Lake Cities
The first westbound Lake Cities, left, arrives at Detroit
Service typeInter-city rail
PredecessorSt. Clair
First serviceAugust 3, 1980
Last serviceApril 26, 2004
StartChicago, Illinois
EndToledo, Ohio
Distance travelled335 miles (539 km)
Average journey time7 hours 30 minutes
Route map
0 mi
16 mi
26 km
89 mi
143 km
138 mi
222 km
160 mi
257 km
Battle Creek
International to Toronto
184 mi
296 km
205 mi
330 km
243 mi
391 km
Ann Arbor
273 mi
439 km
279 mi
449 km
to Pontiac
Lake Shore Limited to Chicago
335 mi
539 km
Lake Shore Limited to Boston South/New York

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.[1] The connection in Toledo allowed passengers traveling from Michigan to connect with the Lake Shore Limited without backtracking to Chicago.[2] The route between Detroit and Toledo was slow; the Lake Cities required nearly two hours to travel 57 miles (92 km).[3]

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.[4] Amtrak estimated yearly losses on the Detroit–Toledo segment at $818,000 and called ridership "stagnant"; a Thruway Motorcoach bus runs in its place.[5]

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.[6] 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."[7]

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).[8]


  1. ^ "Michigan–Toledo Runs Instituted By Amtrak". Toledo Blade. July 9, 1980. Retrieved 2010-04-16.
  2. ^ Goldberg 1981, pp. 81–82
  3. ^ Meints 2013, p. 442
  4. ^ Meints 2013, p. 443
  5. ^ "Advocates slate rally here against Amtrak cuts". Toledo Blade. March 17, 1995. p. 13. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  6. ^ GAO 2002, pp. 10, 22
  7. ^ "Wolverine and Blue Water service" (PDF). Amtrak. October 27, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  8. ^ Ohio Rail Development Commission 2007, pp. 3–1