APRHF President Bob Cox and Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern are pleased to announce an expansion of the APRHF Rail Rangers program, which will commence in about four weeks from now.
On select Sunday morning departures, Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides will now be aboard the Hoosier Train from Lafayette, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois presenting “rolling” educational programs about Indiana’s people, places, industry, and history. Both coach and business class passengers will have the opportunity to learn about such things as the Battle of Tippecanoe (the train passes right by the battlefield!), agriculture and industry, geology, famous Hoosier ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Orville Redenbacher, and interesting facts about the dozens of trackside towns along the route such as Rensselaer, Monon, and Dyer.
The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit railroad history organization based in La Plata, Missouri. It partnered with Amtrak and the National Park Service to provide a similar service for long-distance train passengers in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri for three years (2012-2015) called Trails & Rails. The Rail Rangers program, which is now solely managed by the APRHF, was established in July 2015; since then its’ Interpretive Guides have been providing onboard programs for private rail car excursions across six different Midwestern states.
Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern explains, “Providing our interpretive programs to passengers on a public train is a small departure from what we have been doing with the APRHF Rail Rangers up until this point. While our organization’s focus is going to remain on doing private rail excursions, we look forward to returning to a public train a few times a month and getting to interact with passengers on a more frequent basis. I really look forward to expanding our Junior Rail Rangers program.”
Doing regularly scheduled programs on the Hoosier Train will mean Interpretive Guides will be able to present programs year-round. Traditionally November through April were “quiet months” for the Rail Rangers because private rail excursions during the winter in the Upper Midwest are rare to non-existent.
APRHF Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern says, “We are really excited to partner with both Iowa Pacific and the Indiana Department of Transportation to provide our services for passengers. In addition to some light narration about the towns we pass through, our Interpretive Guides are going to have free route handout sheets for everyone and maps of Downtown Chicago. People who don’t want to pay higher prices for a private rail excursion now get to be part of the Rail Rangers family and see what we are all about.”
Two other sponsors in the Rail Rangers’ efforts to educate passengers include the Hilton Garden Inn – Wabash Landing and the Campus Inn. Both of these West Lafayette, Indiana hotels are helping with lodging needs for Chicago-based Interpretive Guides during their layover in Indiana. This program would have simply not been possible without support from the Hilton Garden Inn and Campus Inn.
The inaugural APRHF Rail Rangers “Riding the Hoosier Rails” program will take place on Sunday, November 27, 2016 on northbound Train #851. Interpretive Guides will board in Lafayette, Indiana at approximately 7:30am Eastern Standard Time and continue interacting with passengers through the approximate 10:00am Central Time arrival into Chicago’s Union Station. There is no additional cost for the Rail Rangers program beyond the normal train fares. Passengers traveling in both standard coach and the business class dome car will have the opportunity to interact with the Guides.
Following the inaugural run, interpretive programs will take place as often as possible depending on special events, anticipated train ridership, and Interpretive Guide and hotel availability. The APRHF Rail Rangers have posted their schedule for the next three months. Programs are expected to take place between Lafayette and Chicago on the following dates: November 27, 2016; December 10, 2016; January 1, 2017, January 8, 2017, January 15, 2017; January 22, 2017; and January 29, 2017. Programs dates are subject to change, delay, or cancellation. Any updates to the schedule can be found on the APRHF Rail Rangers website at www.railrangers.org or the new website launched this weekend that is specific to the Rail Rangers “Riding the Hoosier Rails” efforts, www.hoosierrails.org.
The idea behind having APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides on select departures of the Hoosier Train came about in June 2016 when Iowa Pacific’s President Ed Ellis rode on a Zephyr Route private rail excursion between La Grange Road and Galesburg, Illinois. (Iowa Pacific operates the Hoosier Train). Mr. Ellis was so impressed with the narration being provided by the Rail Rangers that he collaborated with the APRHF to design a specific onboard program for his train. The Indiana Department of Transportation was also very enthusiastic about the project and quickly gave their approval. Research about the route and training for guides took place during the months of September and October, including most of the Guides driving the route and meeting local historians along the route.
As part of its agreement with Iowa Pacific, the APRHF Rail Rangers are also releasing a brand new 110-page route guidebook for the train route between Indianapolis and Chicago. “Riding the Hoosier Rails: A Route Guide From Indianapolis to Chicago” features a distinct collection of fun, educational, and interesting stories about the communities along the route, history of the Monon Railroad, and background information about the heritage passenger rail cars used on Iowa Pacific’s train. This book was written by two members of the APRHF Rail Rangers team earlier this summer when they were researching the train route. A route guidebook will come in handy on days when there are no Interpretive Guides on the train, or by passengers who are looking for more in-depth stories than the Rail Rangers have time to share between Lafayette and Chicago. Copies of the “Riding the Hoosier Rails: A Route Guide From Indianapolis to Chicago” book are $20, and will be available from APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides during select outreach events. They are also available to be ordered online at www.outsidetherails.com.
Some train departures with APRHF Rail Rangers management aboard will also feature a brand new “Passport to Your National Parks” cancellation stamp for the Rail Rangers route between Lafayette, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois. Those who are interested in riding when the stamp is aboard the train can check the APRHF Rail Rangers website. Click on the “Upcoming Events” tab. Any event that has a small Passport Stamp icon next to it means the Lafayette to Chicago stamp, along with our six other ones, will be available for collectors.
The APRHF Rail Rangers “Riding the Hoosier Rails” program will operate through March 26, 2017. At that time, the future and frequency of the program will be determined.
APRHF Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern concluded, “I am exciting to see where things will go. I really hope this becomes a permanent fixture on the train between Lafayette and Chicago at least a couple of times a month once the test period ends. I used to live in Fort Wayne, Indiana for a couple of years… and I am glad to be sharing that Hoosier Hospitality with passengers. As they say, there IS more than corn in Indiana.”