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 #31 – 5/10/2021

Monday, May 10, 2021

Dear Friends and Supporters,

If you are planning to head “UP NORTH” for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend, we hope you will consider a stop off at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, WI… one of our key historical partners. The Midwest Rail Rangers will have our Interpretive Guides helping out at a special OPEN HOUSE EVENT taking place there.

Join us from 10:00AM to 4:00PM on Saturday, May 29th and Sunday, May 30th at the Wisconsin Great Northern Depot, N6639 Dilly Lake Road, Trego, WI, 54888.  We are located just off U.S. Highway 53 and U.S. Highway 63, between Spooner and Trego, WI.

Midwest Rail Rangers Guides and Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad Staff will be offering guided tours of the interior of the three passenger cars of the Mark Twain Zephyr (“Tom Sawyer”, “Huckleberry Finn”, and “Effie Dean/Car #500”, which have been undergoing a major rehabilitation this past year. See what incredible progress has been made in just really nine months of reconstruction.

Self-guided tours of the exterior of the cars and interior of the Museum Car/Display Car “Becky Thatcher” will also be available.

The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad owns the Mark Twain Zephyr, while the Midwest Rail Rangers occasionally partners with them to enhance visitor’s historical knowledge about the train set and to provide special programming… much like we have succefully done with their ex-Santa Fe/Amtrak Hi-Level Lounge Car over the past two years. 

A book signing, model railroad exhibit, video presentations, and more will take place.

And yes, there is even such a thing as a “free lunch”!  From 11:00am (until gone) every day, stop by and grab your choice of a hot dog or sloppy joe sandwich with sides, on us.

MEANWHILE, IN OTHER NEWS…

We will be having a Midwest Rail Rangers Board Meeting on the evening of Monday, May 17th. Leaders of the group will be discussing what our Summer and Fall 2021 Season might look like on private rail cars, the South Shore Line, 20th Century Trips, and more.

Unfortunately, the TSA and FRA decided to extend their federal mask mandate for all train passengers through September 13, 2021.  Federal regulations apply to trains regardless of local or state mandates. The federal mandate on masks was initially set to expire later this week. 

Giving narration for a long period of time with a mask on can be quite a complicated task and is not something all of our Guides are or may be comfortable with.

On the flip side, others on our Board and many of the Guides are also eager to provide some programming to passengers this summer… at least in a limited capacity.

This is something we are seriously thinking over during the weeks ahead with our partners and will have more information for you in the next Midwest Rail Rangers E-Newsletter.

SOME GOOD NEWS…

“Save The Date” for July 23-25, 2021. We received word of a POSSIBLE private car trip opportunity the Midwest Rail Rangers MIGHT be involved in. Once it becomes more definite, we will pass the details along to you.  While not “rare mileage”, this is a route that the Midwest Rail Rangers has never provided an onboard educational program on before.

          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 #30 – Join us in Green Bay, WI on April 17-18, 2021

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We are extremely happy to FINALLY announce a little return to “normal”… and hope that you can join us next weekend in Green Bay, Wisconsin for the first outreach event that the Midwest Rail Rangers will be participating in since the outbreak of COVID-19 more than 13 months ago.

You are invited to drop by the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad booth at the Titletown Train Show next Saturday (April 17, 2021) and Sunday (April 18, 2021) in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In addition to WGNRR staff who will be running the booth… we will have two Midwest Rail Rangers volunteers on hand to help promote all of the exciting things going on at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad. The WGNRR purchased an Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car in 2019 and the famed Mark Twain Zephyr in 2020 (which is undergoing extensive renovations right now). The WGNRR has been kind enough to allow the Midwest Rail Rangers to host historical programs and open houses on select weekends. We look forward to continue working with them in the coming years.

Again, the MRR will not have our own booth this time — but will have Midwest Rail Rangers docents available at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad booth. We will also be taking orders for the popular Mark Twain Zephyr book series that was released on March 1, 2021.

The Titletown Train Show will take place at the KI Convention Center in Downtown Green Bay. Public hours are 9AM – 5PM on Saturday (April 17th) and 10AM – 4PM on Sunday (April 18th). Please check out the Titletown Train Show’s website for directions, admission, and mask and other COVID-19 restrictions.

We have no information yet to share on re-starting the other aspects of the Midwest Rail Rangers programs. There are currently no private car trips, no South Shore trips, no 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago trips, nor other outreach events to announce for 2021.

Our virtual educational programs will continue, as they have during the pandemic. Two new programs will be produced per month through February 28, 2022… and there after, one new program per month. MRR “On the Road” Virtual Programs take place on select Sunday evenings at 7:00PM CT.

Our semi-annual Board Meeting will take place on Thursday, April 15th… and we might have more information to share there-after. We will be discussing protocol needed to re-start our programs on the South Shore Line.

      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 #29 — Rail Rangers Release Mark Twain Zephyr History Book / Website — February 11, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Thanks so much for continuing to follow the Midwest Rail Rangers. We are really hopeful for 2021 to be a “transition year”… where perhaps by this summer we can begin going back to our in-person onboard educational programs. Trust me… we are very eager to be back with you aboard doing narration… but we also have to be realistic and wait until our volunteers and rail partners feel the time is ready, too. Plus, we have to comply with state and even city restrictions on gatherings.. and wait until some of that changes. Each day hopefully we are getting closer to conquering COVID-19 as much as will be possible.

While we continue to work out the details on when our exact return dates will be to the South Shore Line, private rail excursions, Amtrak charters organized by the 20th Century Railroad Club, outreach events, and open house programs at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad — we do have some exciting news to share.

The last 11 months that we have NOT been doing our “traditional” onboard educational programs… has let us at the Midwest Rail Rangers have the extra time to further partner with the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad to write a series of history books about the Mark Twain Zephyr. As you probably know, if you follow us, the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad acquired the Mark Twain Zephyr train set (and a spare car from the Pioneer Zephyr) over the summer… and has been working non-stop over the fall and winter in restoring it to operating condition. If everything goes as planned… that could happen in late 2021.

The Midwest Rail Rangers already has helped out with the Wisconsin Great Northern’s October 24-25, 2020 Mark Twain Zephyr Open House Event. And, in the future, the Midwest Rail Rangers look forward to raising donations for the “Becky Thatcher” Museum Car… and having our Interpretive Guides available at more open house events and during special history weekends.

Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern and Midwest Rail Rangers Educational Coordinator Kandace Tabern were challenged by the owners of the Wisconsin Great Northern to compile as much information as they could on the Mark Twain Zephyr. The result? A three book series all about the history of this legendary CB&Q train set. The first two books of the series will be published on March 1, 2021… with the third book to be published in Spring 2022. The first book covers the development of the CB&Q Zephyrs, a look at some of the Mark Twain Zephyr’s sister shovel-nose trains, exclusive photos of the building of the MTZ in Philadelphia, and minute-by-minute coverage of the train’s dedication in Hannibal, MO on October 25, 1935. The second book covers the 23 years that the Mark Twain Zephyr spent as part of the Burlington Route. You’ll be surprised at how many times it was pulled off its “home route” from Burlington, Iowa to St. Louis, Missouri. Also included is the 60 years the Mark Twain Zephyr has been in private ownership. Plus, detailed plans for reconstruction at the Wisconsin Great Northern. The third book (again, not available until Spring 2022) will cover the transportation of train set up to Wisconsin, exclusive photos of the renovation process, and photographs of the ribbon cutting and first few public rides.

For the next 48 hours we have a special deep discount PRE-SALE going on just for supporters of the Midwest Rail Rangers who subscribe to our e-Newsletter. Prices will be going up on Sunday… so get your book now! Prices vary and you are able to get the book in 3 different versions — Hardcover Premium Color, All-Color Paperback, and digital PDF E-book — so choose the one that works best for you.

Head over to our new Mark Twain Zephyr Store at:

http://www.MTZstore.com to browse and make your purchase.

A portion of all sales goes toward the restoration of the Mark Twain Zephyr

      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 #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 #22 — COVID-19 Statement & Schedule Update 2 — April 11, 2020

April 11, 2020

Dear Friends,

First, we want to thank you for your support during this difficult time. We have received many e-mails and phone calls over the past three or four weeks — with people asking how they can support the Midwest Rail Rangers — and making a pledge to ride with us once again when it is safe to take leisure train trips again. We appreciate that very much. In the next section of this E-Newsletter, we will provide you with some options on how you can help support our 501(c)(3) non-profit in the trying weeks ahead.

Second, we at the Midwest Rail Rangers always like to be optimistic. While you may have noticed that some organizations are cancelling things already for the entire summer… or even the rest of the year… we have decided NOT to take such drastic steps at this point. We think it’s important that whenever we are safely allowed to return to whatever our new normal will be… that the Midwest Rail Rangers will be there for you. We want to be back on the rails and giving you on-board educational programs whenever it is possible to do so in consultation with our partners and following all CDC recommendations.

So, with that in mind — two important scheduling updates:

We have decided to cancel all on-board educational programs through at least May 22, 2020 at this point.  (We had previously cancelled all programs through April 30, 2020).

But, with that — we are releasing our full tentative summer schedule, as well, for the South Shore Line, the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago, our private rail partners, and various outreach events.

At this point, all programs scheduled after May 22, 2020 ARE DEFINITELY considered “a go” … however the Midwest Rail Rangers Board will re-convene in about three weeks from now and re-evaluate and adjust the schedule accordingly depending on what is going on with the COVID-19 virus.

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

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SUPPORTING THE MIDWEST RAIL RANGERS IN THE WEEKS AHEAD

Like many businesses and other non-profit around the country, the Midwest Rail Rangers are also struggling to a degree during this uncertain period. While our Interpretive Guides are not on the train giving programs… and we are not able to do outreach events (which serve as our major fundraisers)… our bills continue to roll in. We have to continue to pay things like our liability insurance, maintenance on our speakers systems an other equipment, website hosting, and much more. We have had several people call and e-mail and ask how they can still show support for the Midwest Rail Rangers during this time. There are several options. Our website (http://www.railrangers.org) allows you to make a direct donation of any amount — simply click on the button on the lower left-hand side of the screen. You can also show your support for the Midwest Rail Rangers by purchasing one of our railroad route guide books, PDF e-books, MP3 podcasts, wood depot signs, and much more. The Midwest Rail Rangers Store’s online page can be reached by just heading over to http://www.MidwestRails.com. We also understand that some people who are on a limited income or have lost their jobs can’t do either — and we get it. Just an encouraging word — or e-mail with a pledge to ride with us again when this all over… is always appreciated too. Stay well and thank you for your continued support.

Roundhouse Newsletter Edition #21 — COVID-19 Statement & Schedule Update 1 — March 18, 2020

FACING COVID-19 TOGETHER: An important message from the Midwest Rail Rangers about our upcoming onboard educational programs

March 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

The Midwest Rail Rangers’ Board of Directors and our Interpretive Guides care about your health and well-being in these unprecedented times.

After consultation with our various partner organizations (including the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and Indiana Dunes State Park)… the MRR Board of Directors has regrettably decided to cancel our upcoming onboard educational programs aboard the South Shore Line on March 29, 2020… April 4, 2020… April 18, 2020… and April 25, 2020.

While the MRR Board was trying to wait as long as possible to make a decision … hoping not to have to cancel any of our programs at all… we feel now is the time to share our action plan so our supporters can plan accordingly for the upcoming month or so. This decision also falls in line with the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) current recommendation that higher risk individuals avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people. We often have 10 or more people now attending each of our onboard educational programs on the South Shore.

We hope that you will continue to ride and support the South Shore Line as much as you are able during the upcoming weeks. To make learning about the route still possible, we have decided to make our MP3 narration podcasts for the South Shore Line available at no cost to everyone through April 30, 2020. If you are interested in this offer, simply head to the Midwest Rail Rangers’ on-line store at www.MidwestRails.com … click on the “MP3 Route Podcasts” link… and scroll down and find the direction of travel you are planning. Follow the instructions for your free download. Much of the information you will hear in the podcasts is the same information you would have gotten from our guides on the train.

We will also continue to sell our “Outside the Rails” route guide books and route guide e-books for the South Shore Line during this time as well. So… there are plenty of chances to still ride the South Shore Line in small groups, if you desire, and learn about the interesting people, places, and history outside your window.

We are always optimistic at the Midwest Rail Rangers… and at this point… we are planning to re-start our regular operations again on April 30, 2020. In fact, we will be publishing our Summer 2020 schedule shortly. Obviously, future changes may need to be made… but we are hoping for the best.

The four previously-mentioned onboard educational programs aboard the South Shore Line are the only cancellations the MRR Board is making at this time.

All programs scheduled after May 1, 2020 ARE DEFINITELY considered “a go” at this point… including those with the South Shore Line, our private rail partners, the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago, the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, and our various outreach events.

Please continue to monitor our website, e-newsletters, Facebook and Twitter pages for more information and updates, as needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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