Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

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Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby Jeff Smith » Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:57 pm

I'll start this here, but move it to the Chicagoland forum, since it seems unlikely Amtrak would run it (again).

Chicago Tribune

Study to look at reviving rail passenger service to Chicago with stops in Valparaiso, Gary

ssenger rail service between Valparaiso and Chicago could be revived after a 25-year hiatus if a proposal generated in eastern Indiana keeps rolling.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry announced in the last week that a new study will look at the possibility of re-establishing rail passenger service between northwestern Ohio and Chicago. Officials from cities and towns along the route joined Henry for the announcement.

Valparaiso and Gary could be among the stops on that service.

A $350,000 study, called an alternatives analysis and public process, will begin early next year and could be completed by fall. Communities, including Valparaiso, Plymouth, Warsaw and Fort Wayne, and some companies along the route are paying for the work.
...
The last train on Amtrak's Calumet service, between Valparaiso and Chicago with stops in Gary and Hammond/Whiting, ran on May 3, 1991. It was one of Amtrak's last commuter services but was losing money.

Freight trains operated by the Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern Railroad run on the line between Chicago and northwestern Ohio. Northwest Indiana is served by Amtrak trains running between Chicago and cities in Michigan, with stops in Hammond and Michigan City, and between Indianapolis and Chicago, with stops in Rensselaer and Dyer.
...


Wiki on the Calumet: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calumet_(train)

Previous discussion including some comments on the Calumet and other former Amtrak services: viewtopic.php?f=46&t=164299
Next stop, Willoughby
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Re: Calumet Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby justalurker66 » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:04 am

Certain people in Fort Wayne have been pushing to restore Fort Wayne to Chicago service for years. The current push is for the Columbus to Chicago service (which would bring in passengers and possibly money from Ohio). Valparaiso to Chicago would be a small part of the service. Getting other cities along the route interested is just part of Fort Wayne's plan to get the service they want.

Perhaps in 20-25 more years it will get past the talking stage. I wouldn't bill it as a revival of the Dummy ... Valpo to Chicago can be done much cheaper via NICTD if a need can be proven. This is a Columbus to Chicago plan that will pass through Valparaiso if it ever gets built.

The thread you link is prophetic ... Amtrak routes that will never return.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby doepack » Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:28 am

I don't see this happening anytime soon either, mainly because there's not a whole lot between Valpo and Fort Wayne, it's pretty rural. According to city-data, the only towns whose population exceeds 10K in this corridor are Warsaw and Plymouth. Even if both cities were to support Amtrak either coming or returning to town (don't know their history offhand), it would seem to be far from a done deal.

Valpo commuter service returning someday under NICTD operation is a more likely scenario...
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Mar 13, 2017 8:04 pm

The Midwest HSR Association still sees the CFE (ex-PRR) to Ft. Wayne and the Napoleon, Defiance & Western ex-Wabash as its core route from Chicago to Toledo.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby BrianLM007 » Thu Mar 16, 2017 9:03 pm

Unless Allen County and Fort Wayne are ponying up the majority of the funds to run this service plus install new signals, upgrade track, etc. for the CF&E / ex-PRR line, I have a hard time seeing this being much more than a study. Right now in Northwest Indiana, most of the efforts are being used (including funding) for the NICTD West Lake Line to Dyer and double-tracking the Main Line from Gary to Michigan City. I suspect that the only city in Northwest Indiana with interest would be Valpo itself, but such service would likely only be a train or two a day at best. When this State gives no more than lip-service to the Hoosier State, it's hard to envision any of these ideas going much past planning.

If the State was serious about passenger service, it would pay for more Hoosier State runs, add service to Cincinnati and Louisville from Indianapolis, plus this service from Fort Wayne to Chicago and provide regular funding for infrastructure improvements and equipment so that run times could become more competitive.

The biggest problem with this route, as doepack pointed out, is that there is little between Valpo and Fort Wayne. If South Bend was where Plymouth is, that might make a difference.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby justalurker66 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:20 pm

BrianLM007 wrote:The biggest problem with this route, as doepack pointed out, is that there is little between Valpo and Fort Wayne. If South Bend was where Plymouth is, that might make a difference.

An Elkhart to Fort Wayne connection might be viable ... but it would violate the first rule of modern rail planning "always follow a ROW drawn 100 years ago". (There is an "ancient path" from Kendallville to Fort Wayne that could be used if one must stay on former ROWs.)

Modern highway planning does not have that restriction. If you want a road between Evansville and Bloomington draw a line and build it. One doesn't need to follow existing or historical paths. Railroad planning seems to be stuck in a rut of following existing paths. If one can't follow an existing path following a historical path can be an option. But a new path where trains have never run before? That rarely happens in modern planning for more than a few miles (such as a bypass or a transit system).

If one leaves Chicago and drives through the most populated cities on the way to Fort Wayne that path goes through South Bend and Elkhart.
I-94 to US-6 to SR 130 to US-30 to Fort Wayne is 166 road miles. Heading south on US-6 misses the major population center of South Bend.
I-94 to US-20 to US-31 to US-30 to Fort Wayne is 184 road miles. Heading south on US-31 misses Elkhart for Plymouth and Warsaw.
I-94 to US-20 to US-33 to Fort Wayne is 178 road miles. That route catches the most population.

A road planner wanting to touch the most population would use the US-33 route. The closest railroad route is the NS Chicago Line from Chicago to Ligonier but there is a gap getting to Fort Wayne. Has there ever been a railroad from Ligonier to Fort Wayne? That is where we run into the problem. For some reason rail planners don't draw new lines.

From Fort Wayne (the city that wants the line) they look west toward Chicago. I do not know why they hate South Bend ... perhaps jealousy or bitterness over passenger rail service remaining on the NS Chicago Line and CSX Garrett Subdivision longer than on CFER. But they are willing to bypass that major population center ... save 12 travel miles ... and give up on any regional benefits of connecting South Bend to Fort Wayne.

Chicago is the goal, not Warsaw or Plymouth or Valparaiso. If meeting Fort Wayne's goal helps provide a connection between Valparaiso and Chicago it is a happy accident. But of course Fort Wayne cannot pay for the service. So they have to look east to Toledo or Columbus. But if I were in Columbus I'd be looking at a connection to Chicago through a much bigger city than Fort Wayne. I-70 to I-65 to Chicago is the beaten path.

Valparaiso to Chicago ... I can see a revival for the service. There is a demonstrated need and a bus service in place that could be replaced by rail. A Fort Wayne train going by would help with the revival - but there is a better chance that Valpo service would be restored without Fort Wayne.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:23 am

There is an abandoned PRR branch from Fort Wayne to the ex-NYC Water Level Route at Kendallville if transportation planners really want to connect that city to South Bend. But why? Valpo is within commuting distance of Chicago, but Ft. Wayne isn't, whether via SOB or directly. FWA (the likely three-letter Amtrak code) deserves intercity rail service, and doesn't need to be part of the same line as South Bend.

I don't think Valpo will get electric railroading though - too high a cost for too little benefit to NICTD. They could roll the substation and transmission money into track upgrades and purchasing the railroad all the way out to Fort Wayne for future use. Let CFE pay NICTD for trackage, not CSX.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby justalurker66 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:17 pm

mtuandrew wrote:There is an abandoned PRR branch from Fort Wayne to the ex-NYC Water Level Route at Kendallville if transportation planners really want to connect that city to South Bend.

That is how a planner thinks ... find a 100 year old line on the map. Rarely is anything beyond transit built on a new alignment.

mtuandrew wrote:But why? Valpo is within commuting distance of Chicago, but Ft. Wayne isn't, whether via SOB or directly. FWA (the likely three-letter Amtrak code) deserves intercity rail service, and doesn't need to be part of the same line as South Bend.

I agree that Fort Wayne is not within commuting distance. Even with the "higher speed" trains that proponents want to put on CFER. But a line connecting the major cities across Northern Indiana instead of pitting South Bend vs Fort Wayne. Commuting distance between South Bend and Fort Wayne isn't as far as Chicago.

(BTW: The thruway stop was "FWA" so that guess is supported.)


mtuandrew wrote:I don't think Valpo will get electric railroading though - too high a cost for too little benefit to NICTD. They could roll the substation and transmission money into track upgrades and purchasing the railroad all the way out to Fort Wayne for future use. Let CFE pay NICTD for trackage, not CSX.

If it were my decision Valpo would be electric on CFER and CSX (or following CFER and CSX alignments, the old dummy route) until it got to NICTD in Gary, then it would make the turn to join the existing NICTD line to Chicago. With all the existing track being electric (15 miles of MED and 15 miles of NICTD) the 20 miles to Valparaiso wouldn't be too bad. And the equipment would be operable on all three branches.

Note that the West Lake Project will NOT be sharing track with CSX or any other railroad. NICTD's track will be built either east or west of the CSX main line with the end of the line Dyer station located in the unbuilt housing area north of the Amtrak station. A bridge will carry the new track over CP Munster and other railroads. NICTD plans on doing "end of life" rehabilitation on the single level cars for West Lake and buying bilevels for the existing South Shore line.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby BrianLM007 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:26 pm

I'm of the general opinion is that all the major population centers are connected, the service will have the best shot of success. If you could build a connection to South Bend, the Water Level Route would be easiest to get to Chicago. Another thought would be add a connection to the NICTD mainline around Bendix and run the service along the NICTD main to Chicago. So the stops (main stops in CAPS, intermediate/flag stops Normal text) could be FORT WAYNE, Goshen, Elkhart, SOUTH BEND, Michigan City, GARY, Hammond, CHICAGO. I build a new route from Fort Wayne to connect to the Water Level Route at Goshen, then switching over to NICTD at Bendix. While I'm on this pipe dream, then you can upgrade and reactivate the ex-Nickel Plate connection at Grand Crossing to permit a connection back to the NS (ex-PRR) main to enable connections to Union Station (also benefiting the Amtrak trains that use the IC main line route as well). Also, assuming the West Lake Extension gets built, a connection can be built from the CSX line to the new NICTD line to enable the Hoosier State and Cardinal to use the NICTD route as well.

With that said, realistically, if West Lake is built and the double-tracking project is built on the NICTD Main is also built (and I am of the opinion that odds are pretty good at this point with most of the Lake County communities ponying up for the project this time versus back in 2006-2008 and support with the Doubling Tracking project with the Governor), NICTD's next large extension projects would likely be extending the West Lake Line further to either St. John or Cedar Lake and building a branch to Valpo. I agree with justalurker66 that using the CFER & CSX route to connect to the NICTD main near the Gary Airport (or perhaps building a new gateway station in the Airport area) would be the easiest thing to do. For such a line, Porter County and Valpo would need to step up to the plate (with Lake County, Hobart, Gary and others chipping in) with a healthy chunk of money.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:32 pm

Brian and lurker: build us a four-lane separated US 33 from Ligonier to I-69 and we can use the median of an 80 year old line on a map :-D

I'd certainly like NICTD to electrify any new routes, including ones to Valparaiso and Schneider(?), but diesel has much lower capital costs. At least this is a service that could start behind diesel and become a traction system as funds permit.

As for CSX, last I heard they were CFE's landlord having gotten that half of Pennsy Lines West back at the Conrail split. Let me know if that has changed! I wasn't referring to any CSX-operated lines in or near Chicago.
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Re: Calumet "Dummy" Revival? Chicago - Valparaiso, Indiana

Postby justalurker66 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:20 am

I will be surprised if NICTD ever puts in a diesel line. Everything new will be electrified and compatible with existing equipment. The initial cost of the catenary will be recouped with the lower cost of electricity over diesel and the ability to use the existing fleet.

CSX owns the CFER ROW. CSX is rehabilitating the line north of Tolleston and will be reinstalling the diamond. Part of the former PRR ROW was sold to the Gary airport, with CSX taking over the former NS (Wabash?) alignment and NS moved over to a new alignment to connect to the CN City Line.
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