The Wolverine at Royal Oak station in March 2011
Service typeHigher-speed inter-city rail
First serviceMay 1, 1971
Current operator(s)Amtrak
Former operator(s)Penn Central
Ridership509,100 (FY13)[1]
StartChicago, Illinois
EndPontiac, Michigan
Distance travelled304 miles (489 km)
Average journey time5 hours 49 minutes - 6 hours 26 minutes
Service frequencyThrice daily
Train number(s)350, 352, 354 (eastbound)
351, 353, 355 (westbound)
On-board services
Catering facilitiesCafé Car
Rolling stockSiemens Charger locomotives, Amfleet cars, Horizon cars.
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)
Operating speedUp to 110 miles per hour (180 km/h)
Track owner(s)NS, CN, Amtrak, MDOT, CR
Route map
Empire Builder and
Hiawatha Service
0 mi
0 km
16 mi
26 km
52 mi
84 km
Michigan City
62 mi
100 km
New Buffalo
89 mi
143 km
102 mi
164 km
138 mi
222 km
160 mi
257 km
Battle Creek
184 mi
296 km
205 mi
330 km
243 mi
391 km
Ann Arbor
271 mi
436 km
Dearborn BSicon MUSEUM.svg
Greenfield Village
281 mi
452 km
QLINE Logo.svg
292 mi
470 km
Royal Oak
296 mi
476 km
304 mi
489 km

The Wolverine is a higher-speed passenger train service operated by Amtrak as part of its Michigan Services. The 304-mile (489 km)[2] line provides three daily round-trips between Chicago and Pontiac, Michigan via Ann Arbor and Detroit. It carries a heritage train name descended from the New York Central (Michigan Central).

During fiscal year 2015, the Wolverine carried 465,627 passengers, a 0.3% decrease from FY 2014's total of 477,157 passengers.[3] The service had a total ticket revenue of US$18.96 million in FY 2015, an 0.3% increase from FY 2014's $18.90 million total revenue.[3]


A Turboliner at Ann Arbor in 1975
A Turboliner at Ann Arbor in 1975
The Turboliner's replacement - an EMD F40PH with Amfleet coaches - in 1976
The Turboliner's replacement - an EMD F40PH with Amfleet coaches - in 1976

See also: Michigan Services § History

See also: Wolverine (NYC train)

Before Amtrak's takeover of most private-sector passenger service in 1971 the Wolverine was one of three trains which operated over the Michigan Central route between Chicago and Detroit. Under Penn Central operation it continued through South-Western Ontario (Canada) to Buffalo, New York. Amtrak retained two trains (the other was the renamed St. Clair) and truncated the operation to Detroit but otherwise changed little. In April 1975, Amtrak introduced French-built Turboliner equipment to the Michigan route and added a third round-trip. A pool of three Turboliner trainsets served the route, and the three round-trip pairs were numbered 350—355, train numbers which are still in use today. Amtrak dropped the individual train names and rebranded all three Turboliner, in common with similar services to St. Louis, Missouri and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The new equipment led to massive gains in ridership, topping 340,000 in 1975 and 370,000 in 1976.[4]: 195–196 

The Turboliners became a victim of their own success. Although fast (and flashy), they were unable to reach their design speed of 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) because of the poor quality of the Penn Central track in Michigan. The five-car fixed consists had a maximum capacity of 292 passengers, which was often not enough. Starting in March 1976 Amtrak began replacing some of the Turboliners with conventional equipment, including new Amfleet coaches. Individual names returned to the corridor, with the heretofore unnamed third train becoming the Twilight Limited.[4]: 195–196  The last Turboliners left the corridor in 1981.[4]: 202 

Amtrak extended the Wolverine and Twilight Limited to Pontiac on May 5, 1994. With this change service began at a new station in Detroit's New Center. Although the Michigan Central Station in Corktown, Detroit had closed on January 6, 1988, trains continued to stop at a temporary platform just east of the old station. Besides Pontiac, new stations were opened at Royal Oak and Troy. The Lake Cities also began serving Pontiac after the end of Toledo service in 1995.[4]: 199–200 [5]

Amtrak dropped individual names again in 2004 and named all three trains Wolverine.

Due to the increased ridership on these trains, Amtrak tested an additional Chicago-Kalamazoo Wolverine frequency September 2 to September 7, 2010. This was done to determine all that would be involved in operations should Amtrak decide to initiate such service in the future.[6]

Higher-speed operation

A Wolverine train west of Kalamazoo in 2009. In 2012, speeds in this area were increased to 110 miles per hour (180 km/h).
A Wolverine train west of Kalamazoo in 2009. In 2012, speeds in this area were increased to 110 miles per hour (180 km/h).
A Wolverine train at Ann Arbor in 2019
A Wolverine train at Ann Arbor in 2019

The federal government considers high-speed rail service to be rail service which at any time reaches the speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) or higher.[7] In 2006 the Detroit–Chicago corridor was designated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a high-speed rail corridor[8] and in October 2010, the State of Michigan received US$150 million from the federal government to increase track speeds to 110 mph (180 km/h) between Kalamazoo and Dearborn.[9] In 2016, work to allow higher-speed operation on 41 miles of track between Battle Creek and Jackson, including "...replacing 26,000 railroad ties, repairing or installing 15 track switches, realigning or modifying 29 railroad curves, repairing 23 railroad grade crossings and improving road profiles at crossings", was completed.[10]

Amtrak owns the 97-mile (156 km) stretch of the Wolverine's route from Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan and it is the longest segment of track owned by Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor.[8] Starting in January 2002 Amtrak began track improvements to increase the allowed speed along this section of track. Amtrak trains currently travel at top speeds of 110 mph (180 km/h) along this section of track.[11]

In December 2012, MDOT completed its purchase from Norfolk Southern of 135 miles (217 km) of track between Kalamazoo and Dearborn.[12] This will make it easier to maintain track and eventually upgrade it to 110-mile-per-hour (180 km/h) running by late 2017. As part of the purchase agreement, MDOT also agreed to double-track the line east of Ypsilanti.[13]

In August 2019, Amtrak started considering extending the line from Chicago to Toronto.[14]

On May 25, 2021, the speed on section between Kalamazoo and Albion was increased to 110 MPH. In the future, the section between Albion and Dearborn will get the same speed upgrade. As of May 2021, there are currently no plans to upgrade the rest of the line. [15]

Route details

Amtrak Wolverine (interactive map)
Amtrak Wolverine (interactive map)

The Wolverine operates over Norfolk Southern Railway, Amtrak, Conrail, and Canadian National Railway trackage:

Station stops

State Town/City Station Connections
Illinois Chicago Chicago Union Station Amtrak: Blue Water, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Carl Sandburg, California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service, Hoosier State, Illini, Illinois Zephyr, Lake Shore Limited, Lincoln Service, Pere Marquette, Saluki, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Thruway Motorcoach
CTA Buses: 1, 7, 14, 19, 20, X20, X28, 56, 60, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 130, 151, 156, 157, 192
Megabus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7
Metra: North Central Service, Milwaukee District / North Line, Milwaukee District / West Line, BNSF Railway Line, Heritage Corridor, SouthWest Service
Indiana Hammond Hammond–Whiting
Michigan City Michigan City Michigan City Transit: Route 1
Michigan New Buffalo New Buffalo Amtrak: Blue Water[16]
Niles Niles
Dowagiac Dowagiac
Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Transportation Center Amtrak: Blue Water
Indian Trails
Metro Transit: 1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15
Battle Creek Battle Creek Transportation Center Amtrak: Blue Water, Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach
Battle Creek Transit: 3E
Albion Albion none
Jackson Jackson Greyhound
JATA: 1,4,6,8
Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Amtrak: Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach
TheRide: Route 21
Dearborn John D. Dingell Transit Center SMART: 140, 250, 261 (at station); 200 (on Michigan Ave)
The Henry Ford museum complex adjacent to the transit center is accessible via a short walk.
Greenfield Village Closed.
Detroit Detroit Amtrak: Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach
DDOT: 4, 16 (24/7); 80, 89 (during peak hours)
SMART: 461, 462 (all day); 851 (during peak hours); 445, 450/460, 465 (suspended due to COVID-19)
Royal Oak Royal Oak Transit Center SMART: 460, 730, 740 (all day); 430, 450, 465 (suspended due to COVID-19)
Troy Troy Transit Center SMART: 460, 780 (on Maple Road); 430, 465 (suspended due to COVID-19)
Pontiac Pontiac Transportation Center SMART: 450 (on Woodward); 375, 462, 790, 796 (nearby at Phoenix Center)


A typical Wolverine consist with a GE P42DC locomotive and Horizon coaches
A typical Wolverine consist with a GE P42DC locomotive and Horizon coaches

As of 2014, each Wolverine operates with two General Electric Genesis P42DC locomotives, 3-5 Horizon coaches, and an Amfleet cafe/business class car. In the winter, Superliners are sometimes used. The equipment pool for the Wolverines comprises 14 Horizon coaches and 3.5 Amfleet cafe/business class cars (one is shared with the Blue Water), split across three consists. The locomotives usually operate in a push-pull configuration, however sometimes both will be at the head end. Due to the FRA requirement of positive train control for operations above 79 mph, locomotives on the Wolverine are required to have Positive Train Control, supplied by Amtrak's Incremental Train Control System. Because of this modification the units equipped with PTC are usually captive to the Michigan services.

Between 2016-2018 Michigan expected to take delivery of new bilevel cars which will displace the Horizons and Amfleets in regular service. In addition, in early 2014 the Michigan Department of Transportation issued a request for proposal aimed at acquiring additional passenger equipment for use between 2014-2017.

In September 2014, the state of Michigan reached an agreement with Talgo, a Spanish railcar manufacturer, to buy two trainsets for the Wolverine, at a cost of $58 million.[17] The trains had been previously built for the state of Wisconsin, before plans for expanded passenger rail service in that state were canceled and the trainsets placed in storage.[17] The new equipment would have provided a substantial upgrade in passenger amenities over the Amtrak-owned railcars used on the route. Despite this proposal, the Talgo railcars remained at the Amtrak facility in Beech Grove[17] until 2019 when they were moved back to Milwaukee.[18] In 2019, the trains were being considered for use for the Amtrak Cascades route in the Pacific Northwest instead of in Michigan.[18]

The bilevel car order never materialized due to the failure of a critical crash test by the manufacturer. In the end, the order was switched to new single-level Siemens Venture cars that are similar to the Brightline fleet.[2] By January 2021, some Venture cars had been delivered to Amtrak for testing and were being deployed on the Wolverine route for test runs.[19]

Michigan was also involved in a joint purchase with other states to purchase the new Siemens Charger locomotives.[20]

See also


  1. ^ "Annual Ridership Summary". MDOT Rail Statistics. MDOT. Archived from the original on January 18, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Michigan Department of Transportation (March 3, 2014). "SCOPE OF SERVICE FOR SPECIALTY SERVICES: Purchase, Lease, or Lease/Purchase of Intercity Railroad Passenger Cars and Contract for Associated Maintenance Services" (PDF). Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Monthly Performance Report For September 2015" (PDF). Amtrak (National Rail Passenger Corporation. November 13, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34705-3.
  5. ^ Amtrak (May 1, 1994). "National Timetable Spring/Summer 1994". Retrieved November 5, 2011.
  6. ^ "Amtrak Tests Kalamazoo-Chicago Round Trips", Trains, December 2010, 21.
  7. ^ "High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan: Press Release & Highlights" (PDF). U.S. Department of Transportation. April 16, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 22, 2009. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2006" (PDF). State of Michigan. Retrieved May 13, 2007.
  9. ^ "Michigan awarded $150M for high-speed rail route". The Detroit News. October 25, 2010. Retrieved October 28, 2010.[dead link]
  10. ^ "Train ridership projections 'perhaps not well founded,' city official says". MLive.com. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  11. ^ Amtrak Press Release, February 15, 2012, AMTRAK 110 MPH MICHIGAN SERVICE CELEBRATION,"Amtrak extended ITCS coverage to the western and eastern ends of the line between Porter and Kalamazoo last year, completing the system across 97 miles of track and permitting the higher speeds on about 80 miles of the route, 64 miles in Michigan and 16 in Indiana. The FRA granted approval for regular service at 110 mph (177 km/h) on Jan. 27, 2012."
  12. ^ Bowman, Jennifer (July 29, 2015). "Track fixes to allow 110-mph Amtrak travel through B.C." Battle Creek Enquirer. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  13. ^ MDOT - MDOT seeks to improve both passenger and freight rail lines with purchase of Norfolk Southern Railway track
  14. ^ NBC staff (August 9, 2019). "Amtrak considers extending Wolverine line from Chicago to Toronto". Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  15. ^ "MDOT - Expanded Amtrak MidwestSM accelerated Michigan service and additional Wolverine round trip given the green light". www.michigan.gov. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  16. ^ "Amtrak Service in Michigan–Effective July 16, 2018" (PDF). www.amtrak.com. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c "Amtrak's Detroit-Chicago trip to get faster, plusher with upgrades". The Detroit News. September 15, 2014. Archived from the original on October 22, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  18. ^ a b Bowden, Bridgit; Johnson, Shawn (December 9, 2019). "After 5 Years in Storage, Talgo Trains Built for Wisconsin Return to Milwaukee". Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  19. ^ Luczak, Marybeth (January 26, 2021). "Watch: Amtrak Midwest Siemens Ventures". Railway Age. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  20. ^ "Siemens shows first complete Charger locomotive". Railway Gazette. March 30, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2016.

Route map: