APRHF Rail Rangers Annouce February, March & April 2018 South Shore Schedule

Happy New Year!  As we roll into the first day of 2018 this morning, the APRHF Rail Rangers are proud to announce their upcoming program schedule for February, March, and April 2018 for the South Shore Line.

But, first… in case you haven’t heard the news… for the past few months now, the APRHF Rail Rangers have had Interpretive Guides on select Saturday morning/afternoon departures of the South Shore Line. Our onboard educational programs take place typically two to three times per month year-round. On designated dates, listed on our website at http://www.dunestrain.com, a program takes place for eastbound passengers on the train that departs Chicago-Millennium Station at 8:40am CT and arrives at South Bend-Airport Station at 12:10pm ET. A similar program, except presented in reverse, takes place for westbound passengers on the train that departs South Bend-Airport Station at 1:05pm ET and arrives back into Chicago-Millennium Station at 2:39pm CT.  Round-trip cost is just $27 for adults (even less for kids and seniors!); there is no additional cost beyond your normal fare to participate in the APRHF Rail Rangers program. Note that narration is only provided in one car of the train; just look for yellow signs posted in the car and volunteers in black uniforms – we are usually towards the center of the train.  A wireless speaker system lets everyone in the car hear the narration regardless of where you choose to sit.



Interpretive Guides Kathy Bruecker and Robert Neil talk to two passengers on the South Shore Line


APRHF Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern says, “Our South Shore Line programs have been phenomenally successful. We are actually starting to get passengers riding just because of us… and that’s something we totally didn’t expect when we started this. We thought we would just be there for whoever was riding already to enhance their trips.  I would say since we started in August, we have had maybe around 100 people ride with us on Saturdays and say they’re doing so just because of the Rail Rangers and wanting to know more about the route. We even were contacted by a senior center in Indiana who wants us to do a special trip for their members in the Spring! We did a special run just for about 40 members from the National Association of Railroad Passengers a couple of months ago, too.”

The South Shore Line is one of the most interesting and unique railroad routes in the Midwest and is perfect for having narration and Interpretive Guides aboard for. The train covers four distinct zones of scenery in its 90-mile route between Chicago and South Bend. Heading eastbound, in orders, passengers see the skyscrapers and buildings of Chicago… then comes the historic steel-mill area of Northwest Indiana… more than a dozen miles through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore… and beyond Michigan City, it’s about 30 miles of farm fields. For railfans, there’s street running on 10th Street and 11th Street in Michigan City, making the South Shore Line one of the last interurban in the Midwest. The line also crosses where Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train rolled into Michigan City in 1865 on the now defunct Monon.  The South Shore Line is also the perfect train ride for National Park Service buffs… as the tracks pass near or through four units of NPS in just a little over two hours.  Between Millennium Station and 47th Street, the route of the South Shore passes through the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.  Near 115th Street (Kensington), Pullman National Monument is right next to the South Shore Line tracks… you can’t get a better view of the old administration building anywhere else. The South Shore Line also passes through the very heart of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and even features several stops in the park such as Miller, Ogden Dunes, Dune Park, and Beverly Shores.  Finally, closer to South Bend, the train line passes just a few miles away from the recently-designated Kankakee River National Water Trail. It became an affiliate unit of the National Park Service in 2016 and features over 100 miles of canoe trails.



Route map for the South Shore Line and the various National Park Units it goes near


Speaking of the National Park Service, the NPS is now and official sponsor of the APRHF Rail Rangers. An agreement was signed a few months ago that makes Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides efforts also part of the National Park Service’s Volunteer-in-Parks program. The National Park Service now promotes the Rail Rangers’ programs at its inter-agency visitor center in Chesterton, Indiana, and will help provide educational content for the presentations. In fact, later this spring, our Guides will be paying a visit to the park and taking a tour with NPS rangers to learn more!  The plan is for our Guides to take a van tour of the rail route between Miller and Michigan City and make stops to learn more about the various plants and animals that can be seen along the way.  In exchange, our volunteer hours will count toward the park’s totals and help increase their federal funding grants.  The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation had been looking to re-form a new partnership with the National Park Service after its Trails & Rails program came to an end in 2015.



Interpretive Guide Joe Kuczynski passes out maps of Downtown Chicago to passengers

APRHF Rail Rangers Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern explains, “We are really excited to be presenting our programs on private railcars, but also now having public programs on the South Shore Line. First off, the South Shore Line is very economical. Some people may not be able to afford the costs associated with our programs on private railcars… but most people can afford riding with us part of the way on the South Shore Line.  A round-trip is less than $30, and it’s even less if you just want to ride to Gary, the Indiana Dunes, or Michigan City. We also like presenting our South Shore Line programs because of the frequency. Private rail excursions are just coming fewer and more far between because of the rising costs of their very nature. We are able to keep our programs relevant and interesting when we are on the train two to three times per month.  Doing these programs keep our name out there.  It’s also nice to have a “home route” that we can really get to know and get educated about to present an outstanding program to our travelers about.”



Interpretive Guide Dave Poole tells passengers about the historic Ford Assembly Plant in Hegewisch, Illinois


Passengers can choose to ride the entire round-trip with the APRHF Rail Rangers to South Bend, or just ride part of the route. Many passengers have enjoyed just riding to just Dune Park (about halfway between Chicago and South Bend), where they can get off the train and spend three hours hiking or enjoying the sand dunes, and then re-joining the Rail Rangers on the westbound train back into Chicago.

In additional to their onboard educational programs, the APRHF Rail Rangers have also written a 120-page route guide for passengers to follow along with. It also serves as a great companion book if you’re riding the South Shore Line when Interpretive Guides aren’t on the train — you can literally know what is out your window on any departure now — whether it’s one of the official APRHF Rail Rangers dates or not!  Copies of “Outside the Rails: A Rail Route Guide from Chicago to South Bend, IN” are available for just $20 each at http://www.MidwestRails.com.   There is more than one page per mile of the route, written in great detail by the Taberns.  Author John Kelly, who has written nearly 20 railroad books, and also is an avid supporter of the APRHF Rail Rangers program provides the introduction, discussing the various interurban lines that were popular in Chicago. Of course, the South Shore Line is the only one in active operation.

APRHF President Bob Cox says, “The folks at the South Shore Line have been great to work with on every step of the process. Even though they never had anyone come and narrate on their trains before, they were very open to the idea. They have been very pleasant to deal with and really value their passengers. They realize the history of this line — going back to the 1800′s — and how it helps to develop the history of Northwest Indiana.”

After an initial six-month trial period, the APRHF’s new agreement with the South Shore Line continues program for the long-terms… well into 2018, and hopefully beyond.



Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern stands in front of the special Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore car on the South Shore Line at Millennium Station in Downtown Chicago


Now, on to our upcoming dates through the end of April 2018:

Saturday, January 6, 2018*

Saturday, January 20, 2018*

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday, February 3, 2018*

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday, March 10, 2018*

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday, April 7, 2018*

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The asterisk (*) represent that Passport to Your National Parks cancellation stamps will be available on this trip… in addition these trips will also have our Junior Rail Rangers program available… and a limited supply of 120-page route guidebooks for sale onboard.

We hope to see you aboard for one of these ten dates this winter and spring.

Questions about the APRHF Rail Rangers program or the APRHF Rail Rangers program on the South Shore Line can be addressed to:  APRHF Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern at vp@aprhf.org.


Executive Director Robert Tabern sells a passenger a copy of the official Chicago to South Bend, IN route guidebook