Two Private Rail Trips Announced to La Plata; Get Your Tickets Soon!

If you are a member of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF), odds are that you have been to La Plata, Missouri at least once before. Maybe you came to enjoy the rail-themed Depot Inn & Suites, or perhaps the Silver Rails Gallery, the Exhibition of Amtrak History, and the overlook cabin perched above the busy BNSF Transcon route.  Regardless of what you came to see or do, it is almost a guarantee that you did not arrive by private railcar. While many private railcar trips have passed through La Plata on the rear of the Southwest Chief en route to larger population centers like Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque, or Los Angeles, none have offered passengers the chance to get off the train in La Plata and see Silver Rails Country. That is about to change in three months — and now — we are happy to announce that not one, but two, private rail excursion are being offered to La Plata, Missouri later this year. Tickets are extremely limited – so you will want to gets yours right away!

 

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The APRHF Rail Rangers will be bringing two private railcar excursions to La Plata in 2016

 

Before we get to the details on the upcoming trips, we want to take a minute to explain how these private railcar excursions came to be. Between May 2013 and July 2015, the APRHF co-sponsored a Trails & Rails program on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief between Chicago and La Plata, Missouri. During its two-and-a-half year run, volunteers reached out to over 50,000 Amtrak passengers, providing educational, but yet fun,  interpretive programs about what folks were seeing outside their windows in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.  The APRHF picked up the bulk of the funding and administrative work for this unique public-private partnership with Amtrak and the National Park Service. Despite its immense success, just about one year ago, the National Park Service informed the APRHF’s Board of Directors that they wished to end the agreement; this was truly a decision beyond the APRHF’s control. The final Trails & Rails program between Chicago and La Plata took place on Sunday, July 19, 2015. Since then, no Trails & Rails programs have operated on any long-distance Amtrak trains out of Chicago, and more than 30 National Park Service volunteers remain displaced. With thousands of dollars invested in a state-of-the-art wireless speaker system, and a large group of extremely qualified guides still eager to volunteer on the train, the APRHF knew their mission of providing on-board interpretive programs had to go on. The next day after Trails & Rails ended, the APRHF formally launched  its newest affiliated program, the APRHF Rail Rangers. The main goal behind this organization is to serve as one of the outreach arms of the APRHF, providing free interpretive programs for passengers aboard private rail excursions in the Midwest. Rail Rangers, a 501(c)(3)  non-profit organization,  is managed by APRHF President Bob Cox, Executive Director Robert Tabern, APRHF Vice-President Amy Cox, and Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern. Interpretive guides who you may seen on the train include Kathy Bruecker, Fred Glure, Joe Kuczynski, Robert Neil, and Dave Poole.

 

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Passengers will have two chances to arrive in La Plata by private railcar later this year

 

When APRHF Rail Rangers was founded in July 2015, one of the major goals was to eventually bring a private railcar excursion to La Plata, Missouri. Even though the city’s depot has been around since the 1880’s, and Silver Rails Country has served as a haven for railfans for nearly a decade now, there has been no record of a private railcar trip ever allowing passengers to arrive and depart La Plata. That shows what a unique and special experience this will be for a handful of lucky travelers who are able to purchase tickets.

The first private excursion to La Plata will occur on the weekend of September 9-11, 2016. Passengers will have the opportunity to arrive at the La Plata Depot in style aboard ex-Great Northern full-length dome car “Prairie View”; it’s now owned by Iowa Pacific. The APRHF Rail Rangers are teaming up with Zephyr Route CEO Mike Abernethy to make this “weekend in the country” trip a reality. Passengers will board “Prairie View” on the afternoon of Friday, September 9th at either Chicago Union Station, Naperville, Mendota, Princeton, Galesburg, or Fort Madison.  While en route, travelers will get to enjoy a dinner cooked fresh aboard the train and  the chance to listen to interesting stories from APRHF Rail Rangers guides Robert Tabern, Kandace Tabern, and Robert Neil. What connection did Carl Sandburg have to Galesburg?  What town along the railroad line did the Marx Brothers get their famous nicknames in?  Where can you seem remnants of one of the deadliest coal mining accidents in American history?  All of those questions and more will be answered on this trip!  Passengers are scheduled to arrive around 8:00pm Friday night in La Plata and will be provided complimentary transportation to the Depot Inn & Suites, where they will spend the next two evenings. On Saturday, September 10th, private railcar passengers will be treated to an exciting all-day van tour of northeast Missouri; stops will include various railfan “hot spots”, as well as the Walt Disney Boyhood Home and Farm in Marceline, and an Amish Bakery and Store. The evening will be capped off at La Plata’s railfan overlook, where a cookout will be led by APRHF President Bob Cox. After a restful night’s sleep, everyone will board “Prairie View”, attached to the eastbound Southwest Chief, for their return home to Iowa or Illinois. A very limited number of tickets are available for this weekend package – so act quickly!  Retail price is $699.00 per person/double hotel occupancy. Tickets are available by contacting Zephyr Route at (630) 542-3607.  Passengers many also continue aboard the private railcars that will be deadheading to Kansas City, Missouri, and spend the weekend there; contact Zephyr Route for pricing on their Kansas City package.

 

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Private car passengers can ride “Prairie View” to and from La Plata on September 9 and September 11, 2016    (Photo courtesy: Earl C. Leatherberry)

 

We are also pleased to announce that APRHF Rail Rangers have a brand new partnership agreement in place with the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Inc. to bring a second private railcar excursion to La Plata this year. This deal was just struck in the last few weeks, but tickets are already also very limited, and those interested are strongly encouraged to call as soon as possible to reserve their space!  As part of a special fundraiser for their rail operations in Colorado and New Mexico, the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is running a two-car private car trip between Chicago and Los Angeles, California. While overnight sleeper space is mostly spoken for, the organization is willing to open their cars up to day riders who want to head to La Plata, Missouri and see Silver Rails Country. The train will leave Chicago’s Union Station at 3:00pm on Saturday, October 1, 2016, however passengers will also have the option of boarding by special request at Naperville, Mendota, Princeton, Galesburg, or Fort Madison. The two cars that will be featured in this excursion are ex-Milwaukee Road open-platform car “Montana” and lounge car “Acoma”. Travelers will delight in watching farmers in their fields during harvest season and the brilliant fall colors of the Illinois and Mississippi River valleys from the open platform car, which will be at the very rear of the train. And who can’t love the history that “Acoma” brings?  Being one of the first stainless-steel Super Chief train sets in 1937, it has passed through La Plata many times before on its journey west. Passengers on this excursion will also be delighted to a tasty dinner, cocktails, and narration from APRHF Rail Rangers docents Bob Cox, Robert Tabern, Kandace Tabern, and Kathy Bruecker. Tickets go for just $320.00/per person; those interested should contact Tim Tennant at (505) 880-1311. Passengers do have the option of continuing on the cars to Kansas City. Note that this is a one-way excursion between Chicago and La Plata, MO, and hotel room booking in Missouri and the return trip will be up to individual travelers to book on their own.

 

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Ex-Milwaukee Road open-platform car “Montana” will come to La Plata, Missouri on Saturday, October 1, 2016

 

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Ex-Santa Fe car “Acoma” will stop in La Plata, MO on October 1, 2016  (Photo coutresy: Carl Morrison)

 

The APRHF Rail Rangers program also partners with Zephyr Route, Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Friends of the 261, and American Rail Excursions on a variety of other excursions. For more information, head to www.railrangers.org, and “like” our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/railrangers. For more information about APRHF Rail Rangers, or to make a donation to our endeavors, contact Executive Director Robert Tabern at railrangers@rtabern.com.

 

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