Trails & Rails: August 13, 2013 – Meet the Coordinators

It’s hard to believe, but the end of summer is almost around the corner!! (Maybe the “Back to School” sales going up at local stores will remind you of that!!??). This also means you have only about 7 weeks to check out the inaugural season of the APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief between Chicago-Union Station, Illinois and La Plata, Missouri.

In case you haven’t heard all the “buzz” yet, Trails & Rails is a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service that places volunteer rangers on trains across the country. These volunteers present an interpretive program in the upper level of the Sightseer Lounge Car of the Southwest Chief on certain days of the week. You can learn a lot of history about Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri during your trip.

Many passengers don’t realize that support from APRHF is the main reason why the Trails & Rails program was allowed to be established on this portion of the Southwest Chief’s route. APRHF provides 100% of the funding for docents’ overnight lodging at the Depot Inn and Suites. Without the overnight lodging being covered, Amtrak, the National Park Service, and Texas A&M University would not consider expanding the program.

You can participate in the Trails & Rails program on the WESTBOUND Southwest Chief (Train #3) between Chicago and La Plata EVERY Thursday and Saturday until September 18, 2013. You can also participate in the program on the EASTBOUND Southwest Chief (Train #4) between La Plata and Chicago EVERY Friday and Sunday until September 18, 2013.

There will also be a special Trails & Rails run from Chicago (Union Station), IL to La Plata, MO on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 on Train #3. The volunteer rangers aboard will be Robert & Kandace Tabern, the head Chicago Coordinators of the program, who got everything started with APRHF, the National Park Service, and Amtrak back last fall. You can buy a ticket to hear a portion of the program — or come out to the La Plata, MO Amtrak station upon their arrival around 7:50PM on August 13, 2013, for a meet and greet session. The Tabern also co-authored a 219-page route guide book for the Southwest Chief called “Outside the Rails: A Rail Route Guide from Chicago to La Plata, MO”. The Taberns will sell the books upon their arrival in La Plata and do personalized autographs for those interested.

The Taberns are traveling on this date to meet with Bob Cox, APRHF President, to work on a new Trails & Rails exhibit that will be coming to the Exhibition of Amtrak History in La Plata.

As a reminder, you do need a coach or sleeping car ticket to hear the Trails & Rails program aboard the Southwest Chief between Chicago and La Plata– however there is no additional cost to participate in the Trails & Rails program itself.

If you’d like to extend your support for the Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief so that it will return on the route in 2014, please feel free to e-mail Trails & Rails National Coordinator James Miculka at With federal budgets up in the air and sequestration continuing, there is no guarantee the program will continue beyond this summer.

The Author taking a moment to get his photos taken with the Veterans unit.


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