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 #16 — Happy Thanksgiving from the Midwest Rail Rangers — November 26, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving from the Midwest Rail Rangers

As we are sitting down to dinner with our family and friends tonight… the Midwest Rail Rangers would like to take a quick “time out” and wish you and your family and friends a HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

We are truly thankful for your support over the past almost five years now!  Without your interest in our on-board educational programs and your generous donations… our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization would not be where it is today.

As the Rail Rangers prepares to celebrate its 5th Anniversary in 2020… we are very humble and grateful for your support at all levels. We hope you will ride with us again in the New Year… as we hope to begin releasing more program dates in the months ahead on the South Shore, at the Wisconsin Great Northern (Sky Parlour), private rail trips, 20th Century Railroad Club Amtrak coach charters, and outreach events.

Reminder: Donations for 2019 Tax Year!

 If you are interested in making a donation to the Midwest Rail Rangers and having it count on your 2019 taxes — this is just a reminder than you have only 32 days left to make your contribution.

 

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.

Moving Update & New Address!

As you may have read in our E-Newsletter sent about four weeks ago, the Midwest Rail Rangers has officially relocated our business office… from Elm Grove, Wisconsin (which is about 10 miles west of Downtown Milwaukee) to Barron, Wisconsin (which is about 90 minutes northwest of the Twin Cities).

 

The bulk of the move of our office equipment and records, etc. will take place on Monday, December 2nd and Tuesday, December 3rd. So, if you do contact us this week… please allow us a few days to respond… as our internet and other services also will take a couple of days to transfer between our old location and our new location.

However, our new post office box is fully up and running for your communication needs:

Midwest Rail Rangers

P.O. Box 184

Barron, WI  54812

Please do not send any mail to our old post office box in Elm Grove, WI… as it has already been closed down and mail will take an additional 2-3 days to be forwarded up to Barron, WIsconsin.

We hope to be fully up and running in Barron around December 18th.

We are excited about this move — as it will allow for a much larger space for our Board to administer the ever-growing Midwest Rail Rangers team.

While some of our Board members will be re-locating to NW Wisconsin, most of our Guides will be remaining in the Chicago area… and the quantity and quality of our programs will no doubt change.

By late spring, we even hope to have a visitor area on our new HQ’s property where people can come and check out more about the Rail Rangers by appointment.

 

 Join the Midwest Rail Rangers at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad on Saturday, December 7!
 
One last note — we hope you will come out to the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad on Saturday, December 7th and meet five of our Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides!

 

In anticipation of our HQ’s move to Barron, Wisconsin… and our exciting new partnership with the Wisconsin Great Northern (where we’ll be doing onboard educational programs on their Sky Parlour Car again coming this Spring!)… five of our Guides will be helping out with the 2:00pm Santa Pizza Train.  (Guides may also ride either the 11:00am or 5:30pm train, too!)

The Wisconsin Great Northern’s Santa’s Pizza Party is a popular way to celebrate the holiday season with your kids because it combines everyone’s favorite meal with a scenic train ride and a visit with Santa. Your ticket aboard Santa’s Pizza Party includes the 2 hour train ride, 1/2 pizza per person and your first soda, a visit with Santa in his private car, and a holiday cookie and hot chocolate on the return trip. (Family rate includes 2 adults and 3-5 children, 2 pizzas and a soda for each person.) Make your reservations for this family favorite.

Pizza comes 1/2 Sausage and 1/2 Pepperoni. Cheese pizza may be ordered in advance. Please call the WGN office at 715-635-3200 or add a comment at time of ordering online. Pizza will be ordered before your arrival at our station and will not be able to be changed at that time.

Tickets are very limited at this time for all departures.

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…