Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #51 – 11/12/22 – Midwest Rail Rangers release new book; first DVD

Saturday, November 12, 2022

We have some more exciting news to share with you! Not only is today the first time in four years that the Midwest Rail Rangers will be returning to Trainfest in Milwaukee… but it also marks the “release date” for our 19th book and also, yes… our very first DVD.

As a Midwest Rail Rangers E-Newsletter member, you are invited to the very first “public showing” of the DVD. It will take place at 3:30pm this afternoon at Trainfest, which takes place at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Admission to Trainfest is required to attend, however there is no additional cost to participate in the viewing. We hope to see you in the “Janesville Room” at Trainfest for the showing of the 73-minute DVD. Again, that will be from 3:30pm to 5:00pm today.

The release of our book and the DVD is making news all over the Midwest, and especially the small town of Hannibal, Missouri. For more information about our latest book and our very first DVD, we turn it over to the news report shown below, written by reporter Trevor McDonald and appearing in this morning’s print edition of the Hannibal Courier Post.

We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving… and a little tease for you… we will have some more exciting news to share with you in both our upcoming December 2022 and January 2023 newsletters. Stay turned!

Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors


HANNIBAL — The famous Mark Twain Zephyr first appeared on Oct. 25, 1935, in Hannibal for its dedication, and its historic journey to the present day has been chronicled in a new book and companion DVD to be released Saturday.

Robert Tabern worked for two-and-a-half years with the business that acquired the train in 2020 to begin restoration efforts. That work was put on pause in December 2021. Tabern is no longer affiliated with the railroad — his wife, Kandace, and the non-for-profit Midwest Rail Rangers is responsible for the book and DVD, which features a wide range of photos and interviews conducted during off-time and following her husband’s departure.

“Mark Twain Zephyr: History Restoration & Rebirth – Volume Three” includes the first DVD of the book series, filled with interviews from people with memories and stories directly related to the beloved train. Robert and Kandace Tabern traveled across the country to gather historical clues and conduct interviews related to the train.

“She put together all the photos and everything that she took when she was along with me on a lot of these trips. So, the third book is her collection of photos from the time that the train was in St. Louis all the way up until July, when I left the railroad,” Robert Tabern said, noting the images are all “through her eyes” or from the perspective of contributors.

The historic four-car Mark Twain Zephyr was first built in 1935 by the Budd Company for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad. The train regularly transported passengers along the Mississippi River in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa until it was put of service in 1958. A total of nine private owners each had a plan for the train before the move from St. Louis to Wisconsin in 2020. Tabern expressed his hope that the restoration would move forward again, and the train would once again carry passengers as it did decades ago.

The DVD contains many fascinating accounts, including recollections from the late Mary Mucci, who was 95 when the Taberns interviewed her in Albuquerque, N.M. Edward Budd Sr. was her grandfather, and he was CEO of the Philadelphia, Pa. plant where the train was constructed.

As a young girl, Mucci remembered touring the facility and seeing the Zephyrs being built. She shared stories about how safety was not up to modern standards, and injuries were common. One time, an employee was hurt and required a blood transfusion. Budd volunteered and came down on the floor to assist.

Robert and Kandace Tabern also spoke with the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of CB&Q Railroad President Ralph Budd (no relation to Edward Budd Sr.). He was part of the dedication ceremony in 1935 when the Mark Twain Zephyr arrived in Hannibal. His descendants shared many stories, too.

Albert Dean was the architect for the Zephyrs, and his brother, Walter, designed the articulated wheel system. The Tabern couple got the chance to speak with Dean’s daughter about various details surrounding the origins of the iconic trains.

More than 50 interviews highlight the 73-minute DVD. Hannibal native Deborah White and her brother, George Roberson, of Hannibal, created original songs to accompany a slideshow at the video’s conclusion. Famous country musician Jake Clayton performs the songs. In return for her contribution, White asked for a $5 donation to be provided to the Hannibal History Museum for each DVD sold.

Tabern said there is a chance in the future of visiting Hannibal again, with a possible presentation of the DVD for local residents. The book and DVD will be unveiled on Saturday during Trainfest in Milwaukee, Wisc. The event is the largest operating model train show in the nation. The celebration attracts about 10,000 participants. The first official screening of the DVD will be presented to those who have paid admission.

Tabern said he and his wife chronicled the stories of nine private owners since the first private owner from 1960, talking with his daughter, nephew and son. They also spoke with descendants of the second, third and fourth owners. The fifth, sixth and seventh private owners are still alive, sharing their plans for restoring the train.

“It was pretty fun to do. We did a lot of it on our off time, traveling around. It was like playing detective, trying to put these pieces together. We knew the people of Hannibal appreciated the history of the train, obviously,” he said, noting the mural commissioned by White and created by Ray Harvey portraying the train at Broadway and Third St.

Tabern said it was a worthy challenge to bring historical details to light that were previously unknown.

“It’s absolutely been exciting, because there’s been a lot written about the Zephyrs, but it seems like the Mark Twain Zephyr was the ‘red-haired stepchild’. There’s books about the Zephyrs, but then when you flip through it, maybe the Mark Twain Zephyr has a page or two — maybe there’s a picture of it when it was in Hannibal,” Tabern said, noting many people were unaware of the train’s vibrant history.

More information and the opportunity to purchase the book and DVD are available by visiting midwestrails.com.

FOR A DIRECT LINK TO THIS ARTICLE:

https://www.hannibal.net/news/local/new-book-dvd-highlight-history-of-mark-twain-zephyr/article_2f46613e-607d-11ed-ac66-2bd306bb07b2.html?fbclid=IwAR33XTIxN19Kwdt3KlMIloIdImPWt2wr6w0Ac-msCVJ0mSpJOFi1jn_GzoA

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #49 – 10/19/22 – Make plans to join the Midwest Rail Rangers at Trainfest 2022 in Milwaukee

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

After a long pause, Trainfest is back on… and we hope you will come out and visit with our booth the weekend of Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022 and Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, at Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee.

We have an exciting surprise planned for all — but we have to keep it under wraps until Trainfest kicks off. Just be sure to bring your wallet for a couple of brand new items that will be available for purchase from the Midwest Rail Rangers. That is as much of a hint as we are allowed to share with you right now!! (Of course, we will also have our regular route guide books and other items available for purchase, too, at the MRR booth at Trainfest)

(Details of our announcement at Trainfest will also be sent out to everyone who is subscribed to our e-Newsletter, too, after Trainfest, as we know not everyone is able to travel to Milwaukee).

This will be the first time in four years that the Midwest Rail Rangers have appeared at Trainfest. We were in the process of relocating our headquarters from suburban Milwaukee to Northwest Wisconsin in November 2019 and could not attend Trainfest that year. And then the 2020 and 2021 versions of Trainfest were cancelled due to COVID concerns and some other factors.

We look forward to attending one of the best train shows anywhere in the country and hopefully having a great turnout once again. The Midwest Rail Rangers attend a number of “outreach events” like Trainfest every year to sell our railroad route guidebooks as a fundraiser… and meet with our supporters. It is important to get the word out about what we do.

Meanwhile, our programs continue on the South Shore Line. In fact, we will be headed out tomorrow morning at 8:40am. Programs are currently only operating between Chicago and Gary-Metro Station due to ongoing bussing along the train route. However, we are looking at some changes that may allow us to provide you longer programs, on occasion, before the construction finishes up in early 2024. Stay tuned for details on that.

And remember… as the weather turns colder… and folks tend to stay inside more… you can still enjoy a brand new virtual educational program from the Midwest Rail Rangers every Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. Next month we will be celebrating our 50th virtual educational program. Details below.

Sincerely,

The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President

Bob Neil, Vice President

Kandace Tabern, Treasurer

Michael Pace, Secretary

Interpretive Guides:

Kathy Bruecker, Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski and Lowell Olberg

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #48 – 09/05/22 – Later this month, Join us for special ‘ Midwest Rail Rangers on the Road’ live programs in Indiana & Wisconsin

Monday, September 5, 2022

We hope you are enjoying the last few ‘drops’ of summer here… and trust that you are making special memories during this Labor Day weekend. Believe it or not, we saw a lot of trees starting to change color already in the drive between our headquarters in Northwest Wisconsin and where we are spending the weekend on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula this weekend. (Hopefully you folks in Chicagoland will not see that for a few more weeks!)

Anyway, we wanted to take a moment and send a personal invitation to you… and your family and friends… to come join the Midwest Rail Rangers for some special in-person outreach programs that we will be doing later this month at the Indiana Dunes National Park in Northwest Indiana and near our headquarters location here in Northwest Wisconsin.

Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern and Midwest Rail Rangers Treasurer Kandace Tabern will host two presentations about their experiences visiting all 423 units of the National Park Service — with a lot of their travels to the parks taking place on trains, whenever possible. While some parks like Pullman National Monument and the Indiana Dunes National Park are pretty easy to access via automobile or even a hop on the Metra or South Shore Line, that is not the case other parks in the network.

The Taberns will share some of their exciting tales — which include having to hire private bush pilots to reach some of the remote Alaskan parks, a trek through a thick forest full of grizzly bears on the trails, and many other fun challenges in their travels. To reach the goal of visiting all 423 parks in just 10 years time, the Taberns had to travel to all 50 states and even most of the U.S. territories, like Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

According to the National Park Travelers Club, who keeps track of such things, Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern and Midwest Rail Rangers Treasurer are just one of about 20 couples or individuals anywhere in the country who have managed to visit all 423 of the park units. They were recently awarded the lifetime platinum plaque award by the National Park Travelers Club for their extensive efforts to promote visiting our county’s national parks.

The Taberns will be giving two presentations in the weeks ahead; both of the presentations are the same, however, since the Midwest Rail Rangers coverage area is so large, we are will be doing one in Indiana and one 450 miles away in Wisconsin, too.

The Taberns will speak at 7:00PM CDT on Saturday, September 10, 2022 at the IDNP Visitor Center (1215 N State Rd 49, Porter, IN 46304).

Robert will also speak at 5:30PM CDT on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 at the Frederic (Wisconsin) Public Library (127 Oak Street in Frederic, Wisconsin). Kandace’s portions will be pre-recorded in this presentation.

Both events are free and open to the public. No need to RSVP.

While we encourage you to come out an see the presentations live… If you are not able to make it out, we plan to tape one of the shows and run them as one of our “Rail Rangers on the Road” virtual educational programs in late 2023.

Sincerely,

The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President

Bob Neil, Vice President

Kandace Tabern, Treasurer

Michael Pace, Secretary

Interpretive Guides:

Kathy Bruecker, Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski and Lowell Olberg

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #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, www.railrangers.org. 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:

Sincerely,

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 #41 – 2/05/22 – 2022 Outreach Events Planned

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Happy February!

We wanted to remind you that our onboard educational programs on the South Shore Line continue year-round. So, if you are looking for something fun to do over this winter… come out and ride with our Interpretive Guides between Chicago and Michigan City or South Bend. It’s a very economical thing to do… and you will learn so much about the people, place, history, and more.

Our next programs take place on Thursday, February 9, 2022. We will be on westbound South Shore Train #7, which departs Chicago-Millennium Station at 8:45am CT. We will also be on eastbound South Shore Train #116, which departs Michigan City-Carroll Avenue Station at 10:55am CT.

You can also join us on Saturday, February 26, 2022. We will be on westbound South Shore Train #503, which departs Chicago-Millennium Station at 8:40am CT. We will also be on eastbound South Shore Train #506, which departs South Bend-Airport Station at 1:05pm ET.

Our Interpretive Guides will also be doing a “meet and greet” with the public at the MadCity Train Show in Madison, Wisconsin. Join us at the Alliant Energy Center from 9:00am to 5:00pm CT on Saturday, February 19, 2022… and from 9:00am to 4:00pm CT on Sunday, February 20, 2022. Browse through some of our railroad route guides, which you will be able to purchase online.

Finally… we would like to welcome Michael Pace to the Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors. He was elected to a two-year term as Secretary. Michael will be a wonderful asset to the MRR Board. He had ridden on almost every mile of the Amtrak and VIA Rail systems and enjoyed riding the rails in Japan back in March 2020. Michael has been a supporter of the Midwest Rail Rangers, too, since the program was founded in 2015… riding many times aboard the South Shore Line and on the organization’s partner private rail excursions. Michael has spent most of his working life as an electrician in Massachusetts… and has even helped with the repairs of our speaker systems on occasion.

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 #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 #32 – 5/23/2021

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Dear Friends and Supporters,

In a sign that things are starting to creep back to “normal”… the Midwest Rail Rangers are proud to announce that we are offering TWO private car trip coming up later this summer. These trips are just 8 weeks away (sorry for the short notice), which means the pre-sale to those on our Midwest Rail Rangers E-Newsletter this will only last a few day before we have to share the trip information with the general public. That means if you are interested — BOOK NOW (or at least by mid-week!).  We do expect both of these trips to SELL OUT very quickly since the number of private car trips offered this year is expected to be extremely limited across the Midwest.

Both trips offered below will be aboard “Hollywood Beach”… a beautiful 1956 observation car constructed for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. As you can see by the photos of the car, it has some of the largest windows of any single-level passenger car. And, the dome-like ceiling lets you see pretty much in any direction. 

TRIP #1 : Friday, July 23 & Sunday, July 25, 2021

STL to KC (Friday) / Day on your own in KC (Saturday) / KC to STL (Sunday)

This excursion will depart St. Louis, MO at 4:00pm CT on Friday, July 23. The train gets into Kansas City, MO at 9:40pm CT the same day. Passengers will have Saturday, July 24th on their own in Kansas City, or can take the second private car trip mentioned below. The return westbound trip will depart Kansas City, MO at 8:15am CT on Sunday, July 25. This train gets into St. Louis, MO at 1:55pm CT the same day. This trip primarily serves as a fundraiser for the restoration of Louisville Railroad Company’s Seaboard Observation Car #6400, built in 1939, which was just acquired by the railroad. Tickets are extremely limited but are open to the public. $500 for round-trip passage; absolutely no one-way fares available. When you are ready to book tickets, please contact Mr. John Owen at ontrackkentucky@gmail.com or (502) 416-8143. (Mention the Midwest Rail Rangers when you call to get the $500/pp fare). This excursion will feature author Robert Tabern aboard who is the Director of Passenger Development with the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad. He will give a brief talk about the railroad’s on-going efforts to rehabilitate the Mark Twain Zephyr. There will also be a book sale and signing of “Mark Twain Zephyr: History, Restoration, and Rebirth” Volume 1 & 2. Kandace Tabern, with the Midwest Rail Rangers will also be aboard providing brief historical narration about some of the towns along the route. This trip is expected to sell out quickly, so book now. The trip will only operate if a minimum number of passengers is reached to make costs at least break even; full refunds will be given if trip is cancelled by the excursion organizer. 

TRIP #2: Saturday, July 24, 2021

KC-STL-KC Roundtrip in a Day (Saturday)

This excursion is a daytrip from Kansas City to St. Louis and return. The train will depart Kansas City, MO at 8:15am and arrive in St. Louis at 1:55pm on Saturday, July 24, 2021. If the train is running on-time, passengers will only have about one-and-a-half hours of free time in St. Louis. Note, this is probably not enough time to make it over to the St. Louis Arch or other places for a tour, however you might have time to explore the old Union Station briefly. The train will then leave St. Louis, MO at 4:00pm CT, and arrive back in Kansas City at 9:40pm CT. Tickets are extremely limited but are open to the public. $349 for round-trip passage; no one-way fares available. Note that this an approximate 13½-hour, 540-mile-long roundtrip that begins and ends in Kansas City, MO on Saturday, July 24th. This excursion will feature author Robert Tabern aboard who is the Director of Passenger Development with the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad. He will give a brief talk about the railroad’s on-going efforts to rehabilitate the Mark Twain Zephyr. There will also be a book sale and signing of “Mark Twain Zephyr: History, Restoration, and Rebirth” Volume 1 & 2. Kandace Tabern, with the Midwest Rail Rangers will also be aboard providing brief historical narration about some of the towns along the route. When you are ready to book, please contact Mr. Keith White at onecniccat@prodigy.net or (708) 446-1269. (Mention the Midwest Rail Rangers when you call to get the $349/pp fare).  This trip is expected to sell out quickly, so book now. The trip will only operate if a minimum number of passengers is reached to make costs at least break even; full refunds will be given if trip is cancelled by excursion organizer. 

Note: Tickets are NOT SOLD through the Midwest Rail Rangers for these above trips.  For general questions about these excursions, contact Robert Tabern at (847) 271-1979.  To purchase tickets — contact names, e-mails, and phone numbers are given for each trip organizer/ticket agent in the paragraphs above (either Mr. Owen or Mr. White). AGAIN, we do expect these trips to SELL OUT quickly as they will be promoted by multiple organizations beginning mid next week. So those on our Midwest Rail Rangers E-Newsletter list need to book urgently. 

For both private car trips, meals commensurate to the time of the day are included in your fare, this also includes hors d’oeuvres, snacks, and drinks. No personal food or beverages will be allowed on the private car. Passengers are responsible for their own overnight lodging, meals, entertainment, and all other expenses when not aboard the train.

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!).

SOUTH SHORE LINE PROGRAMS

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 (http://www.railrangers.org) 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.

WISCONSIN GREAT NORTHERN RAILROAD PROGRAMS

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 http://www.MarkTwainZephyr.com.

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.

PRIVATE RAIL EXCURSIONS

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!

AMTRAK CHARTERS ON THE 20TH CENTURY RAILROAD CLUB

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!

OUTREACH EVENTS & DONATIONS

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, http://www.railrangers.org.  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.

VIRTUAL PROGRAMS

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.

Sincerely,

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

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dear Friends and Supporters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President

Bob Neil, Vice President

Dave Poole, Treasurer

Kathy Bruecker, Secretary

Kandace Tabern, Educational Officer