Blue Water (train)

The Blue Water (previously the Blue Water Limited) is a higher-speed passenger train service operated by Amtrak as part of its Michigan Services. The 319-mile (513 km) route runs from Chicago, Illinois, to Port Huron in Michigan's Blue Water Area, for which the train is named. Major stops are in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, East Lansing, and Flint.

Blue Water
The westbound, double-ended Blue Water approaching Chicago in 2020
Service typeInter-city rail, higher-speed rail
First serviceApril 25, 2004
Current operator(s)Amtrak
Annual ridership145,072 (FY22) 47.0%[lower-alpha 1][1]
TerminiChicago, Illinois
Port Huron, Michigan
Distance travelled319 miles (513 km)
Average journey time6 hours, 25 minutes[2] (Port Huron to Chicago)
6 hours, 31 minutes[3](Chicago to Port Huron)
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)364 (eastbound)
365 (westbound)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed49 mph (79 km/h) (avg.)
110 mph (180 km/h) (top)
Track owner(s)CN/GTW, Amtrak, MDOT NS
Route map
319 mi
513 km
Port Huron
274 mi
441 km
256 mi
412 km
238 mi
383 km
208 mi
335 km
East Lansing
to Pontiac
160 mi
257 km
Battle Creek
138 mi
222 km
102 mi
164 km
89 mi
143 km
62 mi
100 km
New Buffalo
Pere Marquette
to Grand Rapids
0 mi
0 km

Amtrak began running the Blue Water in 1974 over the Grand Trunk Western Railroad. In 1982 the train was extended from Port Huron to Toronto, Canada, and renamed the International Limited. Service was cut back to the original route in 2004 with the Blue Water name restored.


The Blue Water Limited with a Turboliner trainset at Durand in 1979
The International in 1989

The Lansing area, home of the Michigan state capitol and Michigan State University, was left out of Amtrak's original system. Beginning in 1973, Amtrak and the state discussed restoring service over the Grand Trunk Western Railway within the state, although the new route would join Amtrak's other Michigan trains on the Penn Central west of Battle Creek, Michigan, eschewing the Grand Trunk's traditional route to Chicago. New stations were built in Port Huron and East Lansing, and the state spent $1 million on track rehabilitation (equivalent to $5.49 million in 2021 adjusted for inflation). Service began September 13, 1974, between Chicago and Port Huron, with the intention of eventually restoring the Port Huron–Toronto leg.[4]:204–204[5][6]

Amtrak renamed the train the Blue Water Limited on October 26, 1975, and re-equipped it with French-built Turboliner trainsets on May 20, 1976. The new Turboliners were capable of, but never reached, 125 mph (201 km/h) and ran with fixed five-car consists with an overall capacity of 292 passengers. The Turboliners were withdrawn on October 25, 1981, replaced by conventional locomotives pulling Amfleet coaches.[4]:204,208

The long-discussed extension to Toronto finally occurred on October 31, 1982. The extended service received the name International Limited , the name of an old Canadian National/Grand Trunk Chicago–Port Huron–Montreal train (1900–1907, 1919–1971). Amtrak and Via Rail, the independent Canadian Crown corporation rail company, jointly operated the International Limited (later just International) until April 25, 2004, when cross-border service was discontinued. Massive border delays post-September 11 led to falling ridership; Amtrak and Michigan agreed to truncate service at Port Huron and bring back the old Blue Water.[4]:207 On the Canadian side service ends at Sarnia as part of the Via Rail's Corridor route.

With a more favorable intrastate schedule and fewer delays, the Blue Water's ridership showed immediate improvements, carrying 94,378 passengers in fiscal year 2004 (compared to 80,890 in FY 2003).[4]:208 Blue Water ridership in FY 2011 totaled 187,065, an increase of 18.0 percent from FY 2010's total of 157,709, and the highest total ever recorded by the train.[7] During FY 2011, the train had a total revenue of $5.8 million, a 22.3 percent increase from FY 2010's total of $4.7 million.[7]

The Detroit–Chicago corridor has been designated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a high-speed rail corridor.[8] A 97-mile (156 km) stretch along the route of Blue Water from Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan is the longest segment of track owned by Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor.[8] Amtrak began speed increases along this stretch in January 2002. Ultimately, speed increased to 110 mph (180 km/h).[8][9]

Route details

The Blue Water operates over Norfolk Southern Railway, Amtrak, and Grand Trunk Western Railroad trackage:

Geographic route map

Station stops

State Town/City Station Connections
IllinoisChicagoChicago Amtrak (long-distance): California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle
Amtrak (intercity): Hiawatha, Illini and Saluki, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg, Lincoln Service, Pere Marquette, Wolverine
Metra:  BNSF,  Milwaukee District North,  Milwaukee District West,  North Central Service,  Heritage Corridor,  SouthWest Service
Chicago "L": Blue (at Clinton), Brown Orange Pink Purple (at Quincy)
CTA Bus, Pace Bus
MichiganNew BuffaloNew Buffalo Berrien Bus
NilesNiles Niles Dial-A-Ride (DART)
DowagiacDowagiac Dowagiac Dial-A-Ride (DART)
KalamazooKalamazoo Metro Transit
Intercity bus: Greyhound, Indian Trails
Battle CreekBattle Creek Amtrak: Wolverine, Thruway Motorcoach
Battle Creek Transit
East LansingEast Lansing Amtrak: Thruway Motorcoach
Capital Area Transportation Authority
Intercity bus: Greyhound, Indian Trails
DurandDurand Shiawassee Area Transportation Agency
FlintFlint Amtrak: Thruway Motorcoach
Intercity bus: Greyhound, Indian Trails
LapeerLapeer Greater Lapeer Transportation Authority (GLTA)
Port HuronPort Huron Blue Water Area Transit


A typical Amtrak Blue Water consists of:[11]


  1. "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2022 Ridership" (PDF). Amtrak. November 29, 2022. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  2. "Amtrak Timetable Results". Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  3. "Amtrak Timetable Results". Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  4. Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34705-3.
  5. Port Huron-Chicago Inaugural September 13 Amtrak News September 1, 1974 page 4
  6. Michigan's Blue Water Chicago-Port Huron Inaugural Sept 13 Amtrak News October 1, 1974 pages 4/5
  7. "Amtrak reports record Michigan ridership". The Grand Rapids Press. October 14, 2011. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  8. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2005" (PDF). Amtrak. Retrieved October 30, 2006.
  9. "Michigan: Amtrak taking service to new speeds". WNDU-TV. Archived from the original on November 12, 2004. Retrieved November 1, 2006.
  10. Kalamazoo Gazette file photo (October 11, 2011). "Details emerging on MDOT purchase of train track from Kalamazoo to Dearborn". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  11. "Blue Water". TrainWeb. Retrieved October 22, 2010.


  1. Amtrak's Fiscal Year (FY) runs from October 1 of the prior year to September 30 of the named year.

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