Join us… Final Trails & Rails Trip of the Year! December 26-27, 2013

If you’re looking for something to do with the kids on the cold days after Christmas… why not consider riding with the APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program on their final trip of the year?

Trails & Rails has been in operation on Amtrak routes across the country since 2000, however this year (2013) marked its’ inaugural season on the Southwest Chief between Chicago and La Plata, MO.  Volunteers have done nearly 50 trips since May 18, 2013… educating passengers about the scenery, landscape, and natural areas in Illinois, southeast Iowa, and Northeast Missouri. Trails & Rails is an important partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service. The program on the Southwest Chief is sponsored locally by Texas A&M University and the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF) in La Plata.

Train passengers between Chicago and La Plata, MO who are in the upper level of the Sightseer Lounge Car get an informative narration about the train route… everything is covered… from history to geology and more. There is also a junior ranger program for children… where they can earn a free badge and certificate for completing a booklet about the Southwest Chief.

The final trip of the 2013 Winter season will be as follows:

TRAIN #3, Southwest Chief, Chicago to La Plata, MO on December 26, 2013

TRAIN #4, Southwest Chief, La Plata, MO to Chicago, IL on December 27, 2013

Docents will be taking a four-and-a-half month hiatus from doing programs between Chicago and La Plata, MO in order to spend time training seven new docents who will be part of the program in 2014. The first trip in 2014 is expected to run on May 13, 2014… however stay tuned in the coming weeks for a complete schedule… and also a re-cap with statistics and highlights from the 2013 season.

Chicago Coordinator, Robert Tabern explains, “Without support from APRHF, I feel we really wouldn’t have  this Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief. Nationally, new Trails & Rails programs have been limited in recent years to smaller segment day trips due to economic slowdowns and budget cuts. Finding a hotel that would provide us rooms for little or not cost was the greatest stumbling block to bringing back a long-distance Trails & Rails program to the Chicago crew base. The Depot Inn & Suites has been so generous to house our volunteers throughout the year. They have just been incredible to us… especially the owners and hotel manager.”

A Chicago-based Trails & Rails program was formed in 2000 and ran for five seasons on Amtrak’s Texas Eagle between Chicago and St. Louis. In 2005, the program transitioned to trips on the Empire Builder to Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. Between 2006 and 2010, the Chicago-based program ran between Chicago and Winona, Minnesota, also on the Empire Builder.  Sadly, in September 2010, the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area in St. Paul, Minnesota decided to stop filling its Trails & Rails trips with volunteers from the experienced Chicago crew base.  A handful of volunteers decided to stay with Trails & Rails when the program became managed by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2011 and included only short day-trips between Chicago and New Buffalo, Michigan. However, more than half the group dropped out, with some, like Robert Tabern, vowing to find a way to get back on a long distance train.

A deal was formally struck on December 3, 2012, between Amtrak, NPS, and APRHF to bring Trails & Rails to the Southwest Chief and La Plata, MO.

Most of the funding for Trails & Rails on the Southwest Chief has come from donations to APRHF from docents and supporters who have heard the program on the train.

If you are interested in making a donation to Trails & Rails’ 2014 season… please mail a check to:

APRHF, 109 S. Gex St., La Plata, MO 63549… please mark “TRAILS & RAILS FUND” in the memo line on your check so that the money is ear-marked for the appropriate fund.



Trails & Rails docents Frank and Ruth Maxwell aboard the Southwest Chief





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