Amtrak, MDOT team up to provide new Chicago train route
Published 12:22 pm Monday, April 26, 2004
By By ERIC COWDEN / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The new Blue Water train route, which travels through Niles, is set to succeed.
Daily Amtrak train transportation from Port Huron to Chicago will once again meet passengers' needs for both business and tourism, officials said.
Amtrak's new route, which officially opened April 25, replace the less profitable International route.
On Saturday, a lively crowd met the inaugural train at the Niles Depot as part of a promotional "whistle-stop" celebration.
The day-long festivities started at 8:30 a.m. in Port Huron with music, food, and a balloon launch.
Afterward, the train visited seven other cities before stopping in Niles.
Special events were held at each city including Lapeer (Lincoln impersonator), Flint (music), Durand (music), East Lansing (sports mascots), Battle Creek (media availability), Kalamazoo (sports mascots), Dowagiac (music).
The Niles station was decked out with balloons for the occasion, and the festivities, which started at 2 p.m., included a cake, promotional booths, and a drawing for two free train tickets.
Also on hand was the Van Dyke Revue, a band that provided upbeat music for the afternoon event.
Niles residents at the Depot Saturday enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere. The afternoon culminated at 2:30 p.m. when the inaugural train pulled into the depot.
Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin appeared from the rear platform of the train to greet citizens. With him were State Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, and and State Rep. Neal Neal Nitz, R-Baroda. Also visiting Niles Saturday were MDOT Director Gloria Jeff and Amtrak President David Gunn.
All were enthusiastic of the occasion.
Amtrak and MDOT, who partnered to provide the Blue Water Service, expect this convenient transportation system to bring more people to and from Chicago on a daily basis.
Jeff said she is excited about workers being able to locate wherever they want, while still being able to do their business and come back at the end of the day.
In addition to boosting Michigan's economy, the Blue Water service will also provide access to Amtrak's nationwide train network, allowing Michigan citizens easy transportation to anywhere in the country.
Mayor McCauslin said he was pleased to end the day's festivities in Niles, where the railroad has long been a prominent part of local history.
Amtrak President David Gunn even admitted that Niles has "the nicest looking railroad station in the Amtrak system."
In honor of the historic Niles tradition, the Garden Club distributed flowers to the train passengers.
Now that the Blue Water route has begun its daily service, Niles passengers will be able to head west at 10:25 a.m. or east at 5:35 p.m. The westbound train (No. 365) departs Port Huron at 5:15 a.m. ET and arrives at Chicago at 11:10 a.m. CT.
The eastbound train (No. 364) will depart Chicago at 3 p.m. CT and arrive at Port Huron at 10:50 p.m. ET.
For the complete schedule, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com.