A Passenger Rail advocate takes the occasion of a Chicago and Cleveland World Series to meditate on the shrunken Midwestern passenger service.
Thousands of Cubs fans are making their way from Chicago to Cleveland for Game 7 of the World Series tonight. Throughout the series fans from both teams have been making the journey between Chicago and Cleveland either by plane, train or automobile. This is a great time to highlight how the Lakeshore corridor could provide a more viable option between these two great midwestern cities.

Just this past week I was reminded of the incredible potential that exists along the Lakeshore corridor. I took a very enjoyable train ride from Chicago to Toledo to see a presentation on All Aboard Florida. The track was in great shape the whole way out and the trip time was comparable to driving but there is room for growth.
The track is in great shape to expedite the movement of stack trains, automobiles, and other priority cargo. But the passenger train service, such as it is, reflects the success of the New York Central Railroad in trimming its cross-Ohio service, fifty years ago.

Here's the westward service as of 24 April 1966, the beginning of Daylight Saving Time.

The New England States and Twentieth Century Limited disdained Cleveland, changing crews at Collinwood east of downtown and bypassing the Union Terminal on the Lakefront Line, which is now the route Amtrak's service uses.  The overnight extension of the Empire State Express was coach only, without food service, west of Cleveland.  Sleeping cars and food service cars came off The Chicagoan at Cleveland.  Train 201, as its number and profusion of stops would suggest, was an accommodation train, probably hemorrhaging the mail and express that once justified its operation.

The eastbound workings were no better.  The Cleveland sleepers returned to New York on Six, and the New England States deigned to stop at Cleveland to add a St. Louis to New York sleeping car -- perhaps New York Central, anticipating its merger with The Pennsylvania Railroad, was saddling its future partner with the St. Louis service.

There wasn't much for Amtrak to build on, and when Chicago to Cleveland service offered multiple frequencies, as it did for a short while, one of the promised frequencies, predicated on retrieving the mail and express once carried by 201 and 222, never ran.

Amtrak Form W23/65M effective May 21, 2000.

We're not looking at a corridor service, with the Lake Shore filling in for the Century and New England States, and 45 and 46, the mail and express trains, never running.

But speeding up the service, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association notes, doesn't call for massive investments in track and electrification.
We think that some simple improvements such as level boarding, high performance trains and better amenities would make the service more attractive. A Chicago-Cleveland trip time of less than five and a half hours could be accomplished by increasing average speeds throughout the route by just 5 mph and increasing the top speed between 47th street and east Gary to 79 mph.
A Cold Spring Shops "Free Rein to 110" campaign might be in order. That, plus additional frequencies. Perhaps we can take up the issue of an Ohio network, bringing Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton into the mix, another day.

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