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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APRHF President and Treasurer Check out the South Shore With the Rail Rangers!!

(This article was written by APRHF President Bob Cox. The Rail Rangers were an outreach affiliate of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation from July 20, 2015 to December 22, 2018).

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“Why are we getting up this early?” was the question when the alarm went off at 5:30 am. Oh yes, it is South Shore train ride day! That made getting up early much more bearable. It was not long before the Chicago Coordinators Robert and Kandace Tabern showed up at the hotel to pick us up and whisk us off to Millennium Station. Not our first visit there, but our first time to actually ride the South Shore. It was also our first time to review the South Shore program that the Rail Rangers do on select weekends. Once we boarded the train, Robert put out the speakers while Kandace got the scripts and props ready and Steve got the microphone ready.

Almost ready for sound check. Check 1, 2, 3… We are ready to go!

It is now time to wait for departure. A few people came right to the car because they read about the program online. One of our newest APRHF members, Keith Thomas, joined us all the way from Milwaukee. He takes a seat and gets ready for his first ride on the South Shore, too.

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All Aboard! And we are off. The Rail Rangers program is announced on the train and passengers are told which car it is in if they want to join. Soon the car was full. Steve is doing the route to South Bend, Indiana this morning.

The route miles are rolling by and people are having a good time listening to the program and reading their handouts.

Beverly Shores station is a flag stop along the route. It boasts a unique style of architecture for this area.

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Before we know it, Michigan City is upon us. This is the Headquarters for the South Shore Railroad. Michigan City is known for having the last street running for an interurban railroad. It sure is fun rolling down the middle of the street. They of course have a yard with equipment and everyone was enjoying spying the caboose. Sorry no picture, mine was blurry.

Here is the old Michigan City station. This area is still served, just a little farther down the road.

There was an ad car in the yard (pic 1). Got a clean view of the pantographs up on some equipment (pic 2). All the South Shore trains originate in Michigan City.

After Michigan City, it is back on the fast track as we roll on to South Bend Airport with a carload of passengers continuing to learn about the route and the neat things that we are passing.

Next up, South Bend Airport. We made it! All passengers detrain and this give us time for some lunch and some conversation with the crew and each other. The food in the airport was good. They had some cool snacks. The Bar Fly is the name of the cafe.

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Lunch is over and it is time to head back to Chicago. Robert and Kandace will be narrating the route back home. A side note is each guide does the route differently, that way you do not hear the same stories both ways.

We had a nice ride back to Chicago and Keith didn’t fall asleep, so I guess we all did good. It was fun visiting with the passengers and listening to the program as we rolled across Illinois and Indiana. All to soon, we were at the bumping post in Millennium Station.

The Rail Rangers are an outreach of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation. They do interpretive narration on private rail car tours and this South Shore program. To go on a trip with them or get your own route guide, check out www.railrangers.org.

 

 

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!

Rail Rangers to Make Major Announcement on July 5th

Mark your calendars! The APRHF Rail Rangers will be making a major announcement about the organization’s future in just a few weeks from now — on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.

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The outreach arm of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation, which has been in operation for two years now,  is expected to share details about a new public train route that its Interpretive Guides will be conducting onboard educational programs on. You may recall that the APRHF Rail Rangers conducted public onboard educational programs on the Hoosier State train between Lafayette, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois beginning on November 1, 2016. The program received immense praise from both passengers, Iowa Pacific, and the Indiana Department of Transportation. Onboard programs came to a premature end on February 26, 2017, when Iowa Pacific’s contract to operate the Hoosierexpired. The Rail Rangers also provide educational narration on private rail excursions across the Upper Midwest.

To be among the first to hear the announcement, sign up for E-newsletters from the Rail Rangers at their website, www.railrangers.org.  Details will also be posted here at railrangers.org and also on TrainWeb.