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.

 

 

APRHF Rail Rangers South Shore Line Educational Programs: August – December 2018 Schedule Announced

If you’re looking for something fun to do this summer or fall in the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana area that won’t break your budget… then consider joining the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation’s (APRHF) Rail Rangers aboard the historic and scenic South Shore Line!  Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides will be presenting onboard educational programs about the people, places, and history that can be seen along the 90-mile train route between Downtown Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. Programs presented in September and October will highlight the brilliant fall colors seen from the train while passing through the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Those who attend the Rail Rangers’ programs will have a better understanding about the four National Park Service affiliated sites and two Indiana State Parks that are located near the train route, in addition to areas on the South Side of Chicago, the historic steel mill area of Northwest Indiana, and the “bread basket” farming region of La Porte and St. Joseph Counties in Indiana. These educational programs are presented in partnership between the 501(c)(3) non-profit American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), which operates the South Shore Line train service.

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APRHF Vice President Robert Tabern explained, “Our Interpretive Guides have presented 30 programs over the past year on the South Shore Line… and the reaction from passengers have been extremely positive. You’re on the train for sometimes over two hours if you are going all the way from Chicago to South Bend… so people are very happy to have some fun and educational entertainment for their journey besides their I-pod or phone. We share stories that even seasoned residents of Chicago or Northwest Indiana don’t know about.”

APRHF Secretary Kandace Tabern added, “We have some people who ride the train just to hear our onboard educational programs… sometime they’ll ride the whole round-trip with us from Chicago. Often times, passengers will ride with us to Dune Park… hike around for a few hours… and then catch us back on the westbound return trip. Other times, passengers just catch us by chance not knowing we are on… and are pleasantly surprised they will have a fun history lesson on their trip that morning or afternoon.”

Volunteers from the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation began presenting onboard educational programs for passengers in May 2013; including for two years aboard Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route under the banner of Trails & Rails.  The APRHF Rail Rangers was founded in July 2015 with the mission of presenting onboard educational programs on private rail excursions across the Upper Midwest. Their schedule expanded to doing public programs aboard the South Shore Line in August 2017. The South Shore Line is recognized as one of the last true ‘interurban’ electric railroads left anywhere in the United States.

Rail Rangers Interpretive Guide Kathy Bruecker mentioned, “The South Shore Line has been so supportive of our ‘history talks’ on their trains… they’re so great to work with. Many passengers don’t realize that the railroad has a rich history that dates back over 100 years. The current management of the South Shore really embraces their history… and even though our onboard programs are more about what passengers are seeing out their window than about train history… it’s something people get quite the kick out of. There is one location near Michigan City where travelers can see what the train cars in the 1920’s and 1930’s looked like when we pass by what appears to be a scrap yard.”

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The APRHF Rail Rangers’ eastbound onboard programs will take place on the below dates aboard Train #503, which departs Chicago (Millennium Station) at 8:40am CT and arrives at South Bend (Airport Station) at 12:10PM ET. Meanwhile, westbound onboard educational programs take place on the below dates aboard Train #506, which departs South Bend (Airport Station) at 1:05PM ET and arrives into Chicago (Millennium Station) at 2:39PM CT:

*Saturday, August 11, 2018

*Saturday, August 25, 2018

*Sunday, September 9, 2018

*Saturday, October 20, 2018

*Saturday, November 3, 2018

*Sunday, November 18, 2018

*Saturday, December 15, 2018

*Sunday, December 23, 2018

Passengers have the choice to ride with the APRHF Rail Rangers for the entire round-trip journey, an entire one-way segment, or any portion of the route they want. Narration by the APRHF Rail Rangers is only provided in one designated car of the eight-car train set; often times the ‘Rail Rangers Car’ is located in the center of the train and is designated by yellow signs hung up in the car. There is no additional fee to listen to an APRHF Rail Rangers program above the standard South Shore Line fare/ticket (a round-trip to South Bend costs less than $30!). No reservations are needed or accepted; seating in the ‘Rail Rangers Car’ is on a first come, first serve basis. It is recommended passengers who want to hear the program board at the origin station, that being Chicago Millennium Station for the eastbound program or South Bend Airport Station for the westbound program to have a better chance of getting preferred seating in the ‘Rail Rangers Car’.

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In addition to the public programs being offered this summer and fall, the APRHF Rail Rangers are scheduled to provide at least three onboard educational programs for private groups — this includes on Monday, August 20th for Country Travel DISCOVERIES’ ‘Farmers on the Bum’ Tour Group… Saturday, September 15th for the Duneland Seniors Group… and on Saturday, October 6th for the 20th Century Railroad Club who is planning an outing to the Hesston Steam Museum.

APRHF President Bob Cox adds, “The APRHF Rail Rangers are always available to give special programs for groups too! We have presented onboard educational programs for senior and other travel groups… plus we have provided off-the-train Power Point presentations about the history of the South Shore Line and a look at private rail cars of the Midwest for groups. Just contact us at info@railrangers.org if you want to set something up.”

If you are not able to travel with the APRHF Rail Rangers on any of the above dates, but would like to still learn about the train route… you have three other options. The APRHF Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides have written and published a 100+ page railroad route guidebook for the South Shore that passengers can use on their own. “Outside the Rails: A Railroad Route Guide from Chicago to South Bend Airport” is available in both traditional soft-cover book form and  a downloadable e-book PDF version at www.MidwestRails.com.  And brand new… also available at the website… passengers can also enjoy a downloadable MP3 podcast narration of the route. Both an eastbound and westbound version are available. A portion of the proceeds from the books, e-books, and podcasts, go to support the APRHF Rail Rangers’ onboard educational efforts on the South Shore Line.

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You can also meet some of the APRHF Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides during the upcoming TrainFest 2018 at the State Fair Park Expo Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Saturday, November 10, 2018 and Sunday, November 11, 2018 from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Guides will be on hand to answer questions about our programs and will be selling all 11 editions of the railroad route guidebooks they have written for the various railroad routes across the Upper Midwest, plus their popular ‘Junior Rail Rangers’ Kids Activity Book.

Mark Your Calendars: APRHF Rail Rangers Annouce Summer 2018 South Shore Schedule

This spring and summer will definitely be a busy one for the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation’s Rail Rangers program. Volunteer Interpretive Guides with our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization will be presenting more than one dozen on-board educational programs on the South Shore Line between the months of April and August. Get your calendar out and plan to join us for a trip or two! The best part is… there is no extra cost above your regular train ticket to participate. One-way adult fares are $13.50 or less… making it extremely affordable for families to travel and learn about the people, places, and history right outside their window between Chicago and South Bend. There’s no reservations needed either — just hop on and off where you want.

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For the past eight months now, volunteers with the APRHF Rail Rangers have been riding the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, on select weekend dates, sharing interesting facts with passengers about what they are seeing out their windows. The South South Line is one of the very last electric interurban railroads left anywhere in the United States; it connects Downtown Chicago with communities such as Hammond, Gary, Dune Park, Beverly Shores, Michigan City, Hudson Lake, and South Bend. The train line is quite scenic, passing through (or very close to) four National Park Service units — including the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, Pullman National Monument, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Kankakee River National Water Trail.

Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern says, “The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, who runs the South Shore Line, has been incredibly supportive of having APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides aboard. Their management team received such positive feedback from passengers about our programs that our initial six-month test period was extended into 2019 now. We are so glad the NICTD agrees with us — that passengers get so much more out of their rides when they know about the cool things out their window.”

Interpretive Guide Kathy Bruecker, who has narrated on several South Shore Line trips for the APRHF Rail Rangers adds, “I really enjoy telling people about the lesser-known stories along the route. In Michigan City, the route of the South Shore crosses where President Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Train passed through on May 1, 1865. Residents of the town turned out by the thousands and built a giant arch to commemorate the slain leader. A bit down the line, there is a small lake that contains jelly fish. People don’t expect that in Indiana. These jelly fish are just about the size of nickles and contain very small stingers. No one really even know how they got there. There are even swamps we pass by in St. Joseph County that contain carnivorous plants. Even regular South Shore Line riders are stunned at some of the things out there they didn’t know about.”

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Passengers can learn about these stories and much more by riding with the APRHF Rail Rangers this coming spring and summer on the South Shore Line.

Interpretive Guides typically ride one round-trip between Chicago-Millennium Station and South Bend-Airport Station two to three Saturdays per month. Eastbound trips leave Downtown Chicago at 8:40am Central Time and arrive in South Bend at 12:10pm Eastern Time. Westbound trips leave South Bend at 1:05pm Eastern Time and return to Downtown Chicago at 2:40pm Central Time. Programs are presented on one car of the train – just look for the yellow Rail Rangers signs to see what car Guides are in. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis… no reservations are taken.

Upcoming Spring/Summer 2018 Program Dates are below:

APRIL: April 7*, April 14 & April 28

MAY: May 5* & May 19

JUNE: June 3* & June 16*

JULY: July 8* & July 14

AUGUST: August 11, August 20* (for a private group), August 25

(Dates with an asterisk indicate our ‘enhanced’ programs that feature our Junior Rail Rangers program and our APRHF Passport Program Cancellation Stamps)

Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern says, “We are really excited about the positive response travelers have had to our programs. We have even got contacted by several private travel groups in the past couple of months that want us to narrate for them. In March, we did a special private program for more than 40 members of the Duneland Seniors organization. At the end of August, we are doing another special private program for Farmers on the Bum, a group of friends from Appleton, Wisconsin who travel together every year somewhere. It’s really cool they heard about the Rail Rangers and want to check out the amazing South Shore Line.”

Passengers who travel on other South Shore Line departures when Interpretive Guides are not aboard, can still learn about the sites out their window through a route guide book written by the Rail Rangers. “Outside the Rails: A Rail Route Guide from Chicago to South Bend, IN”, which contains more than 100 pages of information, is available online at MidwestRails.com as both a regular hard copy book ($20) and a downloadable e-book PDF file ($15). We’re told a podcast version is even in the works for later this summer! Proceeds from the sale of route guides go toward funding the APRHF Rail Rangers’ program on the South Shore, including expenses for route guide sheets and other handouts, a wireless speaker system, and the insurance required by the NICTD. A limited number of route guidebooks are sometimes for sale on select South Shore Line excursions, too.

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The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation began its on-board educational programs in 2012, co-sponsoring an Amtrak/National Park Service Trails & Rails route through Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. In 2015, the APRHF’s Trails & Rails program transitioned into the APRHF Rail Rangers. The organization’s main focus is providing on-board educational programs on private rail excursions on historic private rail excursions across the Upper Midwest. Public programs on the South Shore launched on August 5, 2017.

For more information about the APRHF Rail Rangers, check out their websites, DunesTrain.com and RailRangers.org, or drop their management team an e-mail at info@railrangers.org. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

Rail Rangers Update: NPS Added as Partner, Long-Term Deal Reached for South Shore Line Educational Programs

BREAKING NEWS! There have been two exciting new developments concerning the APRHF Rail Rangers’ program on the South Shore Line that we are happy to share with you.

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First, a meeting was held earlier this morning (Thursday, November 30, 2017) between the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation’s Board of Directors and management of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (owners/operators of the South Shore Line). The purpose was to assess how things have been going the past four months since Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides started giving programs on the train. Since early August, Guides have been aboard two to three Saturdays per month, doing a program round-trip between Chicago-Millennium Station and South Bend, Indiana. During the meeting, both South Shore Line and APRHF officials reported that there has been nothing but positive feedback received, with several dozen passenger riding specifically to hear the Rail Rangers’ live narration. This includes at least one group of senior citizens and a special excursion organized in early November by the National Association of Railroad Passengers for their Rail Nation Event in Chicago. Extensive media coverage, including from South Bend’s CBS affiliate, WSBT-TV, was also given to the program. The initial six-month “test period” was set to expire on January 31, 2018. However, due to the positive feedback received from passengers in the first four months, NICTD and the APRHF have agreed to waive the test period and a proceed immediately with a long-term agreement. Contracts will be finalized in the coming days and weeks ahead.

APRHF Vice President Robert Tabern says, “We are happy that our educational programs are beneficial to the South Shore, the APRHF, and most importantly – the passengers who ride between Chicago and South Bend. It is exciting our initial “test period” has been lifted and we can focus our efforts even more on providing a better quality program, knowing the deal is for the long-term now.”

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The APRHF Rail Rangers began providing educational programs on publicly-operated trains in November 2016, when it partnered with Iowa Pacific Holdings to have Guides in the dome car on its Hoosier State train between Lafayette, Indiana and Chicago. Just three months later, Iowa Pacific lost its contract to operate the line. When Amtrak took operations back over in March 2017, the APRHF Board of Directors was informed Rail Rangers guides would no longer be welcome on the train. That decision resulted in many people contacting the Indiana Department of Transportation to have the Rail Rangers re-assigned to another route. The only viable option was the South Shore Line, which runs 90 miles between Downtown Chicago and South Bend Airport. South Shore Line/NICTD officials were very enthusiastic about the program, with the initial run taking place on Saturday, August 5th, 2017.

APRHF Vice President Tabern adds, “Our main focus with the Rail Rangers will remain private rail excursions. However, due to the costs of running private cars and their dwindling availability here in the Midwest, it’s nice to have a public program, too, that our supporters can enjoy. Instead of just six or seven private rail excursions per year, our fans can ride with us two to three trips per month on the South Shore if they want to. It gets our name and mission out there more, too. Plus, we know not everyone can pay for a private rail ticket. The South Shore is less than $30 round-trip for adults… making our educational programs accessible to just about everyone who wants to come out and join us and learn what is out their window.”

Meanwhile, APRHF President Bob Cox made the announcement today that the APRHF Rail Rangers have become official partners with the National Park Service. In the coming months, the Chief of Interpretation and Supervisory Ranger at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will be working with Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides to help them learn more about the park’s history and natural features. The result will be even better informed Interpretive Guides on the South Shore Line. The National Park Service will also promote the Rail Rangers’ program at its Visitor Center on State Highway 49 in Chesterton, Indiana, and possibly in its park newspaper and its website in the future. In exchange, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will get to count the Rail Rangers’ hours towards its Volunteer-in-Parks program, which ultimately means more funding for the park. Even though the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is 150 smaller than Yellowstone in area, it has about the same amount of annual visitors and actually has even more diverse plant and animal species than places like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.

APRHF President Bob Cox explains, “This is a real win-win situation for both the APRHF and the National Park Service. The program on both private railcars and the South Shore will retain the ‘Rail Rangers’ branding that we have worked so hard to develop over the past three years now. We will not be merged into Trails & Rails again. Likewise, the black uniforms worn by Interpretive Guides will not change. We will be adding a National Park Service green Volunteer-in-Parks patch to the left sleeve to signify the partnership. And, we will strictly be dealing with National Park Service personnel at the local level in Indiana only. Plus, the APRHF Board of Directors will retain complete control over the day-to-day operations of the program.”

You may recall that the APRHF partnered with Amtrak and the National Park Service to co-sponsor a Trails & Rails program that operated on the Southwest Chief between May 2013 and July 2015. During the course of that program, Trails & Rails docents reached out to 50,000 passengers between Chicago and La Plata, Missouri. The program ended when Trails & Rails officials, based out of College Station, Texas, decided to terminate its agreement with the APRHF. The APRHF covered most of the costs of the program, including housing docents overnight at the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, MO on their layover. This moved displaced 35 Trails & Rails guides and has left Chicago without an interpretive program on any Amtrak long-distance train. The APRHF quickly rebounded by forming its Rail Rangers program, with the focus on providing onboard educational programs on private rail excursions. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore does oversees its own Trails & Rails program on Amtrak’s Wolverine Service, however this will be managed independently than the Rail Rangers program. Passengers actually see a lot more of the park by riding the South Shore Line than the Amtrak line; the South Shore Line actually has several stops located inside the park.

Because of the long-term deal being struck between the South Shore Line, the National Park Service, and the APRHF, the Rail Rangers program is now looking for new Interpretive Guide Trainees to volunteer on the South Shore Line. Those interested should send a resume to: vp@aprhf.org. Preference will be given to good public speakers and those interested in the National Park Service, travel, and history. Education or teaching or communications backgrounds a huge plus, too. Those interested in railroading are also encourage to apply, however be aware the program is more a general knowledge presentation and does not focus on railroad history very much, except on the rare occasion we have a rail history group riding with us.

APRHF Rail Rangers Begin New Program on the South Shore Line in Illinois and Indiana

Rail passengers who plan to travel between Chicago, Illinois and South Bend, Indiana  are in for a real treat this summer and fall.  Earlier today, APRHF President Bob Cox  announced that  a new agreement has been signed, allowing APRHF Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides to present onboard educational programs on South Shore Line trains, beginning next month. The South Shore Line, now owned and operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District,  is one of the last electric interurban train routes left anywhere in the country, spanning 90 miles between Chicago, Gary, Michigan City, and South Bend. Guides will enhance passengers’ journeys by providing live narration about landmarks on the south side of Chicago, the historic steel-making region of Northwest Indiana, the scenic Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the ‘breadbasket’ farm region of LaPorte and St. Joseph County, Indiana. A new 120-page route guidebook will also be offered, along with free handout sheets.

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Interpretive Guides with the APRHF Rail Rangers will be available to present programs on the South Shore approximately two to three Saturdays per month, with the first program slated to occur on Saturday, August 5, 2017. Eastbound programs will be on Train #503, which departs Chicago-Millennium Station at 8:40am CT and arrives at the South Bend Airport Station at 12:10PM ET. Westbound programs will be on Train #506, which departs the South Bend Airport Station at 1:05pm ET and arrives back into Chicago-Millennium Station at 2:39PM CT. Those wishing to hear the Rail Rangers’ program have the option of riding the entire round-trip or boarding from any of the intermediate stations stops along the route; that includes Chicago-Van Buren Station, Chicago-Museum Campus/11th Street, Chicago-McCormick Place, Chicago-57th Street, Hegewisch, Hammond, East Chicago, Gary/Chicago Airport, Gary-Metro Center, Miller, Portage/Ogden Dunes, Dune Park, Beverly Shores, Michigan City-11th Street, Michigan City-Carroll Avenue, and Hudson Lake.

Upcoming interpretive program dates through mid-fall 2017 include: August 5, August 26, September 9, September 23, October 21, and October 28. The initial test period between the APRHF and the South Shore Line continues through January 31, 2018. Program dates for November, December, and January will be announced soon. If things go well, Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides hope to become a permanent fixture on the route.

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The APRHF first began presenting educational programs in December 2012 through a partnership with the National Park Service and Amtrak; the result was a new co-sponsored Trails & Rails route through Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Volunteer docents were stationed in the lounge car on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief train four days per week during the summer to educate passengers about the history and geography of trackside towns on the 300-mile stretch of track between Chicago and La Plata.

APRHF President Bob Cox remembers, “Passengers who were traveling the entire distance between Chicago and Los Angeles, but who had never been to Northeast Missouri, were fascinated with the stories our Trails & Rails guides would share on the train. We would talk about the ghost town of Dumas, which is supposedly haunted following a major train derailment near the Des Moines River in the 1880’s. It’s not even a blip on the state highway map today; I think there is a solitary house you see from the train there. Another one of the favorite stories was about Ella Ewing. She was from the small town of Gorin, and is said to have been the tallest woman ever to live. Ella traveled with the circus and used her money to build a custom-made house for her eight feet, four inch height. People also loved the passing look they got of the old Santa Fe Railroad Hotel in Baring too.”

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The APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails programs between Chicago and La Plata quickly earned national recognition. During the 2013 and 2014 summer seasons, docents reached out to over 50,000 Amtrak passengers. The group’s leaders even wrote a 350-page route guidebook for passengers who wanted more stories than guides had time to share during their five hours aboard; it is entitled, “Outside the Rails: A Rail Route Guide from Chicago to La Plata, MO.” (copies available at www.aprhfstore.com).

Despite the incredible accomplishments, Trails & Rails management made the decision to end its partnership with the APRHF in July 2015. This closed the door on the docents’ onboard educational efforts on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief through Northern Missouri. In the weeks that followed, the APRHF’s headquarters was flooded with hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, encouraging volunteer guides to find a new outlet for their onboard programs. Since providing talks on public Amtrak trains was no longer an option, the APRHF’s Board of Directors issued a direct appeal to private railcar owners. These small groups of individuals own and operate collections of historic train cars from the early-to-mid 1900’s that are used primarily for group excursions or private charters. About a half-dozen owners quickly signed on to have APRHF volunteers aboard their trips in the Upper Midwest during 2016. The APRHF decided to brand its new outreach program as ‘Rail Rangers’; it seemed fitting since guides provide historical programs on trains, much like land-based rangers do at state and national parks.

In the past two years since the program began, the APRHF Rail Rangers have participated in nearly two dozen private rail excursions across seven states in the Upper Midwest – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Current private rail/excursion partners include Friends of the 261, Zephyr Route, American Rail Excursions, Paxrail, Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, and the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago.

While the primary mission of the Rail Rangers will always remain providing educational programs on private rail excursions, leaders of the group also look forward to opportunities to expand programs to public rail trips too. APRHF Vice-President/Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern says, “Private rail excursions can be pricey; it’s just the nature of the beast. By expanding our educational efforts to public train rides too, we are able to reach out to a whole new group of rail passengers who also want to know what is out their window. Passengers can pay less than $10 for a ticket to hear the Rail Rangers’ program on the South Shore Line and that is pretty cool.”

The Rail Rangers were lucky enough to expand their efforts from just private railcars to also include public trains  about a year ago, thanks in large part to support from Ed Ellis, President of Iowa Pacific Railroad. Mr. Ellis just happened to be riding on the Rail Rangers’ private rail excursion to Galesburg, Illinois in June 2016. Being so impressed with the narration he was hearing, Mr. Ellis approached APRHF Vice-President Robert Tabern about having the organization’s Interpretive Guides ride on the Hoosier State train through Indiana and Illinois. At the time, Iowa Pacific provided the onboard services for the Hoosier. After several months of research and training, educational programs began to take place on select Sunday mornings between Lafayette, Indiana and Chicago-Union Station in November 2016.  Iowa Pacific and the Indiana Department of Transportation both received incredible feedback from passengers who were finally able to know what they were seeing out their window during the 120-mile journey. Unfortunately, the “test period” to have Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides aboard the Hoosier was cut short when Iowa Pacific ended its management of train services on February 28, 2017. Amtrak chose not to have educational programs as part of their new service model for the Hoosier State.

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Recognizing that for the Rail Rangers to have a successful future, it must have both a private rail and public rail component, the APRHF Board of Directors began immediately approaching several potential new partners when it looked like the Hoosier program was going to fall through. Rail Rangers’ Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern says, “One of the first companies that we approached about having guides aboard was the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, or NICTD. From the first phone call we had with their marketing team in March 2017, they have always been very open and supportive of having our Guides on the train. They knew their route, at two-and-a-half hours in length, and going through varied scenery, was a perfect fit for an educational program. They have been one of the best partners we have had!  We really look forward to serving their passengers and being an outreach tool for them to make passengers’ rides that much more enjoyable.”

A formal agreement was signed between the APRHF Rail Rangers and the NICTD  just a few weeks ago. Per the deal, Interpretive Guides will present programs in one designated car of the train on select Saturday morning round-trip departures between Chicago and South Bend. Passengers must be in the “Rail Rangers Car” to hear the live narration, however Rail Rangers’ Guides will roam the whole train several times to answer questions and provide complimentary maps of Downtown Chicago and route guide sheets. Guides will also be selling copies of a 120-page route guidebook on the train; it is specifically designed for the South Shore route. “Outside the Rails: A Rail Route Guide from Chicago to South Bend, IN” begins with an introduction about Chicago interurbans from famed railroad author John Kelly. It then launches into a milepost-by-milepost description of the South Shore Line between Chicago-Millennium Station and South Bend Airport. The sale of these guidebooks for just $20 are the most significant source of funding for the Rail Rangers’ program on the South Shore Line. Copies of the book are also available through the Rail Rangers at www.midwestrails.com.

Fans of the National Park Service’s Passport to Your National Parks® program have an added reason to ride with the APRHF Rail Rangers on the South Shore Line. On select trips, special South Shore-specific cancellation stamps will be available to passengers for Pullman National Monument, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Kankakee River National Water Trail. The train line runs adjacent to Pullman National Monument, right through the heart of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and just a few miles away from the recently-designated Kankakee River National Water Trail. There is a special fourth cancellation just for the program on the South Shore Line that reads “APRHF Rail Rangers” on the top, and “Chicago, IL to South Bend, IN” on the bottom. Those seeking the cancellation stamps must ride on the South Shore Line with the Rail Rangers, as these cancellations will not be available at the parks’ visitor centers.  Cancellations are also available at select outreach events.

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For more information about the Rail Rangers’ new program on the South Shore Line, a new website has been launched. Check out www.southshoreline.org. Of course, the Rail Rangers will maintain their main website, at www.railrangers.org, which covers information on both private and public rail excursions. More information about the program can be obtained by e-mailing the Rail Rangers at info@railrangers.org or by leaving us a voicemail message at (847) 271-1979.

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.