One month left in Summer 2014 APRHF Trails & Rails Season

The evening sunlight is slowly fading earlier and earlier and our children are headed back to school… that must mean Summer 2014 is slowly fading away. However, don’t despair… there is still a month left in the summer season of the APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief between Chicago Union Station, Illinois and La Plata, Missouri.


Assistant Coordinator Kandace Tabern swears in a new junior ranger on Train #3 near Argyle, Iowa on August 19, 2014

Chicago Coordinator Robert Tabern says late August and September is actually the perfect time to participate in a Trails & Rails program. Tabern explains, “For single folks or travelers without kids, this upcoming time of the year is probably the best chance you have to enjoy a program presented by one of our National Park Service volunteers. This summer, as is common every year, has seen sold-out capacity almost every day on the train and some people have even complained they could not find a seat in the Sightseer Lounge Car to hear our program. The last month of our season in late August and September sees fewer children on the train and more seating for everyone. Why not come out and enjoy our talks?”


Trails & Rails guide Ruth Maxwell welcomes two new National Park Service junior rangers earlier this summer

In December 2012, the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation initiated a deal with Amtrak, the National Park Service, and Texas A&M University to form a brand new overnight Trails & Rails group on the Southwest Chief between Chicago and La Plata, Missouri. Many of the guides who joined the program were part of a former  Trails & Rails program that ran between Chicago and Winona, Minnesota for a number of years; that program ended up the victim of  budget cuts at the hands of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area  in 2010. Other guides were new to Trails & Rails or had been participating in a Trails & Rails program that currently runs on Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water trains between Chicago and Kalamazoo, Michigan, sponsored by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.


Coordinator Robert Tabern (left) and Asst. Coordinator Dick Holt (right) enjoy down time at the Depot Inn & Suites

The first Trails & Rails program hit the rails in May 2013 and it’s been a huge success story ever since with tens of thousands of passengers reached so far. La Plata Coordinator and APRHF President Bob Cox says that sponsoring a  Trails & Rails program fits in well to the APRHF’s mission of promoting passenger rail travel. While many “railfans” already know about La Plata, Missouri, Trails & Rails brings awareness of the city and what the Midwest have to offer to everyone, especially those who just have a casual interest in train travel.  Trails & Rails guides provide an on-going narration in the upper level of the Sightseer Lounge for approximately five hours between Chicago and La Plata, Missouri, pointing out different sites of natural and historical interest. Guides often carry a number of handouts for passengers, have a junior ranger program for children, and even occasionally do trivia contests with small prizes.


You never know what you’re going to find in the Lounge Car. Two passengers brief take the microphone to do some singing!

The APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program is one of the few Trails & Rails programs in the country that is not directly sponsored by a unit of the National Park Service. The reason for that is due to the lack of official National Park Service units along the route between Chicago, Illinois and La Plata, Missouri. In fact, the only unit of the National Park Service that the train passes through in this 298-mile stretch is the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, just a few miles outside of Fort Madison, Iowa. There are no rangers based in Fort Madison, which makes administrating the Trails & Rails program from there not possible.  The National Park Service office at Texas A&M University is the program’s administrative sponsor, with most of the day-to-day operations being run by Coordinator Bob Cox out of La Plata, Missouri, and by Coordinator Robert Tabern out of his home/office in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There is a small office and storage area used by the group off the South Concourse at Chicago Union Station.

Here is a look at the remainder of our Summer 2014 schedule of programs:

TRAIN #3  “SOUTHWEST CHIEF” – Chicago, IL to La Plata, MO:  8/26, 8/28, 9/02, 9/04, 9/09, 9/11, 9/16, 9/18, 9/23

TRAIN #4 “SOUTHWEST CHIEF” – La Plata, MO to Chicago, IL:  8/27, 8/29. 9/03, 9/05, 9/10, 9/12, 9/17, 9/19, 9/25

There will also be a Winter Season in November and December 2014; exact dates will be announced through this website later next month.

Also, Trails & Rails is currently accepting applications for its 2015 season, now through November 1, 2014. To get your application, please contact Coordinator Robert Tabern at  Note that guides must provide their own transportation, at their own expense, to Chicago Union Station, which is our Trails & Rails crew base. We do have volunteers from Illinois, Southeast Wisconsin, and Northwest Indiana.


A bride-to-be and her friends ended up listening to one of our Trails & Rails programs earlier this summer on Train #4

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6 years ago

This is great. I like the bridal party and the singer photos. Cool stuff.

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