APRHF Rail Rangers Launch On-Demand Narration with TrainPodcast.com

Since July 2015, Interpretive Guides with the APRHF Rail Rangers program have been educating (as well as entertaining!) train passengers about what can be seen out their window. Without a doubt… travelers love learning about the people, places, and history of the various areas they are passing through. It helps pass the time aboard the train for many… and makes one better educated about the country. Perhaps you have caught one of the APRHF Rail Rangers’ “history talks” on a private rail excursion somewhere across the Midwest… or the South Shore Line between Downtown Chicago, Illinois and South Bend, Indiana?

One of the biggest challenges the APRHF Rail Rangers program has faced over the past three-and-a-half years is trying to reach out to as many train passengers as possible with on-board educational programs. Interpretive Guides with the Rail Rangers currently ride the South Shore Line two to three weekends per month year-round… and are on private rail excursions out of Chicago Union Station up to one dozen times per year. However, that barely scratches the surface for the millions of train rides passengers take every year across the Upper Midwest.

But… what if you could take the APRHF Rail Rangers with you whenever you are on a train ride in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and/or Wisconsin?

Well, now you can!

The APRHF Rail Rangers are proud to announce they have researched, written, and recorded 18 different MP3 podcasts for all of the major regional and long-distance passenger train lines across the Midwest.

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It doesn’t matter when you take a train ride — you can now purchase and download an MP3 podcast from the APRHF Rail Rangers to learn about the areas you are traveling through. Podcasts are now available for train routes running between Chicago and Milwaukee (Wisconsin), St. Paul-Minneapolis (Minnesota), La Plata (Missouri), Quincy (Illinois), St. Louis (Missouri), Carbondale (Illinois), Indianapolis (Indiana), South Bend Airport (Indiana) on the South Shore Line, and Detroit/Pontiac (Michigan).

All 12 of the APRHF Rail Rangers worked hard and contributed their voices for the MP3 podcasts. For example, purchase and download the MP3 podcast from Chicago to St. Paul (or St. Paul to Chicago) and listen to Interpretive Guides Kathy Bruecker and Steve Snyder telling you about the urban area between Chicago and Milwaukee… the scenic Driftless Region of Southwest Wisconsin… and the various Mississippi River towns in Minnesota.  Heading between La Plata, MO and Chicago in the future? You will want the Rail Rangers podcast featuring APRHF President Bob Cox and APRHF Treasurer Amy Cox to learn about historical landmarks along the Santa Fe and old CB&Q. APRHF Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern and Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern co-host all 18 podcasts. Other contributors include Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski, Alane Morgan, Robert Neil, Lowell Olberg, and Dave Poole.

The Rail Rangers’ Podcast lengths range from a little over 20 minutes to a little over one hour depending on the route. Separate podcasts have been recorded for each direction of a route, so that passengers will see the appropriate landmarks — as described on being out the right or left hand side windows. All podcasts cost $9.95 each, with all proceeds going to help support the APRHF Rail Rangers program, an affiliate of the 501(c)(3) non-profit American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation.

Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern explains, “We are really excited about this new chapter for the APRHF Rail Rangers and think it’s the future of on-board educational programs… as well as a great fundraiser. We really get such positive feedback about our programs — but we also have people approach us and say — wow, I’m going to Carbondale next weekend, I wish you were going to be on our train. Well, now we can!  Just click, download, and bring your ear phones with you — and we will be with you on any train. You can learn about your window regardless if you’re traveling north, south, west, or east out of Chicago.”

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APRHF Rail Rangers Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern says, “We really put a lot of effort into recording these route guide podcasts… it really was a year-long process. First, we cut down the route guide material in our books and e-books that we have sold for a few years now into something that would be around 30-60 minutes in length. We don’t want to talk non-stop during someone’s train journey. Then we had to find time to record with all 12 of our Interpretive Guides… all of whom have a busy schedule. And then finding the time to edit 18 different podcasts was also a challenge. But, we got it done!  We are so happy to be able to share this with passengers. We are the only ones I know who have done train route guide podcasts for all of the major train routes out of Chicago.”

So, are you convinced and want to give the APRHF Rail Rangers brand new podcasts a try?

It’s simple… just head over to www.TrainPodcast.com and make your purchases!

The whole process is quite simple to use and understand. Each MP3 podcast download costs just $9.95 — and for that — you get 5 copies of the podcast you purchased. You can download one on your phone, laptop, desktop computer, tablet… and still have one download left to perhaps share with a friend or family member perhaps. Each download features the MP3 audio file as well as a PDF index sheet that shows a listing of the towns talked about. Basically, you listen to the story of an upcoming landmark… pause the podcast until you pass the landmark or town… and then listen up for the next story/landmark… and so on.

APRHF President Bob Cox says, “At a recent Board Meeting, we decided that starting in January 2019, TrainPodcast.com is going to offer Pullman Members ($65/year) a 15% discount code for podcasts and route guide e-books… and Engineer Members ($120/year) and above will get a 25% discount code for podcasts and route guide e-books from the APRHF Rail Rangers. It’s going to be yet another perk to look at upgrading your membership!”

Even though route guide books and e-books… and now route guide podcasts… give passengers more options to learn about the various train routes out there — you will still find the friendly faces of the APRHF Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides aboard the train too!

Robert Tabern says, “We are not going anywhere!  We will still have our Interpretive Guides on the South Shore Line two to three weekends per month and we are going to still do as many private rail excursions as we can given the new restrictions Amtrak has placed on private car movements earlier this year. Think of the podcasts as a big addition to our program when we are not on the train — but we hope people will come out an experience our live programming too because nothing replaces that one-on-one interaction we can have together on the train.”

And, even though all 18 Midwestern podcasts are done… that doesn’t mean there are not more podcasts coming!

Kandace Tabern explains, “We are going to take a little break now that we have produced podcasts for all of the major Midwestern train routes. However, starting in 2019, look for new podcasts to begin trickling on to the website. We have signed an agreement with author Eva Hoffman of the “Flashing Yellow” Route Guide series — and will begin producing podcasts for some of the routes she has written about. First up, will be for the daylight stretches of the California Zephyr between Chicago and Omaha, Denver to Green River (Utah), and from Winnemucca (Nevada) to San Francisco. We will then move on to the Southwest Chief and other routes. We got a lot more podcast coming!”

Once again, the APRHF Rail Rangers’ podcasts are now for sale at www.TrainPodcast.com.

We have a special deal for those of you who read out APRHF Blog Site, too.  Use code “ENEWS10” at check-out and get an unlimited number of Train Podcasts for 10 percent off. This offer is valid through December 31, 2018.

For more information about the APRHF Rail Rangers on-board educational programs, check out www.RailRangers.org or www.DunesTrain.com.

Flashing Yellow Guidebooks Now Available in Travel-Friendly E-Book Format

At the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation, we have saying… Not knowing what you are seeing out the window on a train ride… is much like watching the Travel Channel with the audio turned off. No one is going to listen to their favorite travel show on mute… so why would you hit the rails and not know what you are seeing out the window? That would just be silly! Imagine all of the cool things that could be passing you by — and you wouldn’t even know it!

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To help educate passengers about the people, places, and history passing by, our APRHF Rail Rangers program has produced a total of 11 different railroad route guides that cover most of the passenger rail lines in the Upper Midwest. The book series entitled “Outside the Rails” is designed for passengers traveling between Chicago and Milwaukee, St. Paul, La Plata, Quincy, St. Louis, Carbondale, Indianapolis, and Detroit/Pontiac. The goal in writing and publishing the books was to give passengers a chance to know what they are seeing out the window… even when they don’t have one of the Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides aboard the train. Sit back, relax, open the book… and enjoy your train trip that much more! You will be amazed at how much more fun… and how much faster… a train trip will go when you are learning en route.

Originally, authors Robert and Kandace Tabern started their “Outside the Rails” book series in 2011 as a for-profit company. However, when they were appointed the Executive Director and Chicago Coordinator of the APRHF Rail Rangers program in 2015 — they decided to use all proceeds from book sales to help fund the group that provides educational programs on private rail excursions and the South Shore Line. Money raised from book sales (after the publisher is paid off) goes to fund such things as the handouts given to passengers on the train and at train shows the Rail Rangers attend… new props and informational displays… research trips for new routes… some travel expense reimbursement for volunteers… payment for the Rail Rangers’ websites and promotions… speaker upkeep and replacement… and much more. So, not only are you getting a fun book to learn about a route on your next train trip — you are helping support a wonderful 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who offers guided tours several times per month on various railroad lines.

A few years ago, “Outside the Rails” and the APRHF Rail Rangers decided to team up to cross-promote book series with Colorado-based author Eva Hoffman, who wrote her own series of railroad route guides under the “Flashing Yellow Guidebooks” title. In fact, “Flashing Yellow” served as the original inspiration for “Outside the Rails”! While “Outside the Rails” exclusively focuses on educating passengers about Upper Midwestern train routes, “Flashing Yellow” covers the various long-distance train lines in-depth, from Maine to California. Author Eva Hoffman has written route guidebooks for various Amtrak routes… including the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited, Northeast Corridor, and Downeaster. Right now there are 16 editions currently available… with books for the City of New Orleans and Capitol Limited coming in the near future.

Up until now, all 11 editions of “Outside the Rails” and 16 editions of “Flashing Yellow” were only available in hard book format. While passengers enjoyed this option and will continue to enjoy this option — we are happy to announce that all books are now available in an e-book PDF format. Yes… instead of carrying around pounds of heavy books… you can simply purchase the books that will cover your route on to your e-reader, laptop, Kindle, tablet, or other device. It will make enjoying the scenery that much lighter and travel-friendly! Many fans of both railroad route guide series have been requesting this for many years, but it wasn’t until recently that we found a reasonably-priced provider to host this service. In addition, there is special software provided by the host that marks the purchaser’s contact information so the PDF files can not be duplicated without it being trace-able back to the purchaser.

Both the traditional books and e-books are available exclusively through MIDWESTRAILS.COM. The purchase price allows the buyer to 5 downloads — so with one purchase — you could theoretically have a copy on your phone, laptop, Kindle, and two different tablets!

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As an incentive to purchase the e-book versions, for a limited time, “Outside the Rails” is offering its e-books at 25% off the hard copy version. That is something that is too good to be true for travelers planning their summer vacation.

* = There is no shipping and handling charged and sales taxes are built in to the sale prices of all e-books. Please be aware that our vendor, Sellfy, does charge a 7% handling fee for each book which is not reflected in these prices, but will be charged to the customer at the time of check-out.

The following editions of “Outside the Rails” are now available:

* Chicago to Milwaukee, WI ($15.00*)

* Chicago to St. Paul, MN – Abbreviated ($11.25*)

* Chicago to St. Paul, MN – Expanded ($26.25*)

* Chicago to La Plata, MO – Abbreviated ($7.25*)

* Chicago to La Plata, MO – Expanded ($26.25*)

* Chicago to Quincy, IL ($11.25*)

* Chicago to St. Louis, MO ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Carbondale, IL ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Indianapolis, IN/Riding the Hoosier Rails ($15.00*)

* Chicago to South Bend, IN/South Shore Line ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac, MI ($15.00*)

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The following editions of “Flashing Yellow Guidebooks” is now available:

* St. Paul, MN to Glacier Park, MT ($14.00*)

* Glacier Park, MT to Seattle, WA/Portland, OR ($15.00*)

* Chicago, IL to Denver, CO ($10.00*)

* Denver, CO to Salt Lake City, UT ($12.00*)

* Salt Lake City, UT to San Francisco Bay Area, CA ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Kansas City, MO ($8.50*)

* Kansas City, MO to Albuquerque, NM ($14.00*)

* Albuquerque, NM to Los Angeles, CA ($12.00*)

* Chicago to San Antonio, TX ($20.00*)

* New Orleans, LA to San Antonio, TX ($15.00*)

* San Antonio, TX to Los Angeles, CA ($16.00*)

* Sacramento, CA to Los Angeles, CA ($10.00*)

* Seattle, WA to Sacramento, CA ($12.00*)

* New York City to Washington, DC ($14.00*)

* New York City to Boston, MA ($15.00*)

* Boston, MA to Coastal Maine/Downeaster ($8.50*)

We think you’ll agree that these books (and now e-books!) make great gifts for yourself and loved one who will be taking the train.

Thanks in large part to book sales… the APRHF Rail Rangers have been able to self-fund almost all of their expenses. In the three years the program has been operating, no money from the APRHF General Fund has been used for handouts, promotions, and many other expenses. This means money raised from memberships and donations to the General Fund are able to stay in La Plata and help with projects out there such as the Lookout Point Park and Exhibition of Amtrak History.

Get your favorite book OR e-book now at MIDWESTRAILS.COM!

So what’s next? When not actually on the train… The APRHF Rail Rangers will begin working on developing MP3 podcasts for train passengers. More details coming soon! This is a project that will likely take several years to fully complete — but we hope to begin rolling out the podcasts one-by-one… with the first one arriving in late spring or early summer 2018.