The Hoosier State in Shelby, Indiana in 2011.

(Buddahbless, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Amtrak wing logo.


The Hoosier State was a 196-mile (315 km) passenger train service operated by Amtrak between Chicago and Indianapolis. It ran on the four days each week that the Cardinal did not run, giving daily rail service to the Chicago–Indianapolis corridor.

The Hoosier State was suspended indefinitely on June 30, 2019, after funding for the train was not written into Indiana's 2019 state budget. The Cardinal continues to provide three round trips per week between Chicago and Indianapolis.



Prior service
Prior to Amtrak, the Chicago–Indianapolis market was served by several daily trains, the Pennsylvania Railroad's South Wind and Kentuckian, and the New York Central's James Whitcomb Riley, Indianapolis Special, and Sycamore. There is a name antecedent to the train. The Monon Railroad ran the Hoosier daily between Chicago and Indianapolis. With the creation of Amtrak, riders were served by the South Wind and the George Washington/James Whitcomb Riley. However, with Penn Central's financial instability, track maintenance in the Midwest suffered. Amtrak shifted both trains to other routes through Indiana, leaving Indianapolis to be served only by the National Limited (formerly the Spirit of St. Louis), which ran between New York and Kansas City.

The National Limited's discontinuance in 1979 severed Indianapolis from the national rail network, and isolated Amtrak's Beech Grove Shops in the Indianapolis suburb of Beech Grove. The passenger carrier had been using the National Limited to ferry railroad cars to and from its shops; it was forced to run special trains to Indianapolis instead.


The first northbound Hoosier State on October 3, 1980. Click to enlarge. (Bill Kuehl, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Until 1994, the Hoosier State had a section of on-street running in Lafayette. Click to enlarge. (Tim_kd5urs, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Hoosier State

The Hoosier State entered service on October 1, 1980. On April 27, 1986, the Cardinal (formerly the James Whitcomb Riley) was rerouted to use the same tracks as the Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis, and the Hoosier State began running on days the Cardinal did not operate. The Hoosier State was restored to daily operation on a separate schedule from the Cardinal on October 25, 1987. However, funding cuts led to its discontinuance on September 8, 1995, while the Cardinal continued tri-weekly operation between Chicago, Indianapolis, and the East Coast. Amtrak restored the Hoosier State on July 19, 1998, as a tri-weekly, later quad-weekly train. Northbound trains departed Indianapolis on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, while southbound trains departed Chicago on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.


Kentucky Cardinal

Main article: Kentucky Cardinal
On December 17, 1999, the Hoosier State was extended south from Indianapolis to Louisville, Kentucky, and renamed the Kentucky Cardinal. It was also expanded to a full-fledged daily train. On the three days the Cardinal operated, the Kentucky Cardinal operated as a section, splitting in Indianapolis. For the rest of the week, it ran independently to Chicago. However, the Kentucky Cardinal was plagued by extremely slow speeds along its Indianapolis-to-Louisville leg—as slow as 30 mph (48 km/h) in some places—making it slower than automobile traffic along the same stretch of Interstate 65. Amtrak discontinued the Kentucky Cardinal on July 4, 2003, and brought back the Hoosier State on its pre-1999 schedule, operating four days a week in tandem with the Cardinal.


State funding

On October 16, 2008, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) was signed into law, requiring states to bear the operating and capital costs of intercity rail passenger service on Amtrak routes of not more than 750 mi (1,210 km) within 5 years. At a length of 196 mi (315 km), the Hoosier State was affected by this provision of PRIIA, and the State of Indiana became responsible for funding the Hoosier State beginning on October 1, 2013.

Faced with termination of a service that would have left the Chicago–Indianapolis corridor with only thrice-weekly train service, state and local officials arrived at a deal to share the US$3,000,000 annual cost of the service, becoming the last state in the nation to arrive at a deal to save its short-distance train line on October 15, 2013. Operating costs above ticket revenue continue to be covered by the Indiana Department of Transportation and communities along the route.

Indiana sought alternatives to Amtrak operation and, on June 24, 2014, selected Corridor Capitol, a Chicago-based rail passenger services development company, as its preferred vendor to manage and operate the service. Planning was underway for the company to take over the service as early as October 1, 2014. However, Corridor Capitol did not meet that deadline and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) discontinued negotiations with the company in November 2014. Amtrak continued to operate the train service under short-term contract extensions while the state considered alternative vendors.

During the Iowa Pacific era, the Hoosier State was the only short-haul Amtrak train featuring full dining service; business class patrons dined in a vintage dome car.

On March 6, 2015, INDOT announced that the Hoosier State would discontinue service on April 1, 2015. The decision was made due to regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration that would have required the state of Indiana to act as a rail carrier, despite the state owning no tracks or trains, which—according to INDOT—would have increased the cost to Indiana taxpayers for no additional benefit. After Indiana appealed to the FRA, the train's operation was extended to April 30, while Amtrak continued to operate the Hoosier State under a short-term agreement while negotiations continued.


During the Iowa Pacific era, the Hoosier State was the only short-haul Amtrak train featuring full dining service;

business class patrons dined in a vintage dome car. Click to enlarge.

(Pecan314159 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Iowa Pacific operation

On August 2, 2015, INDOT contracted with Iowa Pacific and Amtrak in order to continue the Hoosier State, with Iowa Pacific responsible for providing and maintaining equipment, food service, and marketing, and Amtrak responsible for providing ticketing services and train operating crews (engineers, assistant engineers, conductors, and assistant conductors). The contract had four option years.

Once the service improvements instituted by Iowa Pacific took hold, including the addition of full-service dining, onboard Wi-Fi, business-class service, and a dome car, ridership began increasing and was up 5.8% in July 2016 over the previous July, with FY 2016 (October 2015–July 2016) revenues up 32.8% from the prior year.

On January 30, 2017, INDOT announced that Iowa Pacific was no longer able to fulfill the contract and had asked to be released from the contract early, prior to its original end date of June 30, 2017. As a result, the equipment and personnel provided by Iowa Pacific were withdrawn and replaced by Amtrak equipment and on-board services personnel in advance of March 1 run of the westbound train from Indianapolis.


Service cancellation and replacement

In February 2019, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb proposed a budget that does not include funding for the Hoosier State. Holcomb said that the train did not have enough ridership to justify a subsidy. Environmentalists were disappointed by the decision, indicating that the loss of the train service would increase the use of passenger cars by citing a 2016 Amtrak survey that found 57 percent of passengers in Indiana would drive to their destination if the service was canceled. On April 8, 2019, Amtrak announced that unless state funding was restored, the Hoosier State would end on June 30, 2019. Passengers who already purchased Hoosier State tickets for travel after that date will be compensated with Cardinal tickets. The budget passed on April 24, without Hoosier State funding. On June 30, the Hoosier State officially made its final run.

In May 2019, a private transportation company, OurBus, announced plans to start a two-month pilot of daily round trip service from Indianapolis to Chicago to fill the gap left by the Hoosier State. OurBus will charge a $10 introductory rate before raising fares to between $25 and $35. The four initial stops on the OurBus route replacing the Hoosier State besides Indianapolis and Chicago are Zionsville and Lafayette in Indiana. Other stops along the route will be added if at least 100 people make the request. Gold Shield Transportation is contracted to provide the bus service.

Amtrak has recently developed a plan to bring service between Chicago, Indianapolis, and Louisville/Cincinnati which if implemented, could include up to 8 daily round trips from Chicago to Louisville/Cincinnati, all of which would almost certainly go through Indianapolis and almost certainly travel along the former Hoosier State route. This new proposal is supported by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill, but full implementation would take several years.


Hoosier State Route Map.

( Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0)


Route details

The Hoosier State operated over Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Union Pacific Railroad, Metra, and Norfolk Southern trackage:

CSX Indianapolis Subdivision, Indianapolis Terminal Subdivision, Crawfordsville Branch Subdivision, Monon Subdivision, and Eldson Subdivision Indianapolis to Thornton
UP Villa Grove Subdivision, Thornton to 80th Street
BRC, 80th Street Interlocking
Metra SouthWest Service, 80th Street to 21st Street.
NS Chicago Line, CP518 to 21st Street.
Intermediate station stops were made at Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer, and Dyer - the same as those made by the Cardinal. (Unlike the Cardinal, the Hoosier State had Crawfordsville as a regular stop rather than a flag stop.) The train was scheduled for a five-hour running time over the 196-mile (315 km) route.


Train consist

The standard Hoosier State consisted two coaches (generally Amtrak's short-distance Horizon equipment) and a Horizon or Amfleet cafe car. In addition to standard food service, the cafe car allowed for Business Class seating and complimentary WiFi. Motive power was commonly a General Electric Genesis P42DC locomotive. As the train was often used to shuttle equipment from the Beech Grove Shops to Chicago, deadhead equipment of all types could often be found in the consist as well. After Amtrak resumed operations in March 2017, the Great Dome car Ocean View was added.

While operated by Iowa Pacific, the train included Iowa Pacific owned ex-Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Big Dome Summit View and three passenger cars, with power provided by a fleet of three ex-NJT GP40FH-2 diesel locomotives.



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status Service: Suspended
Predecessor: Kentucky Cardinal (2003)
First service: October 1, 1980
Last service: June 30, 2019
Successor: Kentucky Cardinal (1999)
Former operator: Amtrak
Annual ridership: 20,853 (FY19)
Route Termini: Chicago / Indianapolis
Stops: 4
Distance traveled: 196 miles (315 km)
Service frequency: Quad-weekly
Train numbers: 850–851
Rolling stock: Amfleet coaches
Track owners: CSXT, UP, BRC Metra, NS