Would you ever watch a program on the Travel Channel or History Channel with the audio turned down? Your answer to that question is probably a resounding "no". So, why would you take a train ride somewhere and not know anything about all of the interesting people, place, and history passing by outside your window? It's essentially the same thing if you think about it. And... that is where the Midwest Rail Rangers come in. We are an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Barron, Wisconsin that provides live on-board educational programs on regular departures of the South Shore Line (on select weekends)... aboard the Sky Parlour Car at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad... private rail excursions... Amtrak coach charter trips with the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago... and at various outreach events such as train shows and local libraries. For those looking for a self-guided experience, our team of Interpretive Guides have produced a series of railroad route guide books, e-books, and podcasts covering Midwest and nation-wide passenger train routes.
Here is a closer look at where you can find the Midwest Rail Rangers:THE SOUTH SHORE LINE
Since 2017, the Midwest Rail Rangers have partnered with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) to provide on-board programs to passengers on select weekends year-round. Our Guides ride a round-trip between Downtown Chicago and South Bend, IN two to three weekends per month. Learn about the south side of Chicago, the steel-mill region of Northwest Indiana, the Indiana Dunes State and National Parks, and the "bread basket" region of La Porte and St. Joseph Counties.WISCONSIN GREAT NORTHERN SKY PARLOUR CAR
Besides the South Shore, the other main focus area for the Midwest Rail Rangersis to present historical programs on select weekends aboard the Sky Parlor Car at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego, Wisconsin. Between 1956 and 1971, the car served as a Hi-Level Lounge on Santa Fe's famed El Capitan train between Chicago and Los Angeles, California. It also ran for 47 years under Amtrak... 23 years of those as a Pacific Parlour Car on the Coast Starlight. Since 2019, the car has been owned by the Wisconsin Great Northern, a proud Rail Rangers partner.PRIVATE RAIL EXCURSIONS
Experience what the true "Golden Age of Railroading" was about while riding on a private rail excursion featuring an observation car from the 1950's. The Midwest Rail Rangers partner with a number of different owners/operators of historic train cars, which operate on the back of regularly-scheduled Amtrak trains. Enjoy fine meals on a piece of rolling railroad history... all while enjoying fun and entertaining on-board educational programs provided by the Midwest Rail Rangers' experienced Interpretive Guides.
20TH CENTURY RAILROAD CLUB AMTRAK CHARTERS
The Midwest Rail Rangers partner with certain travel organizations, such as the 20th Century Railroad Club of Chicago, who organize group coach charters aboard regularly-scheduled Amtrak trains. Our Interpretive Guides ride along and provide narration and handouts for passengers who are part of the group. Our Interpretive Guides have experience doing programs across a seven-state region across the Upper Midwest, including in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
Feel free to join the Midwest Rail Rangers at off-the-train outreach events that are held at various venues year-round all across the Upper Midwest. Our Interpretive Guides make appearances at such annual events as Trainfest and MadCity Rail in Wisconsin. The Midwest Rail Rangers also design custom presentations and book signings for special organizations and local libraries. As much as we enjoy being on the train, we feel it is equally important to encourage those who may never heard of us to come out and ride!
GUIDE BOOKS, PDF E-BOOKS & MP3 PODCASTS
If you are planning to take a train ride that is not set to feature our Midwest Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides... we still have a fun way for you to learn about everything. After many years of researching the various regional and long-distance train lines out of Chicago, we have published a detailed series of railroad route guides. Editions of "Outside the Rails" are now available in traditional soft-cover book format, as a PDF e-book, or an MP3 podcast. We also have partnered with another author to cover nation-wide routes!
Your purchase of a route guide book, e-book, or podcast helps support the 501(c)(3) non-profit Midwest Rail Rangers and our mission of educating passengers about the people, places, and history passing by outside their train window.
"Outside the Rails" Route Guides written by the Midwest Rail Rangers include:
MIDWEST RAIL RANGERS ON TRAINWEB.COM
Chicago to St. Louis --- Chicago to Carbondale --- Chicago to Milwaukee --- Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac
Indianapolis to Chicago --- Chicago to Kansas City --- Chicago to St. Paul --- Junior Rail Rangers
Chicago to South Bend, IN (South Shore) --- Chicago to Quincy, IL --- Wisconsin Great Northern Sky Parlour
Of course you can find the Midwest Rail Rangers right here on TrainWeb.com, too! Robert and Kandace Tabern, who co-founded the Midwest Rail Rangers program, are close friends with TrainWeb.com creators Steve Grande and Barbara Cepinko. Steve and Barbara have been staunch supporters of the Midwest Rail Rangers since its founding on July 20, 2015... and also believe that one's journey on the train is enhanced with fun and informative educational programs. TrainWeb has made the Taberns "featured authors".
If you scroll down a bit, you will find Robert & Kandace Tabern's collection of TrainWeb.com articles over the years. Some have to do with the Midwest Rail Rangers program... others are trip reports from personal rail-related travel that the two have completed. The Midwest Rail Rangers tries to average about one new article/trip report every month!
It is really no surprise that Robert Tabern developed an enthusiasm for passenger train travel. After all, his father, Thomas, grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio along the New York Central main line; his mother, Rita, grew up along the busy Evanston Express CTA line in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
Robert was born in August 1979 in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb located about ten miles north of Chicago. He spent his early years living in the Chicagoland area, including Morton Grove and Northbrook. While growing up, every summer included at least one long-distance Amtrak train trip for the Tabern family; some of Robert's fondest memories include getting his own small slumber coach sleeping car room when going to Florida or Washington, D.C. Often times, young Robert would stay up half the night looking out his window at the small towns passing by in the darkness.
While attending Glenbrook North High School, Robert decided to pursue a career in the broadcasting industry. In August 1997, Robert moved 500 miles south, becoming a freshman at Arkansas State University. While there, he worked on-air and behind-the-scenes at a few small radio stations, including KASU-FM (Jonesboro, AR), KDRS-FM (Paragould, AR), and KLQZ-FM (Paragould, AR). Robert also worked as a television news producer, including three years at KAIT-TV, the ABC station in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Shortly after moving to Arkansas, Robert and Kandace met one another; the two dated for about a year and shared an apartment directly across from the Walnut Ridge, AR Amtrak station.
After graduating from Arkansas State University in December 2001, Robert moved to Indiana and served as the morning news producer at WKJG-TV, the then-NBC affiliate in Fort Wayne. Hoping to move even closer to his family in the Chicagoland area, Robert picked up stakes again in February 2003 and headed for Southeast Wisconsin. It was there he continued working in the broadcasting and communications field for over a decade, including time at WDJT-TV, the CBS station in Milwaukee, the City of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and WTMJ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee. In 2011, after not speaking for more than 13 years, Robert and Kandace came back into each others lives. Sometimes love is just meant to be! After proposing in the dining car on Amtrak's Empire Builder on January 1, 2012, Robert and Kandace got married later that year; their "rolling" wedding reception was held aboard the Milwaukee Road Super Dome between St. Paul and Chicago.
Today, Robert and Kandace both call Northwest Wisconsin home. Robert works full-time as Director of Passenger Development for the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad... one of the last family-run tourist railroads left in the United States. It's also the only organization running a former Santa Fe Hi-Level Lounge Car/Amtrak Pacific Parlour Car on a regular basis. It's definitely worth the trip up... WGNRR is about two hours from the Twin Cities, five hours from Milwaukee, or about six hours from Chicago.
Both Robert and Kandace also spend a significant amount of time managing the Midwest Rail Rangers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which provides onboard educational programs. Robert currently serves as President of Midwest Rail Rangers, while Kandace is the group's Educational Officer. To learn how you can ride along with the Taberns or one of the other Rail Rangers' Interpretive Guides, check out the Midwest Rail Rangers website at www.railrangers.org.
Robert and Kandace are also published authors... having researched, written, and published a series of 11 different railroad route guidebooks, plus e-books, and podcasts. More on that below! When not on the rails, the duo loves to take road trips, explore state parks and caves, and spend time in the great outdoors. Robert and Kandace really enjoy visiting units of the National Park Service -- Robert has been to almost all of the 418 units of the NPS and Kandace isn't too far behind. They also love country music and attending the Grand Ole Opry whenever possible.