As in Illinois, California, and a few other regions Amtrak uses the brand name Michigan Services to describe a series of regional trains which connect Chicago with several cities in Michigan. These trains include the Wolverine, Pere Marquette, and Blue Water and have were put into service after Amtrak began between the mid-1970s and 1980s. All three are historically significant and either were actually operated by a fallen flag railroad or its regional route is still in use (such as in the case of the Grand Trunk Western). Many years ago Michigan was home to several regional passenger trains thanks to its heavy industrial base and the once vitally important city of Detroit. Today, Amtrak's three trains are all that remains of this network. However, along with continuing growth in ridership there is hope that these trains will be upgraded to high speed, 110 mph service in the near future.
Before there was today's Michigan Services operated by Amtrak the state boasted several regional and long-distance trains. Railroads like New York Central (in particular, it alone operated numerous named trains through Michigan), Baltimore & Ohio, Grand Trunk Western, Pennsylvania, Wabash, Pere Marquette, and others connected many of the Wolverine State's cities with names such as the Red Arrow, Ambassador, Cincinnatian, Michigan, Wolverine, Twilight Limited, Pere Marquette, Wabash Cannon Ball, Detroit Limited, Maple Leaf, and several others. During the "Golden Age" of the railroad industry Detroit was extremely important due to its heavy industrial base alone and automobile manufacturing in particular (a lucrative traffic source).
Additionally, there were other important cities such as Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Durant, and the car ferry docks at Muskegon, Grand Haven, and Ludington. When Amtrak began on May 1, 1971 there were only five railroads still serving the state; the B&O, C&O, Grand Trunk, Penn Central, and Norfolk & Western which still operated some twelve various trains. However, all of these were abolished by Amtrak save for two former PC runs, which did not carry a name until the carrier issued its first timetable on November 14, 1971 naming them the Wolverine and the St. Clair (the latter train lost its name in the early 1980s but survived as part of the Lake Cities until 2004). The former has been the one train that has stood the test of time and has not been extended but is also now partially funded by the state of Michigan (as are all Amtrak services in the state).
Interestingly, Amtrak at first had high hopes in the state. In 1975 it began operating French-built Turboliner trainsets via the Wolverine. Unfortunately, with Penn Central in bankruptcy and deferring maintenance they could never operate at the intended speeds of 100+ mph and were relocated to other corridors in the early 1980s. Today, as with most regional Amtrak trains the current Wolverine, which has been expanded from Detroit northward to Pontiac, provides fairly light accommodations on its 304-mile trip between Detroit and Chicago; typically you will find two General Electric P42s for power (one on each end to avoid turning), three Horizon Fleet coaches, and an Amfleet cafe-club car. Despite these rather mundane services the train's ridership has steadily grown and now see more than a half-million passengers annually.
The Pere Marquette has a history that dates back to its predecessor railroad, the Pere Marquette Railway. Under the PM the train operated between Detroit and Grand Rapids as a regional run with service Monday through Saturday. In 1947 the railroad was purchased by the Chesapeake & Ohio, which retained the train but would expand it to serve three different corridors; Detroit-Grand Rapids, Chicago-Grand Rapids/Muskegon, and Detroit-Saginaw. Interestingly, the Pere Marquettes as they were known survived serving these routes through end although when Amtrak began on May 1 it initially did not retain the name. However, thanks to state support the name was revived on August 5, 1984 as a Chicago-Grand Rapids service, which continues through today. As a regional run the train offers a bit more than you might expect as three Superliner coaches typically make up a consist.
Finally, there is the Blue Water which serves Chicago and Port Huron, for some years known by Amtrak as the Blue Water Limited from 1975 to 1982. The route the carrier uses was originally part of the Grand Trunk Western, a Canadian National subsidiary, who once field such trains on the line as the Maple Leaf, International Limited, the Inter-City Limited and LaSalle all of which connected to Toronto. From 1976 through 1981 Amtrak equipped its new Turboliner high-speed trainsets over the line although because they were never able to operate at true high speeds were pulled in 1981.
A year later the Blue Water name was dropped in favor of the old International Limited when the train was extended to Toronto.
However, lagging demand forced Amtrak to truncate this back to Port
Huron in 2004, returning the train to its original name as the Blue Water.
Today, the corridor is approximately 319 miles in length and requires
nearly six hours to complete a trip. The train's standard power today
is a GE P42DC with up to eight cars consisting of a Horizon Fleet/Amfleet coaches and the same used as a cafe-business car. To learn more about Amtrak's Michigan Services please click here to visit the state's official website on the subject.