Now that the holidays are over and winter's grip is settling in even more, families all over Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana are looking for something fun to do on the weekends. How about a ride on the South Shore Line with the Midwest Rail Rangers? Our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization presents on-board educational programs on the South Shore two to three weekends per month year-round... including during the winter. Ride the train between Downtown Chicago and South Bend, while learning about the people, places, and history passing by outside your window from Interpretive Guides.
Did you know that during its 90-mile-long run, trains on the South Shore pass near or through two units of the National Park Service (NPS), two affiliated NPS units, and four state parks – including the Indiana Dunes and Potato Creek? Did you know that the South Shore Line has been deemed America's last electric interurban railroad and is more than 100 years old? (At one time there were hundreds of interurban railroads criss-crossing the Midwest!) Where does the South Shore cross the path of Abraham Lincoln's famed funeral train between Washington, D.C. and Illinois? For answers and more information on all of these topics and much more – you'll have to join the Midwest Rail Rangers for an upcoming ‘history talk' on the South Shore Line. If you are interested in riding, check the Midwest Rail Rangers' website (www.RailRangers.org) for a listing of upcoming program dates.
They currently include: January 5, January 19, January 26, February 2, February 23, February 24, March 2, March 9, March 23, April 6, April 13, and April 27. Eastbound onboard programs are presented on the train that leaves Chicago-Millennium Station at 8:40am CT and westbound programs are presented on the train that leaves South Bend Airport Station at 1:05pm ET. Passengers can ride the entire 90-mile-route or get on/off the train at any intermediate stop -- which includes East Chicago, Gary, Dune Park, Michigan City, Hudson Lake, and others. Rail Rangers programs are presented in only one car of the train, where seating is strictly available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Reservations are not needed and programs are presented at no additional charge to passengers who hold a valid South Shore Line ticket. The round-trip cost between Chicago and South Bend for adults is just $28.50!
Need an extra incentive to ride? The Rail Rangers' onboard educational programs are great for families too --- as up to three children thirteen (13) years of age or under ride the South Shore Line free when accompanied by a parent on all weekend, holiday and off-peak trains. Select programs also feature a ‘Junior Rail Rangers' program, where children, teens, and even kids at heart can earn a prize by completing an activity book that aids in their learning of Chicago and Indiana history.
The Rail Rangers have been presenting their unique on-board educational programs on the South Shore Line since August 2017. A recent extension to their partnership agreement with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) means Interpretive Guides will be riding the rails every month at least through 2021.
Midwest Rail Rangers President Robert Tabern says, "We are really excited by the feedback we have gotten from passengers about our on-board educational programs. Several riders have told us they have rode the train line every day for decades to work – and didn't know what they were actually seeing out their window until they listened to one of our interactive programs. That's great to hear. NICTD has been great to work with at every step of the process, too. They really care about providing passengers a fun and unique experience and, like us, think outside of the box when it comes to that. We couldn't be more pleased to extend our agreement with them.”
If you can't make one of the Midwest Rail Rangers' formal on-board educational programs... you can still learn about the route. The organization has released a detailed 120-page route guidebook, e-book, and MP3 podcast covering the landmarks along the South Shore Line route; it is available for sale at www.MidwestRails.com. Proceeds fund the organization's expenses in presenting programs between Chicago and South Bend.
The Midwest Rail Rangers also present off-the-train talks, too! Interpretive Guides with our organization will be visiting several local libraries during the months ahead to give presentations about the history of the South Shore Line. Stops include Saturday, April 27th at 11:00am ET (10:00am CT) at the New Carlisle Public Library --- and on Saturday, May 11th at 2:00pm CT at the Lake County Public Library's Merrillville, Indiana Branch. These events are focused more on railroad history, while the Rail Rangers' on-train programs are geared more toward an audience that has a general interest on local history and industry.