| July 20, 2015|
20 July 2015
| Non-Profit 501(c)(3)|
"More Than a Train Ride"
| Trails & Rails: Chicago to La Plata, MO Southwest Chief|
Post Office Box 175, La Plata, MO 63549
39067 Caroline Avenue #42, Wadsworth, IL 60083
APRHF Rail Rangers is one of several affiliates of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the role that passenger rail played in the building of the United States of America.
Docents with APRHF Rail Rangers provide educational interpretive programs on-board private rail excursions, group rail charters, and at various railroad museums and train shows. The organization is operated out of the APRHF Headquarters in La Plata, Missouri, but it also maintains a secondary mailing address in Wadsworth, Illinois, in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Most APRHF Rail Rangers excursions and outreach events take place in the Upper Midwest, including in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
APRHF Rail Rangers Wikipedia
The APRHF Rail Rangers program was officially chartered on July 20, 2015, however its roots date back nearly two decades through Trails & Rails.
In 2000, Amtrak and the National Park Service established a partnership agreement to place rangers and park volunteers on select passenger trains across the United States to present on-board interpretive programs. Docents would point out interesting landmarks along the way to passengers, including the history of various towns the train was passing through, ecology, and geology of the landscape. The Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor sponsored a Trails & Rails program on Amtrak's Texas Eagle between Chicago and Saint Louis, Missouri. The I&M Canal-sponsored program operated from 2000 until 2004. In 2005, the National Park Service decided to move volunteers to the Empire Builder Between 2005 and 2010, volunteers presented interpretive programs between Chicago Union Station and either Winona, Minnesota or St. Paul, Minnesota. In September 2010, National Park Service management put an end to all long-distance Trails & Rails programs out of Chicago. A short-haul Trails & Rails program sponsored by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was formed in 2011 and continues to operate on Amtrak's Wolverine Service to New Buffalo, Michigan.
In late 2012, the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF) approached Amtrak and the National Park Service about establishing a new Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief between Chicago and La Plata, Missouri. Since there were no National Park Service units along the route at the time, it was agreed that the APRHF would manage the day-to-day operations of the program, with additional oversight provided by Trails & Rails National Coordinator James Miculka, who was based in College Station, Texas. A group of 30 Chicago-based Trails & Rails volunteers were chosen, and the first program took place on May 18, 2013. During its two-and-a-half year run, the APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program through Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri reached out to over 50,000 Amtrak passengers, with more than 200 programs given. In June 2015, Trails & Rails National Coordinator Jim Miculka informed the APRHF Board of Directors that he wished the end the partnership agreement. The final Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief between Chicago and La Plata took place on July 19, 2015.
The day after the APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program ceased operations on the Southwest Chief, the APRHF Board of Directors announced the creation of the APRHF Rail Rangers program. Since the National Park Service holds an exclusive agreement to provide narration services on public Amtrak trains, APRHF Rail Rangers focuses its efforts on providing interpretive programs on private railroad excursions, group charters, and at railroad museums. The name Rail Rangers pays homage to the organization's roots with Trails & Rails, as Rail Rangers was slated to be the original name of Trails & Rails before a last-minute change by Amtrak.
APRHF Rail Rangers is not affiliated with Amtrak and is exclusively overseen by the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation's Board of Directors. The APRHF Rail Rangers program currently has partnerships in place with the Friends of the 261, Zephyr Route, American Railway Excursions, Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, and Paxrail. Trip destinations have included the following: Chicago, Illinois; Galesburg, Illinois; Quincy, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Boylston/Superior, Wisconsin; Saint Louis, Missouri; La Plata, Missouri; and St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In October 2016, the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation announced that it would be partnering with the Indiana Department of Transportation and Iowa Pacific Holdings to have Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides on select departures of the Hoosier State (train), effective November 27, 2016. Guides ride between Lafayette, Indiana and Chicago Union Station on select Sunday morning departures of the northbound Hoosier State providing commentary about Indiana history and scenery. Guides with the non-profit provide passengers with free route guide sheets and Chicago maps, plus have an Indiana-themed junior ranger program available for children and teens. The Rail Rangers' new "Riding the Hoosier Rails" program takes place approximately two to three weekends per month.