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… www.railrangers.org. 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!

          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 #24 — Rail Rangers 2020 Season Goes Virtual — June 10, 2020

 

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VIRTUAL EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS TO KEEP MIDWEST RAIL RANGERS 2020 SEASON ROLLING

June 10, 2020

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We greet you with some bad — and yes, also some good news, this early afternoon.

As you know, for the past three months or so, the Midwest Rail Rangers have put our popular onboard educational programs on a complete hiatus due to the outbreak of COVID-19. During March, April, and May 2020, our Board of Directors was holding out hope there would be a practical, and more importantly… safe way… to resume by summer what we have done and shared with you aboard trains the past five years.

As we are now just 10 days away from the official start of Summer 2020… it has become very apparent that we will unfortunately not be able to resume our in-person on-board educational programs at this time… or even in the immediate future.

Besides the obvious concerns for your health and the health of our Interpretive Guides being in close quarters together aboard a train car, part of our decision comes from the fact the Midwest Rail Rangers always works with partner organizations to present our programs, as we do not own rail cars or equipment. For example, the 20th Century Railroad Club has independently decided to cancel all of its tours through at least October 1, 2020 — which means the onboard educational programs we were planning to offer on their Northern Wisconsin & Minnesota Rail Tour in September can now not take place. Likewise, all private rail excursions featuring heritage equipment that we were planning to be apart of for 2020 have been cancelled by their car owners/organizers… leaving us currently with no private car trips to have our programs aboard. Simple as that.

This is no doubt a difficult year — but being safe has to be the #1 priority — something always echoed in the railroad industry well before the outbreak of COVID-19.

We also hold a very high standard for our programs at the Midwest Rail Rangers. Our Board of Directors are united in the philosophy that if we can’t provide passengers with quality on-board educational programs — we are better off taking a break right now. Think about how uncomfortable and impractical it would be to provide 6 or 7 hours worth of ongoing narration about a given train route while wearing a mask, which is required by some railroads and cities. Also, it would be very difficult for you to understand what is being said trying to talk through a mask over a PA system. Trust us… we want to return to whatever the “new normal” will be of on-board educational programs, but now is not quite that time. We do hope that time will come as soon as safely possible.
As a result and after much though and consultation with our partners, we are suspending our on-board educational programs on the South Shore Line (Chicago to South Bend) through at least September 1, 2020. Our on-board educational “open house” programs aboard the Sky Parlour Car at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wisconsin will take a hiatus until further notice. The 20th Century Railroad Club has decided to suspend all trips through at least October 1, 2020… and we are planning to follow their plans accordingly. All private car trips that the Midwest Rail Rangers had planned to be apart of for 2020 have also been cancelled. For now, we will be keeping an appearance at Trainfest in November 2020 on our outreach event calendar as planned… but will also follow the direction of Trainfest’s organizers when it comes changes to that event.

If there are any changes to the above information, we will let you — our E-Newsletter subscribers — know first before the general public.

Now, on to the good news. We promised you there would be some in this E-Newsletter!

If you have followed the Midwest Rail Rangers over the years, you know we have triumphed in difficult and adverse times. Our organization’s history dates back to December 2012 when we were a branch of Trails & Rails that provided onboard educational programs aboard Amtrak’s Southwest Chief between Chicago and Missouri. After operating for two and a half years on that route, but coming into a disagreement over how the program should be managed going forward, we successfully branched off as our own organization called the Rail Rangers… providing fun and informative onboard educational programs first on private rail excursions. When the number of private rail trips were reduced by Amtrak policy changes, we turned to other organizations to partner with. When our regular weekly programs ended on the Hoosier State train in February 2017, we worked hard to quickly establish a new partnership with the South Shore Line (they have been awesome to work with the past 3 years!). Our organization became so popular that we branched out from our original parent group to become our own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in January 2019. That was also not an easy feat — there are mounds of paperwork and legal work one must do to file to become a non-profit organization. And no — we are not going to let this darn COVID-19 virus get us down either. That we can promise you!

So, until we are able to return to doing regular onboard educational programs with our normal partners… whenever that may be… the Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors has decided to offer brand new “Virtual Programs”. These will be offered on the Facebook page of either the Midwest Rail Rangers or our partners. We are committed to doing at least two of these per month until we return to the rails. Some programs will be LIVE, where you can tune in and ask questions. Other programs will be pre-recorded and posted at a certain time for you to enjoy. Programs will range from about 15 to 30 minutes depending on the topic. The key is to go ahead and “LIKE” the Facebook page of the Midwest Rail Rangers right now (if you haven’t done so already) so that you can participate in our “virtual programs” that will be offered throughout the summer.

We have six awesome “virtual programs” already in the works. Details are below. And, be sure to check out our main website (www.RailRangers.org) as we add more dates and topics, And of course, if you have any suggestions for things you want us to talk about or places we should visit and do a program for you — let us know. Drop our Board of Directors an e-mail at board@RailRangers.org. We welcome your creative ideas!

Again, we look forward to returning to the rails soon — but are proud to be able to offer you an alternative during the months ahead versus just shuttering up completely like many businesses and organizations have done.

Sincerely,

Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

Robert Tabern, President

Bob Neil, Vice President

Dave Poole, Treasurer

Kathy Bruecker, Secretary

Kandace Tabern, Educational Officer

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The COVID-19 Virus has unfortunately caused us to suspend or cancel many of our traditional onboard educational programs during the course of 2020. While we look forward to our return to the rails soon… we will be offering a new brand of “Virtual Educational Programs”. These will be featured on the Facebook page of either the Midwest Rail Rangers or our partner organizations. Some presentations will be LIVE where we can take questions from the viewers… while others will be pre-taped and posted at a given time for you to enjoy.

Note that you will need to create a Facebook page (if you don’t have one already) and then “LIKE” our Facebook page and the pages of our partner organizations in order to participate in the experiences.

Here is a look at what we have planned:


WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2020 — 7:00PM CT

*LIVE PROGRAM* — Tour of the Wisconsin Great Northern Sky Parlour Car

Join Robert and Kandace Tabern with the Midwest Rail Rangers for a tour of the Wisconsin Great Northern Sky Parlour Car LIVE from the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wis. We will be bringing dozens of pieces of memorabilia onboard to show you from the car’s years as a Hi-Level Lounge on the Santa Fe… and Pacific Parlour Car on Amtrak. We will also have time for Q&A from those who join us live.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This presentation will be presented ONLY on the Facebook page of our partner, the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago. It will not be present on the Midwest Rail Rangers Facebook page like most other events. You must “like” their Facebook page and tune in there to participate in this event. Please tune in a few minutes before the scheduled start time and wait for the post to appear for you to watch.


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2020 — 10:00AM CT

Midwest Central Railroad – Mount Pleasant, Iowa

Join Kandace & Robert Tabern with the Midwest Rail Rangers for a tour of the Midwest Central Railroad in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Did you know that there are a group of steam locomotive tucked away at this facility in Mount Pleasant, Iowa? It was also the location that housed the Mark Twain Zephyr train set for 17 years in the 1960’s and 1970’s. You’re guaranteed to learn a thing or two about narrow gauge railroading during this presentation and inside “behind the scenes” look at their steam shop.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a pre-taped program that will be posted at the above time. You must “like” the Midwest Rail Rangers Facebook page in order to watch this program.


SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2020 — 10:00AM CT

Fenelon Elevator – Dubuque, Iowa

Join Kandace & Robert Tabern with the Midwest Rail Rangers for a short tour of the Fenelon Elevator in Dubuque, Iowa. It is a 3-foot narrow gauge funicular railway. Also known as the Fourth Street Elevator, it is claimed to be the shortest and steepest railroad in the world. It was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a pre-taped program that will be posted at the above time. You must “like” the Midwest Rail Rangers Facebook page in order to watch this program.


SUNDAY, JULY 26, 2020 — 10:00AM CT

Milwaukee Road Depot at Winona, Minnesota

Join Kandace & Robert Tabern with the Midwest Rail Rangers for a short discussion about the Empire Builder and the historic Milwaukee Road Depot in Winona, Minnesota. Did you know that you can still see the Milwaukee Road logo on one side of the old freight house located here? And it’s the first crew change for the westbound Amtrak train today.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a pre-taped program that will be posted at the above time. You must “like” the Midwest Rail Rangers Facebook page in order to watch this program


SUNDAY, AUGUST 9, 2020 — 12:00 NOON CT

*LIVE PROGRAM* — The Favorite Props of the Midwest Rail Rangers

Join Kandace & Robert Tabern live from the Midwest Rail Rangers Headquarters in Barron, Wisconsin for a look at some of the favorite props we have used over the years with passengers. We will dig deep in our file cabinet and see what we come up with. Maybe you have seen some of our props on one of your trips with us? Just how muddy is the Mississippi River? We’ll show you our jug of river water! And how about sand from the Indiana Dunes and our sandhill crane mascot named “Killer”? You’re guaranteed to learn a thing or two during this 20 minute presentation. We will be taking Q&A, too!

IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS PROGRAM WILL BE PRESENTED ON OUR FACEBOOK LIVE ONLY — BE SURE TO “LIKE” OUR FACEBOOK PAGE TO WATCH THIS PROGRAM.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 23, 2020 — 10:00AM CT

Rail fanning at Rochelle with the Rail Rangers

Join Kandace & Robert Tabern with the Midwest Rail Rangers to learn more about the Railroad Park in Rochelle, Illinois. Thousands of people flock here every year to watch where the Union Pacific (Chicago-Omaha) and BNSF (Chicago-Twin Cities) lines cross one another. We will take you on a quick tour of what this railroad park has to offer and why it is so popular among railfans from all across the country.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a pre-taped program that will be posted at the above time. You must “like” the Midwest Rail Rangers Facebook page in order to watch this program

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #23 — COVID-19 Statement & Schedule Update 3 — May 4, 2020

FACING COVID-19 TOGETHER:

An important update from the Midwest Rail Rangers about our upcoming onboard educational programs

May 4, 2020

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors and our Interpretive Guides hope everyone is doing as well as possible in these extremely difficult times. Even though we can’t be together on the train right now sharing fun programs about history and nature with you… we feel that it is important to still stay in touch from time-to-time. We hope you agree. That way when that day comes that we can be together again… we will be ready and have our upcoming dates up on your calendar.

Our Board of Directors held an important virtual meeting over the weekend to address when it might be possible to safely resume our onboard educational programs — and below is what we have come up with. Note these are our current plans, are very tentative, and will be subject to further changes/additional cancellations. Please know making decisions such as these are very difficult. We have to balance the fact that some things are opening up in a few of the states across the Midwest that we serve… while other states (such as Illinois and Wisconsin) still have “stay at home” orders in place even past Memorial Day… limiting non-essential travel. We also take all of our partners’ suggestions and opinions into high consideration — keeping the health of our Guides and those of you who attend our programs as always the #1 priority. And even if all orders are lifted… we still need to figure exactly out how to perform our quality onboard educational programs in whatever the “new normal” will be — including giving talks with face masks on and not being able to pass props around or get up and close with our passengers like we enjoyed.

With that said… the MRRC Board voted to suspend all public events through Friday, June 26, 2020. This includes South Shore Line programs, Wisconsin Great Northern Sky Parlour Programs, 20th Century Railroad Club Programs, programs aboard all private rail excursions and all outreach events.

In addition, please note the following onboard educational programs scheduled beyond Friday, June 26th, 2020 are also cancelled:

** Saturday, June 27th, 2020

20th Century Railroad Club Amtrak Charter to Galesburg, IL and Peoria, IL

This past weekend the 20th Century Railroad Club and the Midwest Rail Rangers were informed that the organizers of Galesburg Railroad Days have decided to cancel their annual event. This will result in this charter being cancelled.

** Saturday, June 27th, 2020

Private Car Trip “Hollywood Beach” to Galesburg, IL and Quincy, IL

This past weekend the Midwest Rail Rangers and Keith White, owner of the Hollywood Beach, were informed that the organizers of Galesburg Railroad Days have decided to cancel their annual event. This will result in this private rail trip being cancelled.

** Sunday, November 1, 2020 & Monday, November 2, 2020

20th Century Railroad Club South Shore Charter to South Bend, IN & Studebaker

This trip has been cancelled due to the re-scheduling of an Amtrak charter to St. Louis, MO the same month.

Our current schedule is updated both on our websit (www.RailRangers.org) and below.

This is no doubt something we… nor anyone else… expected to happen this year. These are unprecedented times and there will no doubt be some additional cancellations.

We have had many people ask us over the past couple of months what they can do to help support the Midwest Rail Rangers and our partners during this time. One of the best things you can do right now is — if you think you are going to feel comfortable traveling this fall — would be to book one or more of the three remaining 20th Century Railroad Club excursions in 2020 that we hope to be on. This includes an excursion to Northwest Wisconsin/Minnesota in September… Springfield, Illinois in October… or St. Louis, Missouri in November. These trips need a minimum number of travelers on them — several month out — to make sure a profit can be had and these trips can run. Trips cancelled due to the virus is one thing… but we would hate to see the three trips that remain on the calendar cancelled too because not enough people have booked. This is a great way you can help support us and the 20th Century Railroad Club… who has been one of our amazing partners over the years taking you on fun and exciting trips.
For those who may not feel comortable traveling, you can always support the Midwest Rail Rangers by going on a virtual train trip — by purchasing one of our route guide books, e-books, or MP3 podcasts. They, and other items, are available, right now at our online store —- www.MidwestRails.com.

Please continue to monitor our website, e-newsletters, Facebook and Twitter pages for more information and updates, as needed. (Some decisions, especially those made by our partner railroads are out of our Board’s hands — and will be updated as we get them.)

We wish you and your family well. If you have any questions about this, feel free to send an e-mail to us at: board@railrangers.org.

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 #18 — Working with Our Partners to Plan 2020 Excursions — January 19, 2020

January, February, and even into early March might come across to our followers as a “slow time” for the Midwest Rail Rangers… because our public schedule is really just dotted with a few South Shore trips… and that’s about it. While that is true to a degree… things are really at their busiest “behind the scenes” this time of the year for our Board of Directors. We have been working hard with all of our partners over the past few weeks to discuss what trips and events worked well in 2019… how we can improve on what we did last year… and what fun and exciting things we will be working together towards in the year ahead. Right now, we are just a few weeks away from announcing some of our first trips for 2020 that you will want to mark on your calendar and snag reservations for. We invite you to come out to the 2020 Mad City Rail Show on Saturday, February 15, 2020 and Sunday, February 16, 2020 to meet some of our Board Members and participate in the reveal of some of our destinations and trips for the coming year. If you’re not able to make it up to the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI that weekend… we will send you the information in our next E-Newsletter!

Our areas of focus for 2020 will continue to be our onboard educational programs that are offered on the South Shore Line approximately two to three weekends per month year-round. Our volunteers enjoy presenting programs for passengers on this line because there is always so much to talk about going on outside the windows. In just 90 miles, or a little over two hours, we travel from the third largest city in the country (Chicago) to the rural farmlands of St. Joseph County. Along the way, we are passing through four state park areas, two units of the National Park Service, and two affiliated NPS units. We will be working with the Indiana Dunes State Park more closely in 2020 to train our Midwest Rail Rangers volunteers — more details on this coming out soon in a future E-Newsletter!

Another area of focus in 2020 for the Midwest Rail Rangers is expanding our partnership with our friends at the family-owned Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wisc. As you probably know, to become a truly “Midwest” (and not just a Chicago) organization, we moved our headquarters last month to Northwest Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Great Northern acquired a Santa Fe Hi-Level Lounge Car / Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car last year. We did a couple of ‘test runs’ with them on weekends in which we created displays aboard the car featuring Santa Fe and Amtrak sistory. These event were a great success and featured between 200 and 300 visitors who traveled from all across the area to see our displays. We look forward to hosting more events aboard the WGNRR’s Sky Parlour in 2020.  We hope to have some firm dates worked out soon. Rides on the Sky Parlour will begin in early May 2020. This is a fun and growing railroad — and is well worth the drive up from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

We will also be working with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago again… with our Interpretive Guides riding along and providing narration on many of their 2020 excursions once again. We have worked with their management and trip organizer team and have narrowed down our list of 2020 destinations. Trips will include a round-trip down to St. Louis in the spring… a trip to Galesburg and Peoria in June… and the premiere trip of the season will likely be a September four day, three night trip to several tourist railroads in Northwest Wisconsin and Minnesota. Plus, much more!   Stay tuned… as will begin promoting our 20th Century RR Club partner trips next month.

And last but not least — we will continue to provide our signature educational programs on private rail excursions in 2020, as well. As you may know… we founded the Rail Rangers almost 5 years ago now with the sole goal of providing programs on private rail excursions. However, in 2018 and 2019, Amtrak put severe restrictions on private car movements… while also exponentially increasing the cost for the fine men, women, and groups who own these cars. This does not look like it will change for 2020 at this point. With that said, know we are committed to working with our private rail partners as much as possible over the coming year to help design and promote their trips as much as we can. Whenever one of these trips is announced, we will send out special E-Newsletters so you on our supporters list can get the first dibs on tickets.

Sincerely,

Robert Tabern, MRR President

& the Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors

 

2020 Donations Welcome!

In addition to the beginning quarter of every year being very busy “behind the scenes”… it is also the time of the year that the Midwest Rail Rangers incurs some of its biggest expenses. In fact, our single biggest regular expense every year is our insurance policy which comes up for renewal every February.. Many of our partners require the RailRangers to have a pretty pricey liability insurance policy in place. Without it… we wouldn’t be allowed on their railroad equipment to provide the talks, narration, and educational activities that you have come to enjoy.

Donations (cash, charge, Paypal, etc.) in ANY amount are appreciated and will help fund our on-board educational programs. And of course, with the Midwest Rail Rangers being a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization… the amount you donate is tax deductible. We are more than happy to provide a donation receipt upon request.

The best way to make a donation is to head to our website… www.RailRangers.org. Then, click on the icon in the lower left side that says “Support our Onboard Educational Programs” / “Make a Donation – Click Here”. Credit cards and Pay Pal are accepted here.

You can also just click the link at the TOP or BOTTOM of this E-Newsletter.

We also accept donations of historical railroad memorabilia!  If you have something that you think might be of interest to our organization, contact our Board of Directors at board@railrangers.org. If the donation is needed, it will be fully tax deductible at fair market value. Earlier this year, we had a gentleman from Indiana donate his collection of nearly 100 old South Shore Line timetables. Currently, we are in need of items relating to the South Shore Line (especially from the 1920’s to 1940’s era)… and anything relating to the Santa Fe Hi-Level lounge cars and Amtrak’s Pacific Parlour Cars.
We put these items on display during select onboard educational programs and outreach events so everyone can enjoy them.

Winter & Early Spring 2020 South Shore Dates Posted

While the winter and early spring is often the “quiet time” for the Midwest Rail Rangers (this allows us to focus on working with our private rail and other partners and re-doing our rail route guides)… our South Shore Line programs continue two to three weekends per month. Having a year-round presence on a railroad is something that is very important to our organization.

Program dates through April 30, 2020 are posted at www.RailRangers.org.

All eastbound programs begin at 8:40am CST out of Millennium Station at Michigan & Randolph in Downtown Chicago.  All westbound programs begin at 1:05pm EST out of South Bend Airport. You can of course join us at any point along the route — but note seating is ONLY available on a first come, first serve basis.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #17 — Merry Christmas from the Midwest Rail Rangers / 2019 Year in Review — December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas & Happy New Years from the Midwest Rail Rangers

The Midwest Rail Rangers Board of Directors and our Interpretive Guides would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!  The holidays are a very special time — and we want to take a few minutes to thank you right here on Christmas Eve morning for your support in 2019.

Since this will also be our final E-Newsletter sent out to our supporters in 2019, we also decided to take a minute and look back at what was a very monumental and pivotal year for our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization – and where things stand as we head into a new decade! We no doubt had a very fun and action-packed past 358 days… and we sincerely hope that you were able to take part in at least one of our partners’ excursions or one of our outreach events.
You may recall that 2019 started with the Midwest Rail Rangers becoming its own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For the initial almost four years of its existence, the Rail Rangers had been associated with a railroad historical group in Missouri. As our goals for became increasingly different that that of our former parent organization – it was clear in late 2018 that it was in everyone’s best interest to file the paperwork needed to become our own independent group. This process was completed following the government shutdown that took place for most of January 2019… and has been no doubt a very necessary move for the future of the Rail Rangers. It let our newly formed Board have local control over the organization and its finances… and focus strictly on our mission of providing onboard educational programs for passengers. I would like to take a minute and thank my fellow 2019 Board Members — this includes Vice President Robert Neil, Treasurer Dave Poole, Secretary Kathy Brucker, and Educational Officer Kandace Tabern — for going above and beyond this year. The first year of any new organization is no doubt the most challenging and stressful and our team met each and every challenge head-on and got everything and anything asked of them accomplished in record time. The transformation of the Rail Rangers into its own entity would no doubt have gone as smoothly without their hard work – and the hard work of all of our Interpretive Guides and you, our faithful supporters.
The middle portion of the year saw tremendous growth for the Midwest Rail Rangers once again — with the addition of three new partners. In the spring, we formed a partnership agreement with Keith White — owner of the beautiful private car “Hollywood Beach”. This led to us providing onboard educational programs aboard a number of his private railroad excursions — including a round-trip to Carbondale and one-way trips down to St. Louis and Kansas City. If you rode with us this year, you will agree the “Hollywood Beach” might be one of the finest single-level observation cars around… with Keith being one of the nicest and most down-to-earth private car owners. We also formed a partnership agreement with Blue Pine Rail, a start-up group out of Northwest Indiana that provided a private car charter on the final run of Amtrak’s Hoosier State over the summer between Indianapolis and Chicago. This group is run by two gentlemen in their early 20’s who no doubt have a bright future in historical railroading in the Chicagoland area. Finally, in the fall, we formed a new partnership with the family-run Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad. They have been in business for 23 years now with their popular bed and breakfast/dinner trains, but have just acquired a former Santa Fe Hi-Level lounge car/Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car. We had the opportunity to do one “test run” with them in October where we set up various Santa Fe and Amtrak memorabilia aboard their car and welcomed passengers aboard open-house style while parked at the depot in Trego, Wisconsin. We had somewhere between 200 and 300 visitors — some coming from as far as the Twin Cities and Chicago to attend. We very much appreciate these three new partners (as well as all of our other returning partners such as Zephyr Route, Friends of the 261, Paxrail, 20th Century Railroad Club, Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, the South Shore Line/NICTD, Iowa Pacific, etc.) and are excited about what 2020 will bring with each of these great organizations.
One of our main focuses for the last quarter of 2019 has been on re-locating the Midwest Rail Rangers Headquarters/Office from Elm Grove, Wisconsin (suburban Milwaukee) to Barron, Wisconsin (about 90 minutes away from the Twin Cities). Once we are finished unpacking and getting settled in… we will have approximately three times the office space than we have had in the past. This will allow us to have more room to administer all things Rail Rangers related… as we begin our 5th full year of operations. Things went well with the initial move on December 8, 2019 and we hope to have our office up and running fully by Monday, January 6, 2020. Relocating to Northwest Wisconsin means we will closer to our new partner — the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad — as we look forward to doing many more educational programs aboard their Sky Parlour Car starting up again in the Spring. We will also be closer to the Twin Cities — where a lot of private rail equipment is housed (much more than Chicago!).  While two of our staff members will be relocating as a result… most of our crew and our Board will remain in the Chicago/Milwaukee areas… as they remain close to the South Shore Line program and our other endeavors. Simply put, this move will benefit the organization — and let us truly be the MIDWEST Rail Rangers — instead of just being mainly focused on just Chicago-based activities.
Finally, our whole Board and all of our Interpretive Guides (and hopefully you, too!) are looking forward to whatever 2020 will bring. We expect to continue to offer our on-board educational programs on the South Shore Line between Chicago, Illinois and South Bend, Indiana two to three times per month year-round throughout 2020. This has been one of our most popular features for the Midwest Rail Rangers over the past three years — and our contract with the South Shore extends into 2021 now. Starting in 2020, we will be partnering with the Indiana Dunes State Park to better educate our Guides — and promote our program dates. We’ll have more on this for you in one of our future E-Newsletters when more details are worked out — but this is something new and exciting to look forward to as we flip our calendars. The goal will be to have our programs on the South Shore be official state park interpretive programs and be on their online calendar. Meanwhile, our Board is already well into discussions with our private rail partners and the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago to provide you with fun and exciting trip destinations. Some of the trips being discussed include excursions to St. Louis, Michigan, Northwest Wisconsin, and much, much more. We understand that 2020 may be another difficult year for private railcar owners and excursion organizers as Amtrak’s restrictions on where cars can operate to continue… but we… and our partners are going to do whatever they can to continue to provide you with fun trips to ride along on — and we will work our hardest to bring you the fun and educational commentary you have grown to expect from us. Last but not least, this will be the first full year that the Wisconsin Great Northern will operate its Sky Parlour Car service — and we will soon be hammering out our schedule of dates our Guides will be at the railroad to share the car’s exciting and rich history. We hope you will make the trek up to Trego, Wisconsin in 2020 and attend one of the weekends the Rail Rangers will be helping out share more about these rare and historical lounge cars that once graced the Santa Fe’s El Capitan and Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.
If you have any questions or suggestions, we’re always here to listen to you!  Just drop us an e-mail at board@railrangers.org and we promise you a quick and prompt reply. Please keep checking our main website (www.RailRangers.org) in the months ahead as we begin to post confirmed trip dates. Updates will be sent via E-Newsletter, too.  You can also show your support for the Midwest Rail Rangers by purchasing our railroad route guide books, e-books, or podcasts to take along on your next personal railroad trip.  It’s almost like having someone narrate to you aboard the train! – they are that good. And your purchases help support our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and keep things rolling.  The Midwest Rail Rangers Store can be accessed 24-7 at www.MidwestRails.com!
We hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas, Holiday, and New Year!

Sincerely, Robert Tabern – MRR President

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

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

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The MRR Headquarters is Moving

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

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

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

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

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

And… with that… our HQ move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got a Suggestion for a 2020 Private Rail Excursion?

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

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

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

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

South Shore Line Programs Continue Over Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #1: New Name & Look for 2019: APRHF Rail Rangers Become Midwest Rail Rangers

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The following is a important message from APRHF Vice President Robert Tabern and APRHF Secretary Kandace Tabern:

We greet you with some exciting news involving the future of Rail Rangers.

For the past four years, the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF) has proudly sponsored the Rail Rangers as one of its outreach affiliates. During that time, the group’s Interpretive Guides have presented dozens of on-board educational programs on private rail excursions across a seven-state region of the Upper Midwest — including traveling through portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Interpretive Guides have also reached out to thousands of passengers on the South Shore Line with their on-board educational programs that occur two to three times per month year-round between Chicago and South Bend, IN. The Rail Rangers have also enjoyed meeting countless supporters over the years at outreach events such as Trainfest, Mad City Rail, and presentations at local libraries and train clubs. We also appreciate your enthusiasm for our railroad route guide books, PDF e-books, and new MP3 podcasts… along with the Rail Rangers’ new historical passenger railroad website collection, such as AmtrakDome.com and PacificParlourCar.com.

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Based on all of these accomplishments… and more that will be announced soon… a decision has been made by the APRHF Board of Directors that now is the time to spin-off the Rail Rangers into its own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit. We are confident that this decision, which was not taken lightly, will better both groups. The APRHF will be able to narrow its focus to its La Plata, Missouri-centered projects, such as the proposed expansion of Lookout Point Park. Meanwhile, the Rail Rangers will be in a much better position to fine-tune their on-board educational efforts…. which will include expanding the number and quality of its programs. The Rail Rangers will also be able to have direct control over incoming donations and finances.

Please know that the goal of everyone on the APRHF Board, and the future Midwest Rail Rangers Board, will be to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for our private and public rail partners and riders. Our hope is that the casual APRHF and Rail Rangers supporter will not even notice any differences.

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The Rail Rangers will continue to work together with our private/charter rail partners — including the Friends of the 261, Zephyr Route, Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Paxrail, Iowa Pacific Holdings, and the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago. The Rail Rangers look forward to having our Interpretive Guides on just as many historic private car trips in the Midwest as we did in past years, if not more-so in 2019.  (We hope to begin announcing some private rail trips soon!) . The Rail Rangers will also continue working with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) to provide our popular South Shore Line programs multiple times per month year-round. In fact, a new contract will soon be signed extending our educational partnership agreement with NICTD through January 2021! The Rail Rangers will also continue production/research of brand new railroad route guide books, e-books, and podcasts in 2019… and continue to build additional historical websites for your enjoyment.

What will mostly occur during this upcoming transition period will be “behind the scenes”… stuff you likely won’t see… but we wanted to briefly share with you. Effective Saturday, December 22, 2018, the Rail Rangers will become a temporary chapter of the APRHF entitled “The Midwest Rail Rangers Chapter of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation”. This Chapter will remain in place until the paperwork, that was already filed, is approved by the state and federal government for the Rail Rangers to become their own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Once that takes place, the name will legally change to “Midwest Rail Rangers”.  But hey, just call us the Rail Rangers, okay? We’re all friends around here. We anticipate the whole process to be completed during the first quarter of 2019.

The new Midwest Rail Rangers Board will be made up of its current dedicated Coordinators and Guides… including Robert Tabern (President), Robert Neil (Vice President), Dave Poole (Treasurer), Kathy Bruecker (Secretary), and Kandace Tabern (Educational Officer).

We are happy to remind you that all previously announced Rail Rangers on-board educational programs remain on the schedule… including the following 14 dates for the South Shore Line: December 15 and December 23 in 2018 and January 5, January 19, January 26, February 2, February 23, February 24, March 2, March 9, March 23, April 6, April 13, and April 27 in 2019.  The Rail Rangers will also still make their planned appearance at the Mad City Train Show in Madison, Wisconsin on February 9-10, 2019.  We hope to see you out there… it’s going to be a busy winter and spring for us!

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The Rail Rangers will continue to have their memorabilia items on display at the APRHF’s Exhibition of Amtrak History in La Plata, MO for just a few more weeks — so come and see them soon before they get a new home.
It is important to note that donations and membership dues paid to the APRHF will no longer go towards supporting the Rail Rangers programs, effective immediately… but will be used for other projects in La Plata. You can choose to continue supporting the Rail Rangers by donating directly to their organization… additional information and a donation button is located at www.railrangers.org.

This will also be the final posting about the Rail Rangers program here on www.aprhf.org. To follow the Rail Rangers, you will need to head to www.railrangers.org.  You can use the “Contact Us” link on the left side of the page to sign up for the Rail Rangers E-Newsletter, which will continue to give supporters an early look at upcoming trips and events. You can also follow the Rail Rangers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/railrangers.

Finally, in order to focus our full-time attention on the transition to what will be the Midwest Rail Rangers, the two of us will be stepping down from APRHF’s Board of Directors effective Friday, December 21, 2018. It has been a pleasure serving as your Vice President and Secretary for the past two years. We thank the APRHF for their support over the past four years of the Rail Rangers — we’re honored to keep your vision alive. We also wish the APRHF good luck with whatever projects they decide to undertake in the future.  We will continue to write monthly articles for TrainWeb, which is under the leadership of our good friend Steve Grande.

We hope to see you soon… All Aboard with the Rail Rangers!

Thanks,
Robert & Kandace Tabern
APRHF Vice President & Secretary

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the APRHF Rail Rangers

As 2017 comes to a close and you are busy spending today (Christmas Day!) with your friends and family, we at the APRHF Rail Rangers would like to take a minute out of the busy holiday period and thank you for your support this year… and yes… we continue looking forward to serving you with what will likely be a record number of rail excursions with our Interpretive Guides aboard in 2018.

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As we have mentioned in several posts so far… this month we have been celebrating the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation’s 5th Anniversary of sponsoring on-board educational programs. Prior to this happening, much of the activity of the APRHF focused solely on the various rail-themed venues in La Plata, Missouri, such as the Exhibition of Amtrak History and Lookout Point Park. While this was all well and good, the decision was made in December 2012 by the APRHF Board of Directors to also expand the 501(c)(3) non-profit’s mission beyond the confines of just one city. An agreement was signed on December 3, 2012 with the National Park Service, Amtrak, and Texas A&M University to co-sponsor a Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief through portions of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. We reached out to over 50,000 Amtrak passengers during the course of our 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons. If you rode the Southwest Chief during this time, you may have seen our volunteers in the Sightseer Lounge Car in their signature green shirts talking about such landmarks as Cherry Mine, the Mississippi River at Fort Madison, or maybe Gorin, Missouri, once home of the world’s tallest woman, Ella Ewing.

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When Trails & Rails decided to end the agreement in July 2015, it was because of YOUR support and YOUR positive calls and e-mails, that the APRHF Board of Directors decided to keep our on-board educational programs “on track” with the formation of the APRHF Rail Rangers program. It was something we would have direct control over and be able to better administer to the wants of our passengers. The rest has been history and amazing almost three years now of having our Interpretive Guides aboard dozens of private rail excursions — and now programs every two weeks or so on the South Shore Line.

APRHF Vice President Robert Tabern says, “Things have worked out so well with the APRHF Rail Rangers thanks to our supporters — especially folks who are APRHF Members. When we started the program back on July 20, 2015, we didn’t know what would happen. Obviously, we didn’t have the funds to organize our own private rail excursions. All we knew was because of Trails & Rails’ exclusive agreement with Amtrak, we have to find some other venue to do our programs. Private rail excursions was about the only route for us to go at the time.”

Succeed the APRHF Rail Rangers did. The organization currently has eight different partnership agreements in place to put its programs on for both public and private rail excursions; these include Friends of the 261, Zephyr Route Tours, American Rail Excursions, Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Paxrail, South Shore Line, the National Park Service (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore), and the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago. This doesn’t even include special short-term partnerships the APRHF Rail Rangers have had to do special programs, like with Iowa Pacific on the Hoosier State and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP).

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APRHF Secretary and Rail Rangers Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern says, “We are so happy when we get a round of applause at the end of our programs from passengers. We always have people coming up to us on the train and asking how much more they have to pay to listen to our narration. Or sometimes we have people saying we have the best job in the world to be paid to narrate on trains all day long. It’s at that point, we explain we are part of a volunteer group called the APRHF Rail Rangers. It doesn’t cost you anything more to listen to us — we do it because we want people to be educated on what they are seeing out their window. And even though we DO think we have the best job in the world being part of the APRHF and the Rail Rangers, it’s a volunteer job. We don’t get paid anything for what we do. All of our Interpretive Guides have paid jobs during the week — we just do this on the weekends because we love spending time with all of the grateful passengers. It’s not about us — it’s about giving back and enhancing passengers’ experiences.”

Since the end of 2017 is just a week away, it’s time to look back and look forward.

The year 2017 saw some pretty exciting private rail excursions for the APRHF Rail Rangers. The “premiere” trip of the year took place between August 19-22, 2017, when more than 50 passengers boarded a full-length dome car in Chicago. Our partner for the weekend was Mike Abernathy and Zephyr Route Tours. The destination was the APRHF Headquarters city of La Plata, Missouri. It was there all of the passengers spent two days and three nights. Stops in the area included the Walt Disney Museum in Marceline and a guided tour at Thousand Hills State Park. An unplanned stop to see the Weinermobile in Kirksville was even thrown in there! The real reason people made this trip was to see the Great American Total Solar Eclipse. Instead of fighting crowds and traffic, a special viewing was arranged at a private horse farm near Boonville, Missouri. The clouds broke just in time for everyone to witness the rare phenomenon. We even had Timm Bottoni aboard, who is an expert astronomer from the Chicagoland area to explain what everyone was viewing. It took everyone’s breath away when the horses and cattle began coming back to the barns when they thought it was sunset… but then they turned around and walked back out to the fields after the eclipse happened and it began to get lighter.

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Other private rail excursions in 2017 included trips to St. Louis, Springfield, and the Twin Cities with American Rail Excursions. The Friends of the 261 offered up their annual North Pole Express steam trip earlier this month in Saint Paul, Minnesota — our Interpretive Guides worked seven of the departures in just one day! Zephyr Route also featured trips to Galesburg, Quincy, Hannibal, and the Twin Cities.

Of course another big development in 2017 for the APRHF Rail Rangers happened with our public rail trips. We started the first two months of this year continuing on with our narration aboard the ex-Santa Fe dome car on the Hoosier State on select Sunday mornings between Lafayette, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately, on March 1, 2017, Amtrak took back over the route from our partner – Iowa Pacific Holdings. Even though the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) got positive reviews about our onboard educational programs, Amtrak decided it did not want our Interpretive Guides aboard. Our last Hoosier State program took lace on Saturday, February 25, 2017. After some re-shuffling, INDOT made the initial contact to get our public program shifted over to the South Shore Line. Our Interpretive Guides spent much of the spring and summer leaning the new route – with the first program launching on Saturday, August 5, 2017. In just five months, a whole new program was developed! That’s pretty good for an all-volunteer group. The South Shore Line received so much positive feedback from passengers, a long-term deal was recently signed with even the National Park Service coming aboard to be a co-sponsor. Again, all of this happens because of YOUR e-mail and YOUR support… including YOU becoming a new APRHF Member or by renewing your membership.

This time of the year is also one to look ahead.

Right now, we continue to work with our private rail partners on 2018 trips. Some of the destinations we may be headed to in the New Year? Well, St. Paul, Duluth, Hannibal, Quincy, Galesburg, Springfield, St. Louis, and many more are in the planning phases. We are not quite ready to announce any dates yet — but we are hoping to have something for you by late February or early March, if not even sometime next month. Stay tuned! Of course, feedback on where you would like to go in a historic dome car or observation car is always welcome. Just drop us an e-mail at railrangers@aprhf.org.

We also are excited to continue our South Shore Line program in 2018. We’ll be going out this Saturday (December 30, 2017) and three times in January 2018 (January 6, January 20, and January 27). We will also be posting our February, March, and April dates on here soon! Check back for a post on this website on New Years’ Day that will list those… we are expecting to do at least seven additional programs during this period. The best part of the South Shore programs are — there are NO reservations. Just hop on when you want on an assigned Rail Rangers dates and enjoy. It’s just $27 round-trip from Chicago to South Bend. You get more than 4 hours worth of narration during that time and a 180 mile train ride.

So, time to get off the ol’ computer and wrap this up… so we can enjoy some time with our families opening presents today! But, once again, THANK YOU for being an APRHF Member and/or supporter of our APRHF Rail Rangers program. If you haven’t already, please give us a “like” on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/railrangers. We are very close to getting 400 “likes”! A little elf told us that there’s even a special Christmas message LIVE from Union Station over there for you to watch now. If you have ridden with the APRHF Rail Rangers, but haven’t taken the full leap of becoming an APRHF Member — we encourage you to do that in the New Year. Memberships start at just $10 per year — that’s like 83 cents per month. We also offer higher membership that will further your experience. For example, for just $65 a month, you get a NARM reciprocal membership deal that also lets you into hundreds of museums across the country for free. You can easily make up that $65 you spend in membership dues with what you save by visiting other museums. All of the money raised goes towards the various APRHF venues in La Plata, but also for supporting the Rail Rangers program — and upkeep on our wireless speaker system, research, and paying for the maps and handouts we give out to passengers for free.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!