The first westbound Lake Cities, left, arrives at Detroit.

(Amtrak NEWS, August 1980, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Amtrak wing logo.


This article is about the Amtrak service. For the Erie Railroad train, see Lake Cities (Erie).

The Lake Cities was a daily passenger train operated by Amtrak between Chicago, Illinois and Toledo, Ohio via Detroit, Michigan. It operated from 1980 until 2004, when it was folded into the Wolverine. It replaced the St. Clair, a Chicago–Detroit train which operated in tandem with the Wolverine. The extension to Toledo gave travelers in Michigan the opportunity to connect with eastbound trains such as the Lake Shore Limited without backtracking to Chicago. Amtrak re-routed the train from Toledo to Pontiac, Michigan in 1995.



The Lake Cities made its first run on August 3, 1980, using the same Turboliner equipment as its predecessor. The connection in Toledo allowed passengers traveling from Michigan to connect with the Lake Shore Limited without backtracking to Chicago. The route between Detroit and Toledo was slow; the Lake Cities required nearly two hours to travel 57 miles (92 km).

Historian Graydon Meints characterized the Toledo service as "disappointing", and Amtrak re-routed the Lake Cities to Pontiac, Michigan in 1995, mirroring the route of the Wolverine and the Twilight Limited. Amtrak estimated yearly losses on the Detroit–Toledo segment at $818,000 and called ridership "stagnant"; a Thruway Motorcoach bus runs in its place.


Proposed restoration

Amtrak proposed to restore the Lake Cities to Toledo as part of its network growth strategy in the late 1990s but ultimately cancelled the project. As of 2016 it is still not possible to travel by train to or from Michigan without passing through Chicago's Union Station. On April 26, 2004 Amtrak dropped the individual names for the Chicago–Detroit–Pontiac trains, naming them all the "Wolverine."

The Ohio Rail Development Commission proposed restoring service to the Detroit–Toledo corridor as part of its "Ohio Hub" initiative. Under the plan, Detroit would be connected to Ohio by a Detroit–Toledo–Cleveland service (eight trains daily) and potentially also a Detroit–Toledo–Columbus service (eight trains daily).


Route of the Lake Cities.

(Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; Wikimedia Commons)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Michigan
Predecessor: St. Clair
First service: August 3, 1980
Last service: April 26, 2004
Successor: Wolverine
Route Termini: Chicago, Illinois / Toledo, Ohio
Distance traveled: 335 miles (539 km)
Average journey time: 7 hours 30 minutes