangers if you are able to do so.  Or, go over and check out our railroad route guides. You can make a generous donation and/or buy a route guide on our main website,  Donations received by 11:59PM CST tomorrow night (Dec 31) will count to your 2020 taxes… as we are a 501(c)(3) and everything you donate is tax deductible.

We are in good shape compared to a lot of other railroad museums and organizations as we do not own any physical property besides our headquarters office and speaker systems… but 2020 was still not a good year… so your donation or route book purchase would mean a lot to us… and would make things that much more stable going into 2021.


Finally, virtual programs. This is something we started up brand new in June 2020 when it became apparent we would not be able to be in groups doing our narration for quite some time. We plan to continue offering two new programs per month for you to watch for the foreseeable future. They are offered on select Sunday evenings at 7:00PM CT… and then can be watched there-after on demand. Various topics are presented — ranging from actual train rides, visits to historic train locations, model railroading, and more.  Your donations definitely also help cover our expenses in traveling across the Midwest producing these programs. This is not a cheap endeavor!  We will only be able to continue offering these through your generous support.  Once we resume our on-board interpretive programs later in 2021, we will continue to offer virtual programs, but may cut back to one program per month or so… so we do not lose focus on our main mission.


Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President

Bob Neil, Vice President

Dave Poole, Treasurer

Kathy Bruecker, Secretary

Kandace Tabern, Educational Officer

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


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 ( 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 Memorabilia relating to the CB&Q and Zephyrs is also welcome. E-mail 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 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.


          Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

          Robert Tabern, President

          Bob Neil, Vice President

          Dave Poole, Treasurer

          Kathy Bruecker, Secretary

          Kandace Tabern, Educational Officer

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #25 — Celebrating Our 5th Anniversary — July 20, 2020

July 20, 2020

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Good Evening! On behalf of the Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors… we wanted to take a moment out of your busy day… and say THANK YOU for your continued support, as today marks the 5th Anniversary of the Rail Rangers. It was on back on Monday, July 20, 2015 that a group of hard-working individuals decided to get together and form a non-profit organization that would enhance passengers’ experiences on private rail excursions across the Upper Midwest by providing expert narration and route guidebooks.

We had some really exciting things planned for 2020 to celebrate our 5th Anniversary, but given everything that has happened so far this year — those will be side-lined for a bit until we can get together and in groups and once again safely ride trains together.

If you have followed our organization over time… you know that the Rail Rangers has had the unique ability to adapt to pretty much anything that has been thrown our way.  Most of the founding members of the Rail Rangers were once volunteers with the Amtrak/National Park Service Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief. In order to have more of a say over how things operated… we broke away… and formed our own organization in July 2015 that had the mission of providing the same quality narration as Trails & Rails, except on private rail car excursions. This was a challenge for our volunteers at first… because instead of learning just a single train route (Chicago to Missouri)… we had to become knowledge about ALL of various train routes out of Windy City. All of our Guides not only met, but exceeded expectations on becoming familiar with the various routes… and more and more private car owners began to request our services in 2016 and 2017 for their trips. In April 2018, Amtrak issues a new set of policies that resulted in many private car owners either cutting back on excursions… or in some cases… selling off their cars totally. The Rail Rangers Board knew that our days would be numbered if we continued to exclusively focus on the dwindling number of private rail excursions taking place in the Midwest. That is why in 2018 and 2019… we worked hard to expand our portfolio. In addition to still providing narration on private rail excursions… we also began programs on the South Shore Line (Chicago – South Bend) two weekends per month, doing open house events on the Sky Parlour at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, partnering with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago for most of their Amtrak charters, and attending more outreach events and programs like Trainfest in Milwaukee and Mad City Rail in Madison, Wisconsin. We also wrote books… and produced e-books and even MP3 Podcasts for each of the routes out of Chicago. This meant we were no longer putting “all of our eggs into just one basket” (private cars)… and made us a true multi-facilitated organization (everything else we do now!). In December 2018, we conquered another hurdle… when we became our own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization… to ensure that all donations received would actually go toward the Midwest Rail Rangers.

Well, another hurdle… March 2020. Probably the biggest one that any one of us will ever experience in our lifetimes. At first we though we might be off the trains for a couple of weeks or even a month or two… but now we know… it’s going to be a bit longer that things are paused. After “waiting it out” for 2 or 3 months, we held a Virtual Board Meeting in May 2020 and realized we had a decision to make. We could either not do anything until it was safe to be back at our various venues —- or we could go out and safely produce a series of virtual educational programs to keep everyone entertained and engaged. Not wanting to put all our marketing and promotional efforts to waste… we knew what we had to do. And, after our “virtual test program” back in late June at the Wisconsin Great Northern’s Sky Parlour… we received wonderful feedback from you… that you have enjoyed what we are doing. So, I’m happy to announce that the Midwest Rail Rangers will be producing 2 new virtual programs every month through April 2021. Over the course of 22 episodes we will visit every state in the Midwest Rail Rangers region —- bringing you railroad adventures from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Hopefully we can return to some of our venues before May 2021… but if not… you atleast have some of our new virtual programs to look forward to.  (We also want to thank the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago for their support and co-sponsor of some of these virtual programs, too).

So, 5th Happy Anniversary… this is not how we really wanted to celebrate with you today, but it is what it is… thank you so much for your on-going support… especially those who have purchased a route guide book, e-book, or podcast during these times… to show you support — so we can keep paying our insurance and other bills that keep coming in even though we are not on the train. Your donations will also help support our virtual programs, too.  And, as we have said many times now —- “Until we can be together, again…”

PS — A complete list of our upcoming virtual programs is available on our website… Our next episode will be Sunday, July 26, 2020 @ 7PM CT as we get a tour of the Aristocrat Lounge Car at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad.  We will be LIVE to answer your questions, too.   For those of you on our E-newsletter list, a reminder will be sent out about 24 hours before each new program takes place.  Add your friends and family members to our E-newsletter list so they can stay in the loop, too!


          Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

          Robert Tabern, President

          Bob Neil, Vice President

          Dave Poole, Treasurer

          Kathy Bruecker, Secretary

          Kandace Tabern, Educational Officer