Amtrak considers restoring Detroit to Toronto Service.

6516 views
101 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,548 posts
Amtrak considers restoring Detroit to Toronto Service.
Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 3:22 PM

You knew this was comming when William Ford of the Ford Motor Car Company let it leak that he wanted to see Michigan Central Station a rail passenger station in part again at some point in the future.    Not sure yet how serious a proposal this is or if Amtrak is just floating a trial balloon here.     We'll see.    Curious if it does go through how they will set this up with the current corridor stretching past the MC Station cut-off in Detroit.    I think the Chicago to Toronto Corridor might also be a good candidate for an overnight train as well.

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2019/04/02/amtrak-detroit-toronto-train-service/3341837002/

 EDIT:  Found a more informative link:

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/08/13/amtrak-hopes-to-link-chicago-and-detroit-to-toronto/

 

  • Member since
    December 2008
  • From: Toronto, Canada
  • 1,896 posts
Posted by 54light15 on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 3:57 PM

Sounds like a good idea. But, did passenger trains use the Detroit-Windsor tunnel? Does it connect to the MC station? I would take that train- the 401 is so boring on that long stretch between London and Windsor. People fall asleep from boredom and crash and die on that road. 

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: At the Crossroads of the West
  • 11,013 posts
Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 4:08 PM

Yes, CP trains came into Detroit through the MC tunnel, and came to the MC station. There were through trains between Chicago and Toronto. The CP train crews came into Detroit, but the CP engine crews came only to Windsor because the engines were changed there (from steam or diesel to electric or the reverse).

In 1969, I rode from New York City to Chicago through Detroit.

 

Johnny

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,202 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 4:45 PM

It sounds like a great idea.  Back in the day,  the Wolverine was a fast,  premium (possibly All-Pullman?)  MC/NYC train, departing from Central Station in Chicago.

  • Member since
    October 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,936 posts
Posted by cx500 on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 5:51 PM

Great idea to have direct Toronto-Chicago service, but TSA security theatre will probably sabotage it.  The other part is connectivity beyond those points.  In more recent times, when Chicago-Toronto was a day train, VIA cleverly had the overnight Montreal-Toronto train (before it was eliminated) arrive after the Chicago train left, and the Canadian portion used a slower turkey trail route through Guelph and Stratford. 

John

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,202 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 6:01 PM

Why can't the US ICE and Canadian folks take a lesson from how the Europeans handled borders on trains before the EU?   Have agents board in Detroit and make the rounds before the next stop (perhaps eliminate the Windsor stop?). Reverse the process westbound, having the US agents board at the last Canadian stop prior to MI.  Passengers boarding there or Detroit could be pre-cleared. Immigration at most airports here and abroad handle this process with far more passengers quickly and smoothly.

  • Member since
    September 2013
  • 5,984 posts
Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 6:05 PM

I took Toronto-Chicago in 2004 but thru Port Huron not Detroit. Too many security concerns with the tunnel so they stopped the thru the tunnel service. At least that's the story. Toronto-New York dosen't seem to be a problem.  No border tunnel but a big bridge. 

  • Member since
    September 2013
  • 5,984 posts
Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 7:26 PM

 That's not the Red Ensign National Flag... it's the flag of the Province of Ontario, which is similiar.

AMTK 344 leads Maple Leaf changing crews before heading across the border to New York City. May 1981 

This through VIA/Amtrak train began operation April 26, 1981 over CN 
and replaced the VIA service (RDC) over CPR/TH&B via Fort Erie and
Black Rock to Exchange Street in Buffalo. 

 

....below......Back to the future.... maybe.  Makes sense!

CPR passenger trains used this station in Windsor also to and from Detroit after tunnel opened. Bill Thomson
Note the mechanical train order hoops! 


Michigan Central car ferries

 

Of course we could always go back to this to get to Detroit.

Michigan Central car ferry Detroit of Detroit. Winter 1905 
Sold 1910 to Wabash following opening of Detroit River Tunnel. 
Ferry service ended April 30, 1994

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 4,728 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 8:12 PM

A big problem is that for a couple of decades the Wolverine has bypassed the MC depot and tunnel enterance, to go over a beltline to serve the northern suburbs of Detroit.  Since Michigan would still have to subsidize their portion of the train, I doubt they would divert funds to a train route toward Canada that might not attract as many riders as ride to the end of the present route in the Detroit area suburbs.

  • Member since
    September 2013
  • 5,984 posts
Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 8:47 PM

Yes you would have to entice many of the new generations to live downtown in condos.  I understand that is the plan with young urban type employment in the yet to be re-finished Michigan Central RR Station.  For now the folks live out in the 'burbs and that is the route of the Wolverine. 

Also the CASO is gone and ain't comin' back. Of course there are other routes but they are busy pieces of railroad. I'm sure it can be done in if the will is there. 

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: At the Crossroads of the West
  • 11,013 posts
Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 9:46 PM

As  to customs in Port Huron, my wife and I traveled from Toronto to Chicago in 1997--we were asked one question, "You two hitched?"\

About five years ago, when I arrived in Vancouver, I was asked how long I would be stayng; I do nor remember any (to me) unusual questions when we arrived in Vancouver in 2009. Coming back, I so not remember any interrogation by US customs.

Johnny

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,411 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 10:28 PM

Regarding capacity between Winsor and Toronto, there is no problem, because the through trains would simply replace the appropriate Toronto - Winsor VIA schedules, or rather just extend those schedules to Detroit or even Chicago.

  • Member since
    April 2015
  • 329 posts
Posted by Enzoamps on Thursday, January 2, 2020 3:23 PM

I think the border is the hangup.  Airlines get people across the border quickly, but those people must go through Xray machines, magnetic scanners looking for metal, have their bags gone through and inspected.  Stand in line a couple hours prior to boarding.

On the train, I always have ticket in hand before I go.  I can get to the station 10 minutes before the train, walk right on it, bring my uninspected luggage with me.  I think it would be difficult for the conductors to accomplish all that riding between near-border stops.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,202 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, January 2, 2020 4:28 PM

Enzoamps

I think the border is the hangup.  Airlines get people across the border quickly, but those people must go through Xray machines, magnetic scanners looking for metal, have their bags gone through and inspected.  Stand in line a couple hours prior to boarding.

On the train, I always have ticket in hand before I go.  I can get to the station 10 minutes before the train, walk right on it, bring my uninspected luggage with me.  I think it would be difficult for the conductors to accomplish all that riding between near-border stops.

 

As in some countries and trains (China, the Eurostar),  bags can be scanned where passengers  board. Passports are all that need to be checked in crossing. 

  • Member since
    September 2013
  • 5,984 posts
Posted by Miningman on Thursday, January 2, 2020 6:24 PM

When the Toronto-Chicago went through the tunnel into the US custom agents were brought over from the bridge and they boarded the train and checked everyone one by one. They arrested and detained a young Asian women in my car not to far from where I was sitting. 

I had no trouble but watched out the window as the young lady was escorted into a waiting vehicle with cuffs on. 

Went on to Chicago, stayed two nights and on to Flagstaff. Roomette, great meals, met lots of people. Separated smoking room in the Superliner Baggage Car, can't do that any more,  met a lot more fun people. Great conversations. Always wondered about that gal though. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,411 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Friday, January 3, 2020 4:05 AM

If one of the exizting daytime Chi. - Det. trains is selected as the day train to Toronto, it could still terminate at the existing Amtrak suburban station, with an across-the-platfrom connection to the Detroit - Toronto train at the Ford-Micigan-Central Station.  The night train would run through, stopping only at F-MC, with a bus to and from the suburban station.

  • Member since
    December 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 9,779 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, January 3, 2020 4:53 AM

I really oppose using any funds or Amtrak equipment for a Detroit  - Toronto train. An extra assistant conductor for expanded  train set DET - CHI and for CHI maintenance and cleaning requires money.  We have been told that VIA is also short of Equipment so it would probably be Amtrak equipment. 

The funds and equipment needs to be useful for more Amtrak service in the USA.  I will admit that Amtrak already had 3 services to Canada but that  mainly serves US residents.  DET -  Toronto will be mainly Canada. 

Now if some one can provide the equipment and fund outside of Amtrak equipment that is a different possibility. .  

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,548 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, January 3, 2020 9:34 AM

blue streak 1
Now if some one can provide the equipment and fund outside of Amtrak equipment that is a different possibility. .  

Ha-ha, jarhead....

Windsor to Toronto is a popular corridor with like 5-6 trains daily.   VIA Rail Canada has ordered new corridor equipment from Siemens just like the Midwest HSR compact has ($989 million order for Siemens just for this Corridor by VIA Rail).   

The Michigan service trains would draw from the Midwest HSR equipment pool which is steadily being added to as each state steps up and contributes to that pool via funding.   So it is NOT "Amtrak" Equipment it is "Amtrak Midwest" Equipment and will be painted as such and funded by the Midwest compact and not by Amtrak.   Even better than the equipment between Canada and the U.S. on this line being 100% compatible, they will also share a pool of spare parts and can be fixed and/or maintained by VIA Rail in Canada or Amtrak in Chicago.   

It is quite honestly one of those perfect marriages between two governmental systems.   Pretty much Amtrak is just the contracted operator of the equipment.  Even the track Chicago to Detroit is being upgraded and maintained primarily by the State of Michigan.....so not a big hit to Amtraks current budget.   In fact I would not be surprised if the contract operations were profitable to Amtrak in 3-4 years time while the states still cover the subsidy.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,202 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, January 3, 2020 9:39 AM

The service should be Chicago to Toronto,  as these two cities have a good deal of potential passenger traffic. 

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,548 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, January 3, 2020 9:46 AM

daveklepper

If one of the exizting daytime Chi. - Det. trains is selected as the day train to Toronto, it could still terminate at the existing Amtrak suburban station, with an across-the-platfrom connection to the Detroit - Toronto train at the Ford-Micigan-Central Station.  The night train would run through, stopping only at F-MC, with a bus to and from the suburban station.

Dave, no that would not happen.   Current Detroit to suburban route passes the cutoff to MC Station about 5 miles West and then curves away to the North and onto the suburbs.   In order for your cross platform transfer to take place at MC station the train would have to travel East for 5 miles then back West for 5 miles and then North.   Seriously doubt Amtrak will set something like that up.

So your going to have a train that serves Detroit and then Toronto and skips the Northern Suburbs (no big deal in my opinion and yes Michigan will still fund it).   If passengers want to take the train to Toronto they will have to transfer in Dearborn, Michigan or at the New Center Detroit Station after traveling South for a bit from the suburbs and into Detroit.    Second option of course is continue with the current route but extend it to Port Huron and use the old crossing into Canada, then there would be no split.   However, that would take a lot more money and the train schedule would take a beating as well.

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,548 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, January 3, 2020 9:57 AM

daveklepper
Regarding capacity between Winsor and Toronto, there is no problem, because the through trains would simply replace the appropriate Toronto - Winsor VIA schedules, or rather just extend those schedules to Detroit or even Chicago.

Actually more difficult than that.   VIA Rail uses CN from Windsor to Toronto.   MC Tunnel is CP Rail.   Believe it or not, two different Windsor Train stations in different geographic locations and I do not believe there is a CP Rail connection to reach the current VIA Rail / former CN Rail Windsor station.   CN Rail follows the waterfront in Windsor North from about the old Ferry docks to a distillery and then they turn East.   CP Rail of course rises from underground AFTER the waterfront and heads straight East through Central Windsor and it's former Windsor station has been torn down I think.    VIA Rail station on CN is Northern Windsor and close in to the waterfront.

So some work needs to be done here.    Either VIA Rail / Amtrak need to construct a new Windsor station next to CP Rail or find a way to get the Amtrak train onto CN after the current Windsor station and establish possibly an EAST WINDSOR station that both Amtrak uses and the existing Windsor Corridor uses.   Otherwise, the new Amtrak train will bypass Windsor altogether.

It's a rail mess that only the Canadians could invent. :)

  • Member since
    December 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 9,779 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, January 3, 2020 7:48 PM

 Even better than the equipment between Canada and the U.S. on this line being 100% compatible, they will also share a pool of spare parts and can be fixed and/or maintained by VIA Rail in Canada or Amtrak in Chicago.   

That probably will not be true.  VIA uses a HEP system that allows for a split system.  Essentially 2 locos can provide separate HEP to alternate cars.  Power enters left fron and exits out right rear. Locos set up same way.  Amtrak HEP is all the same on both side of car and loco with just one loco allowed to provide HEP.

  • Member since
    March 2013
  • 424 posts
Posted by Dr D on Friday, January 3, 2020 9:05 PM

blue streak 1

Likely the Ford purchase is really about the revitalization of Detroit.  Something which Ford has had a many generation long commitment to.  The Michigan Central Station was built around the idea that it was a Station not a Terminal.  This implies a lineside stop for thru trains.  The NYC regularly ran thru from New York to Chicago which is not surprising considering the industrial importance of Detroit in past America.  It was quite an engineering feat to build that tunnel under the Detroit River in 1904.  So the fixed plant of "yesterdays dream" remains intact no matter how overlooked it is.  A great station and facility still in place.

Secondly the City of Detroit in spite of its many failings in the modern age still remains one of America's great cities astride an international border.  Meaning that aside from the motor car there is no transportation unity between the east and west sides of the metropolitan area.  Let me correct this because the Detroit river flows east west then turns south in the middle of the city.  This means that Detroit is north of Canada at this point.

Likely the Ford family realizes a tremendous rail transportation hub is possible through the tunnel connecting easy crossing between Windsor and Detroit and or any future rapid transit type of service.  The original rail corredors still remain through the cities. 

Regarding AMTRAK cross border service I believe the New York - Toronto service through Niagra Falls still exists on AMTRAK's timetable.  When I made this crossing many years ago the Customs Officials would board the train walk through and inspect the passengers in each car.  This of course was before 9/11 but likely some form of customs similar to what would be done in Detroit is done in Niagra Falls today.

I would venture the Ford family is big enough a player for a proposal to be heard by AMTRAK.

----------------------

Dr. D

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 4,728 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, January 3, 2020 10:35 PM

blue streak 1
I really oppose using any funds or Amtrak equipment for a Detroit  - Toronto train.

They would not need any extra equipment if the ran it like the previous International between CHI-TO via Port Huron.  They used one ATK train set and one VIA train set.  One of each set would start out at the opposite ends of the corridor, and run the entire route to the far end.  Then the next day they would turn around and head back to the starting point.  Since the mileage on either side of the border is about the same, each train spent about the same milage in the other country.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 4,728 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, January 3, 2020 11:06 PM

CMStPnP
So your going to have a train that serves Detroit and then Toronto and skips the Northern Suburbs (no big deal in my opinion and yes Michigan will still fund it).   If passengers want to take the train to Toronto they will have to transfer in Dearborn, Michigan or at the New Center Detroit Station after traveling South for a bit from the suburbs and into Detroit.    Second option of course is continue with the current route but extend it to Port Huron and use the old crossing into Canada, then there would be no split.   However, that would take a lot more money and the train schedule would take a beating as well.

IIRC the northern suburbs contribute a lot more passengers than Detroit, so I would not be so sure that Michigan would fund a bypass.  If the Toronto train  started out on the present belt route around Detroit, once they pass the New (Detroit) Center station, they would have to make a choice at Milwaukee Junction, either to take the direct route to Port Huron, or continue on the present route thru the suburban stations and thence on to Durand and a long detour to Port Huron.

  • Member since
    March 2013
  • 424 posts
Posted by Dr D on Friday, January 3, 2020 11:35 PM

MidlandMike,

I will offer you this observation about Detroit rail service having lived over 70 years in the city. 

AMTRAK service is a political football not having much to do with the real world much of the time.

Historically the Grand Trunk Western subsidary to Canadian National operated passenger trains very successfully from Detroit to Durand MI roughly a northwest service by the compass.  The Mohawk was their name train in the 60's with dining car service and parlor car but no sleeper.  This was a fast train from Detroit to Royal Oak to Birmingham, to Pontiac to Durand and then on to Chicago.  Not as fast as the direct run of the NYC but a way to hit the northern suburbs.

Grand Trunk also operated a line from Detroit to Port Huron roughly north by the compass.  This was the line famous because Thomas Edison as a boy did science experiments on the train and sold news materials etc on the train.  This has not had passenger service in my lifetime.

The current AMTRAK passenger rail line makes its journey from Pontiac down to Milwaukee Junction the a one mile transit to the NYC main line for the fast straight NYC run to Chicago.  This bureaucratic miracle takes so much time no one in their right mind would ride it.  It is easier to be an AMTRAK passenger and drive by car to Dearborn MI than ride the train by boarding in Pontiac - its that slow of a ride.

Now current AMTRAK station in Detroit near the Fisher Building is a train station with all the beauty and attraction of a bus terminal.  It is dangerous and the chances of a car left in the parking lot not being stolen are about zero.  The AMTRAK station agent will tell you not to leave a car at the station.  The new AMTRAK Dearborn is an entirely different situation with passengers cars left for weeks safely.

Routine travelers to Chicago use the AMTRAK Dearborn to Chicago run the old NYC to really save time and expense over driving to Illinois and it is much easier but slower than flying which only takes about 1 hour if you can stomach the jet experience strip search and crowded cattle car experience.

AMTRAK would loose nothing by locating to the Michigan Central Station.  It would acturally be easier to get to than Dearborn if the parking were made safe. 

I would like to hear from anyone who finds the Pontiac to Detroit train service at all convenient?

--------------------

Dr. D 

  • Member since
    December 2019
  • 292 posts
Posted by divebardave on Saturday, January 4, 2020 2:30 AM

As far as i remember I cant even get a Greyhound Bus from Detroit to Windsor without taking the tunnel bus and then getting a seperate bus on the Windsor Side.

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,548 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, January 4, 2020 12:52 PM

blue streak 1

 Even better than the equipment between Canada and the U.S. on this line being 100% compatible, they will also share a pool of spare parts and can be fixed and/or maintained by VIA Rail in Canada or Amtrak in Chicago.   

That probably will not be true.  VIA uses a HEP system that allows for a split system.  Essentially 2 locos can provide separate HEP to alternate cars.  Power enters left fron and exits out right rear. Locos set up same way.  Amtrak HEP is all the same on both side of car and loco with just one loco allowed to provide HEP.

I'm sure they can engineer a way around that if they need to.   We'll see.   I thought the VIA Rail order included locomotives....not sure though.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,202 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, January 4, 2020 12:57 PM

I hope you are right, but what seem to be pretty minor technical difficulties to outsiders often seem to be insurmountable obstacles to Amtrak.

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,548 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, January 4, 2020 1:04 PM

Dr D
Now current AMTRAK station in Detroit near the Fisher Building is a train station with all the beauty and attraction of a bus terminal.  It is dangerous and the chances of a car left in the parking lot not being stolen are about zero.  The AMTRAK station agent will tell you not to leave a car at the station.  The new AMTRAK Dearborn is an entirely different situation with passengers cars left for weeks safely.

I used to work there on the 15th Floor of the GM Building 1991-1994.   Even the monitored GM parking lots are worthless.   The GM Guards just watch the crime happen on TV and nobody is apprehended or prosecuted.  My car was dented and keyed and not by hoodlums but by the UAW because it was a Japanese model and parked in Detroit in a GM parking structure.   Apparently a unforgivable sin.  I directed the insurance company to go after GM.   Not sure if they did or not but I did not pay the deductible on that damage.

At any rate, the New Center Amtrak Station was built as a temporary train structure and not intended to be permanent.    At the point in time it was built Detroit was arguing where to build a permanent Amtrak station.   Now with rehab of MC Station that debate will start all over again I am sure.    However, I am pretty confident they will do as you suggest and the MC Station will be the new Detroit Amtrak station at least for the Toronto Service, possibly for all Amtrak trains.   I disagree it even being a minor issue with the State of Michigan if the train bypasses the suburbs.   I think the State would be very happy to have a through train again that is direct and fast.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy