APRHF Rail Rangers to Narrate on Friends of the 261 Steam Excursion: June 9-10, 2018



APRHF Rail Rangers will partner with the Friends of the 261 for a steam excursion in June 2018


Over the past three years that the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation has been doing its popular on-board educational programs on private rail excursions, many passengers have asked our Interpretive Guides when the APRHF Rail Rangers got it beginnings. Well, the official launch date for our organization is July 20, 2015.

Before that, as many of you know, our volunteers were part of an Amtrak/National Park Service Trails & Rails program co-sponsored by the APRHF. Between December 2012 and July 2015, we are proud to say that we reached out to over 50,000 passengers aboard the Southwest Chief train between Chicago and La Plata, Missouri.

Backing things up even further though, our now-Rail Rangers Executive Director, Robert Tabern, began providing on-board educational programs for passengers on the Friends of the 261’s steam train excursions going back almost ten years. It was this volunteer experience with the Friends of the 261 that ended up giving Robert the idea for approaching the APRHF’s Board of Directors to launch a new outreach arm of the APRHF to specialize in on-board educational programs for private rail excursions. Before the APRHF created the Rail Rangers, there was no group in existence who really researched the various passenger rail lines of the Upper Midwest and could provide quality in-depth narration to passengers on private rail trips and had a line of their own milepost-by-milepost route guidebooks.



Join us for a steam ride on the BNSF Main Line between the Twin Cities and Twin Ports


Of course, everyone enjoys a private rail excursion featuring historic observation cars… especially one that is pulled by a beautifully restored 1940’s steam train. But, what Robert saw on his first trip as an Interpretive Guide aboard the Friends of the 261, was that passengers get so much more out their ride when they know about the small towns… and people, places, and history right outside their window.

By volunteering with the Friends of the 261, Robert grew close to the crew and leadership team of that organization over the years.  In fact, he and his wife (our now-Chicago Coordinator of Rail Rangers) Kandace chartered three of the Friends of the 261’s private cars for their wedding in October 2012… as their “Rolling Reception” chugged along between St. Paul and Chicago.

It was quite fitting that the Friends of the 261 became the APRHF Rail Rangers’ very first partner on July 20, 2015.  Our volunteer Interpretive Guides have since been on many of their excursions, including to Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Duluth, Boylston, and Willmar, MN in recent years. For the past three years now, our Rail Rangers Guides pick a Saturday and come up to St. Paul from Chicago to volunteer on the Friends of 261 North Pole Express train. It’s one of our Guides’ favorite events of the year that brings so much joy to children of the Twin Cities and their families.

The APRHF Rail Rangers really do consider the Friends of the 261 one of our best partners… and their volunteers our extended family.  CEO Steve Sandberg is someone we really admire — he and his crew lead by Erik Hoofnagle put on a quality excursion that sells out time after time.



Great food — Fun Narration — and an Amazing Steam Ride!


The Rail Rangers also always “have the backs” (as they say) of our partners. That is just how it goes. As you probably have heard in the news, the federal government has mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) to be installed on locomotives by December 2018. PTC is a computerized system utilizing a GPS tracking system that can automatically stop a train in certain safety situations. Without funding to purchase, install and train crews for PTC use on Milwaukee Road 261 locomotive… mainline excursions may never run again with 261’s locomotive.  This would be a really sad situation.  But the reality is money — this project could take anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000.

To show our support for our Friends of the 261 partner —  the APRHF Rail Rangers will be teaming up with their organization to have two of our Interpretive Guides aboard their special fundraising steam excursion on Saturday, June 9, 2018 and Sunday, June 10, 2018 round-trip between Minneapolis Junction and Duluth, MN. The Rail Rangers will also be selling special commemorative limited-edition 100+ page Minneapolis to Duluth route guidbookss on this excursion. These will ONLY  be sold aboard the train (with any extras being sold after the excursion on our website!).  Every book sold will mean $10 more for the Friends of the 261!   Our goal is to raise at least $500 (and sell 50 books!) We are donating all profits (above our costs for the route guidebooks) to this very important and urgent cause.

Tickets for this special excursion are currently on sale and can be purchased directly from the Friends of the 261 through this link:





The trip will leave from the Friends of the 261’s Minneapolis Junction Station on the morning of Saturday, June 9, 2018… arriving in Duluth, MN later that afternoon. Narration by the APRHF Rail Rangers will take place ONLY in the Super Dome Premium Car. If you want to hear our narration — you MUST book a Super Dome ticket. Learn about the scenic line between the Twin Cities and Twin Ports — that includes several high trestles and skirts the shores of Lake Superior. After arriving in Duluth, there will be plenty of time to explore the city and/or the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. We will head back south on Sunday, June 10, 2018 and share some different stories with passengers. Our route guide books will be available on a first come, first serve basis and will only be sold aboard the train!

Ticket prices depend on your choice of train accommodations.  Options include: Coach ($169), Premium Coach ($199), First Class ($299), Premium-Super Dome/Rail Rangers Narration Car ($349), and Premium-Cedar Rapids Observation Car ($399). There is also a Presidential Class for a group available at $3,000.

Once again, the APRHF Rail Rangers is providing the narration for passengers in the Super Dome — and route guidebooks for everyone to purchase. Questions about ticketing should be directed to the Friends of the 261 directly.


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