Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Detroit to Chicago: Fast and Slow

With our train to Chicago not scheduled to depart Detroit until 3 PM, we had a late check-out, and didn't have to rush. In fact, we even had a chance to collect the only station on the People Mover that we'd missed in our use of it throughout the week.

Once Around
After breakfast, we took the camera and boarded the People Mover at Cobo Hall. Lisa intended to record a video of one complete trip around the circuit. Unfortunately, several stops up the line, the batteries died. We quickly swapped batteries, but rather than deal with having to edit two videos together, Lisa decided to just ride the system around a second time and be certain of having gotten everything. Because of this, we finally rode on the one segment of the line we'd missed previously: Greektown to Renaissance Center, including the one uphill segment that makes most of the DPM a downhill run. Hey, we'd paid our $1.50, we might as well get our money's worth. Eventually we got out at Financial District and went back to the room to finish packing.

After packing out of the room, we took a taxi to the Amtrak station. The cabbie must have been angling for a bigger fare and wanted to take us to Dearborn, but we didn't see any need to do that. Detroit's station is a single track, and the delayed train to Pontiac came through when our train to Chicago should have come in, causing the Chicago train (Wolverine #359, running on a special schedule due to track work) to run ten minutes late.

Ann Arbor
On this return to Chicago, I was able to see some of the stations that we passed in the dark coming the other way. I missed phogtographing Dearborn's station, which didn't seem much different than Detroit's, although the new station being built to the west of the old one looks rather nice. I'd once driven past Ann Arbor's station on a business trip to the Detroit area, but this was the first time I'd seen it in daylight.

Jackson MI
Jackson has a nice-looking station.

Other stations on this line can be found in my 2014 NASFiC Trip album from during the outbound journey.

We stumbled our way through several work zones, growing progressively later. At Kalamazoo, we switched from the Norfolk Southern to Amtrak's high-speed line to Porter, Indiana, and they opened 'er up. But then we had to slow and stop again: a passenger had slept through his Kalamazoo stop and Train 358 coming the other way stopped alongside us so they could transfer the errant traveler between trains at a grade crossing. Finally, we took off, and Lisa and I had the experience of traveling faster on rail that we ever have before in North America: 110 MPH, confirmed by timing passing mileposts. Of course we've been on the Eurostar and the Shinkansen, which travel at 300 KPH (186 MPH) and do so more smoothly, but it was nice to ride a US train that was actually capable of reaching speeds that other first-world countries treat as routine.

Soon enough, however, we got to Porter, where we stopped and waited to re-enter the Norfolk Southern tracks. And waited. And waited some more. The work crew up ahead finally cleared, and I could hear on the radio our train getting the clearance, including the dreaded phrase, "Do not exceed 10, that's T-E-N miles per hour between mileposts..." naming a stretch of five full miles that we were going to have to tiptoe through. We were philosophical about it, but there were other very unhappy passengers. This is apparently going to keep happening all summer as NS is doing extensive work in this area.

Amtrak 32
Throw in places where we had to stop to allow freight trains to cross in front of us, and the net result was a 94-minute late arrival. On the way out, I snapped this photo of the train that led us to Chicago (they top-and-tail these trains, so there was another Amtrak locomotive on the rear).

We have this routine down now in Chicago and walked down to the Holiday Inn. They upgraded us again, but not to that crazy conference room; we have a nice two-room suite, which Lisa suggested would have been ideal for exploring Chicago if we had several days instead of less than eighteen hours. They also gave us a 1 PM checkout, which is convenient for our 2 PM departure on Tuesday.

After dumping our bags, we walked over to Chicago's Greektown (there appears to be a pattern developing in our food tastes) and had a quick dinner there before returning to the hotel. There's no included breakfast here, so we'll need to get up early enough to go get breakfast; however, with the train station only two blocks from the hotel, we're pretty confident that we can make things work.
Tags: chicago, detroit, food, lisa, trains, transit, travel

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