Part 1 - Chicago to South Bend
South Bend to Bryan
AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #20a -- Chicago, Illinois to Buffalo, New York


0.0     CHICAGO Union Station, 225 S. Canal Street.  Elevation approximately 590.  Chicago is, without a doubt, the railroad hub of the United States.  Nearly 10 different short- and long-distance AMTRAK routes  begin and end at Union Station, and Chicago is the transfer point for most east-west transcontinental trips on AMTRAK.  The massive Union Station was built in 1926, and was significantly remodeled in the early 1990’s, to allow better flow of pedestrian/passenger traffic through the station.  The station is also the terminal for many of the Chicago area Metra commuter rail routes.

         In addition to being a railroad hub, Chicago is also a regional financial, cultural, and shopping hub.  Union Station is located in the downtown area, known as the “Loop,” and is located on the west bank of the Chicago River.  Privately owned, commercial, and pleasure boats can be seen plying the waters of the river from the plaza just outside the upper level of Union Station, as well as from the underground track level.  The shopping districts of Michigan Avenue are only a few blocks away from the station, and can be visited if you have a few hours between trains.  A little further away are the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Chicago Art Institute, and Museum of Science & Industry.  Just one block away from Union Station is the 110-story (1450 ft) Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower), the 7th tallest building in the world (tallest building in United States), completed in 1973.

          Geologically,. most of the City of Chicago is built on a Pleistocene-aged lake plain, which was deposited at the end of the major Pleistocene Ice Age, during a period known as the Wisconsin glaciation, when the continental glaciers began receding to the north for the last time.  The lake plain, known as the Lake Michigan Formation (in Willman et al, 1975), is composed of sediments deposited by the meltwater of the retreating ice sheets.  The Wisconsin Period began approximately 75,000 years ago, and ended approximately 10,000 years ago.  These deposits consist of approximately 70 ft of clay, underlain by approximately 10 ft of silt and sand, which in turn is underlain by the Silurian-aged Niagara Dolomite.  Further to the west, a series of glacial moraines form a series of hilly bands which wrap around the southern end of Lake Michigan, and extend into Indiana and Michigan.  You will see some of these landforms as we continue our journey across Indiana and Ohio.

          As we leave Union Station, the trains will soon emerge from the cavernous underground station and you will see numerous industrial buildings, freight and passenger train movements, and several Metra commuter trains which operate between downtown Chicago and the western and southern suburbs.  You will not notice it, but you are also passing through a “tunnel” in the main Chicago Post Office as you enter daylight from the station.

1       Pass beneath Roosevelt Road, a well-known spot from which railfans watch and photograph trains passing beneath the bridge.

         The tracks which make a sharp bend to the west just past Roosevelt Road (right if eastbound), carry the BNSF Railroad, and a large number of Metra commuter trains headed for Aurora, Naperville, and other western suburbs.  AMTRAK’s California Zephyr and Southwest Chief follow this route, as well as other shorter-distance AMTRAK trains.  Additionally, many AMTRAK trains coming in to Chicago will follow this line from the south, and will then back in to Union Station, to allow easier pulling out of the trains to the yards after they are unloaded.

          A good view of the 110-story Willis Tower can be had looking to the rear of the train (forward if westbound).

1.5     Cross the South Branch of the Chicago River, which is the same river which flows past Union Station.  On the left (eastbound) are the AMTRAK engine yards and Chicago maintenance facilities.  You will probably see quite a variety of AMTRAK equipment in this area as trains are made up, cut apart, and repaired or serviced.

          Notice the pleasant little park along the south bank of the river.

2.5    Cross over Interstate 55, the Stevenson Expressway, then pass beneath Interstate 94, the Dan Ryan Expressway.

3-3.5 Pass U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park), home of the Chicago White Sox.  On game day, you are likely to see quite a few “tailgate parties” going in the massive parking lot at the stadium.

          The old 29,000-seat Comiskey Park was built in 1910 by Chicago White Stockings Manager Charles A. Comiskey, who shortened the name to White Sox after the stadium was built.  The original stadium was built above an old city dump.  The 40,000-seat current stadium was rebuilt in 1991, and originally named the New Comiskey Park.

          In 1919, the White Sox were favored to win the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds; however, they lost the Series in Game 8, and it was suspected that the results were rigged.  Eventually, 8 of the players confessed to losing the Series in a gambling conspiracy.  The 8 accused players were acquitted in court, but were expelled from the game of baseball for life.

5        Pass through Conrail freight yards.  AMTRAK’s Cardinal, which connects Chicago to Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., and New York, takes an odd off-mainline route from the western part of this yard to the south.

7        Cross Dan Ryan Expressway as the train makes a bend to the southeast here at Englewood.  There is a good view of the Willis Tower to the left (eastbound) as you cross the freeway and the trains of the Chicago subway system (known here as the “el” for “elevated” (*or, as some people say, it is also known as the “L” for “The Loop!”).

          Englewood was originally known as Junction Grove, and was home to a large number of German and Irish immigrants who worked either for the railroads or at the nearby Union Stock Yard.  In 1868, the name was changed to Englewood, named after Englewood, New Jersey, by Henry R. Lewis, a local developer  After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, however, citizens began migrating from downtown out to this area, which always had convenient rail connections to downtown Chicago.  During the boom years of railroading, Englewood saw over 1000 trains per day; however, the old station is now just a shadow of its former glory.  Englewood hosted trains of the Pennsylvania, New York Central, Rock Island, and Santa Fe Railroads, and the trains went from Englewood  not only to Union Station, but also to LaSalle Street and Dearborn Stations.  Today, all AMTRAK trains which pass through Englewood begin and end at Chicago Union Station.  Englewood was annexed to Chicago in 1889.

          Englewood was the home of America’s first serial killer, one Herman Webster Mudgett, a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School.  Mudgett took on the alias of Henry Howard Holmes, who became involved in a local drug store, where he most likely killed the previous owner. He then built the Holmes Castle during the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  The castle became of house of death and horrors, complete with secret passageways, chutes, and trap doors, where many people were killed by Holmes.  Holmes was finally hanged in Philadelphia on May 7, 1896.

          Englewood is the home of the very large Englewood Shopping Mall.

         The trains will now follow a southeasterly course for several miles, and will be following the Calumet Expressway, Interstate 94.

9       Passing through South Chicago, we are now crossing the main line of the former Illinois Central Railroad, which was recently purchased by Canadian National.  AMTRAK’s City of New Orleans, Illini, and Saluki trains follow this route, as well as some Metra trains on the IC route.

11.5   On the right (eastbound), above the railroad, is the Calumet Expressway toll plaza.

13     Cross the Calumet River. a major Great Lakes shipping route.  You are likely to see several freight ships loading, unloading, or turning around in the turning basin to the north.  On the right (eastbound), high above the railroad, is the elevated Calumet Expressway.  The bridge you are crossing is a drawbridge, and can be raised to allow large boats to pass.  The Calumet Expressway bridge is high enough above the river that no drawbridge is necessary.

14.5   Enter LAKE County, INDIANA.  Lake County is Indiana’s great industrial county and is the second most populous county in Indiana.  It is known nationally for its vast steel enterprises.  In the southern part of the county, the interests are chiefly agricultural, with a great deal of attention being given to horse raising and breeding; some of the finest breeding farms in the state are located here.  Dairy cattle breeding is an important business, and many hogs are also raised for the market.  Lake County was organized in 1837, and is named after Lake Michigan.  The county seat is Crown Point.

          Note the 614 MW State Line Power Plant on the left (eastbound).

          Now that we have left the urbanized Chicago area, we will be traveling across the Central Lowlands physiographic province between here and Cleveland, Ohio.  The Central Lowlands consist of glaciated terrain, and contain numerous glacial deposits such as moraines, outwash plains, and lake beds. The glaciation in the Central Lowlands took place during the Wisconsin glacial period, which began approximately 2 million years ago. There were several glacial advances during the Wisconsin period of the Pleistocene Epoch.  The glacial deposits we will traverse in northern Indiana came from 3 sources, the Lake Michigan ice lobe in the west, the Saginaw Lobe in the center of the State, and the Huron-Erie Lobe in the east.  The bedrock beneath the glacial deposits in northern Indiana consists of Devonian through Mississippian age sedimentary rocks, and was deposited between 320 and 400 million years ago.

16      Pass through Hammond. Hammond was settled in 1851 and platted in 1875.  The city was named after George H. Hammond, a Detroit butcher who built the first slaughterhouse in the area and adapted the refrigerated boxcar for shipping beef.  Hammond was originally called Hohman, named after an early settler, then was later called State Line, before the Hammond name was adapted.  The city is the second largest city in Lake County (Gary is the largest).  Chief products of the area are steel, chemicals, and automobiles.

         On the left (eastbound) is the Horseshoe Hammond Casino, which opened in 1996 as Empress Casino.  It was originally owned by businessman Jack Binion, and has since been sold and rebranded several times.  It is now part of Caesar’s Entertainment.

16.5  We are now passing through Whiting, Hammond’s sister city, which was named after a railroad conductor who was involved in a train wreck in this area.  The city was laid out in 1889.  Whiting is also the home of Calumet College of St. Joseph, which is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.  The college was founded in 1951.

17.5   Small refinery on left (eastbound). Lake Michigan is now visible adjacent to the tracks on the left.

19.5   Pass through the large, abandoned Inland Steel Plant. Notice the conveyors above the tracks as well as on either side, and notice the blast furnaces.  The small barge canal we cross connects Lake Michigan with the Calumet River.  Inland Steel was funded in 1893, and specialized in cold-rolled sheet and strip steel for motor vehicles for a few years.  The plant shut down in 1998, as a result of the national downturn in the U.S. steel industry beginning in 1970, and competition from U.S. Steel.

20-21                      Pass through East Chicago, Indiana, which was incorporated in 1889.  Lake Michigan is again visible to the north across several sets of railroad tracks.

23      Pass through a barren industrial area containing several sets of railroad tracks, slag piles, tailings dumps, and miscellaneous buildings related to the steel industry.

26      Cross the Grand Calumet River, and pass through Gary.  The Indiana Toll Road is visible on the right (eastbound).  The city of Gary was named after Judge Elbert H. Gary, a former Chairman of U.S. Steel, whose dream was to build the largest steel works in the world on a lake site halfway between the ore fields of Minnesota and the coalfields of the South.

         Gary’s roots reach as far back as the 1600’s when Jacques Marquette, the great French explorer, used the Calumet Portage through the Lake Calumet region.  Tradition has it that Marquette camped at the eastern mouth of the Grand Calumet River where Gary’s Marquette Park is now dedicated in his honor.  Marquette was also one of the earliest explorers of the Mississippi River.

         On Gary’s shores in 1896, Octave Chanute completed the world’s first successful flight in a heavier-than-air machine.  But, as the steel industry continued to grow in the area, other industries were also attracted to Gary to service the steel industry or to turn raw materials from the steel mills in to other products.

          In 1967, Gary became one of the first major U.S. cities to elect a black mayor when it chose Richard G. Hatcher.  In the 1970’s, the steel production in the area began to decline, many factory jobs disappeared, and people began leaving the area.  In the 1980’s, the population of the city decreased at one of the fastest rates among major U.S. cities.  The population decrease continued into the 1990’s, but at a slower rate.

          Gary is the home of the Jackson 5 pop music group, and also the home of former astronaut and Eastern Airlines President Frank Borman.

29-30                      The hills on the left (eastbound) mark the beginning of the Indiana Dunes (see MP 34 below).

32.5   Enter PORTER County. The county was established in 1835 and named after Commander David Porter of the War of 1812 fame.  The county seat is Valparaiso. Porter County contains some of Indiana’s most outstanding natural features.  Among these is the magnificent range of sand hills near Lake Michigan known as the Indiana Dunes (see MP 34 below).

          Porter County supplies much of the truck garden produce used in Chicago.  This specialized type of farming is very extensive, and, along with dairying, forms an important phase of activity.  In addition, various types of glacial clay found in the county are used to manufacture various kinds of bricks.

34      Just north of the railroad is the town of Ogden Dunes, and the dunes the town is named after.  The town is also named after Francis A. Ogden, an early landowner, and the town was established in 1925. Ogden Dunes are the heart of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  These dunes developed along the south shore of Lake Michigan as the close of the Pleistocene Ice Age, and represent successively lower elevations of Lake Michigan during that time period. The oldest dunes, located furthest from the lake, developed when Lake Michigan stood at an approximate elevation of 640 ft above sea level (the modern elevation is 580 ft).  The next younger dunes developed when the lake stood at 620 ft, and the youngest dunes developed when the lake was at an elevation of 605 ft.  Some of the dunes in this area reach a height of 120 ft or more above the Calumet Lake Plain, over which we are traveling.  Depending on the age of the dunes, several different vegetation sequences can be seen on the dune surfaces.  The Indiana Dunes are well known for their blowout dunes, which form when the wind “hollows out” the tops of older pre-existing dunes.

35      Cross Portage-Burns Waterway (aka “Burns Ditch”). On the left (eastbound) is the massive U.S. Steel Gary Works, constructed in 1906.  United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) was formed in 1901 by financier J.P. Morgan and attorney Elbert H. Gary.  At one time, U.S. Steel was the largest steel producer and largest corporation in the world.  It was capitalized at $1.4 billion ($39.69 billion today), making it the world's first billion-dollar corporation.  For many years, the Gary Works was the world's largest steel mill, and it remains the largest integrated mill in North America.  The Gary Works includes both steelmaking and finishing facilities, and has an annual capacity of 7.5 million tons.  It contains four blast furnaces, three BOP vessels, and three Q-BOP vessels.  The Gary Works was under construction from 1906 to 1908, and the first shipment of iron ore was unloaded on June 23, 1908.  11 million cubic feet of sand were moved in the process of constructing the plant.

          The Gary Works remains Gary's largest single employer and a key element of the city's tax base.

38      Pass beneath U.S. 12 and the cross the east arm of the Grand Calumet River.  We are now passing through Burns Harbor, named after Randall Burns, an early businessman in the area.  The town was incorporated in 1967, and much of the money needed for incorporation was financed by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

          On October 15, 2001 Bethlehem Steel filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This filing relieved them of all current financial obligations including property taxes.  The Bethlehem property taxes to the Town of Burns Harbor represented about 90% of the town's annual revenue.  The loss of income necessitated drastic cuts in personnel and benefits to allow the town to maintain municipal services.  The International Steel Group (ISG) signed a final agreement to purchase all of the assets of Bethlehem on February 5, 2003.  To help relieve the town's financial problems ISG agreed to make a yearly payments for 4 years ending in 2006 in lieu of taxes.  In addition ISG offered to forgive the outstanding amount owed on the purchase of the sewage treatment plant. On April 12, 2005 Mittal Steel took over ISG, including the Burns Harbor Plant.

40     Pass beneath Interstate 94 and enter Chesterton, in Westchester Township.  Chesterton was originally called Coffee Creek, then around 1853, the name was changed to Calumet, after the Calumet River.  The name Chesterton represents Westchester Township. 

40.5   The 2 switches to the north (left if eastbound) lead into Michigan (see railroad guides #10, #11, and #12). We will continue eastward on the former New York Central main line (now Norfolk Southern).

         At approximately this location, we are leaving the Calumet lake plain (see MP 34 above) and entering a narrow part of the Valparaiso Moraine, which marked a temporary standstill as the Lake Michigan ice lobe retreated to the north at the close of the Wisconsin glaciation. The Valparaiso Moraine varies from 5 to 15 miles wide.

45.5   Pass through the small community of Burdick, which was founded in 1870 and named after A.C. Burdick, a lumber dealer from Michigan.

          The low hills on either side of the railroad are morainal deposits from the Lake Michigan ice lobe, and consist of mixed till and outwash deposits. Till refers to mostly unstratified sand, gravel, and pebbles deposited directly by glacial ice, while outwash refers to more stratified sand and gravel deposited by streams flowing near or over retreating glaciers at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation.

48     Enter LA PORTE County.  The county is one of they State’s greatest resort centers, and is also an industrial center.  This was part of the territory visited by Father Jacques Marquette during the 1670’s.  The area was originally inhabited by Indians of the Pottawattomi tribe. and the date of the first settlement by Europeans is not known.  The county was established in 1832, and originally did not extend as far south as the Kankakee River, as it does today.  At that time, residents of Starke County, to the south, had trouble crossing the Kankakee River to get to the northern part of the county, so in 1842, the county boundaries were redrawn so as to extend to the Kankakee River.

          The word “La Porte” is French for “the door,” in reference to La Porte County as a “gateway” to the Great Lakes in the north.  The county seat of La Porte County is the city of La Porte.

49      Pass through the unincorporated community of Otis, which was settled in 1851.  It was originally named Salem Crossing by the Michigan Southern Railroad, along whose tracks the community grew. By the time the village was platted in 1870, it was called LaCroix, courtesy of the Monon.  It was along the Monon that the funeral train of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Illinois.  Although the funeral cortege was not scheduled to stop at LaCroix, the crowd which had gathered around the refueling train was so large that the officials allowed the waiting people to view the body of the fallen president.

          In 1872, District Congressman Jasper Packard changed the name of the town to Otis.

50.5   Pass through Holmesville, an unincorporated community.  The town was laid out on land owned by Hiram Holmes, and the plat was filed on October 2, 1855.  Until the turn of the 20th Century, the town was occupied primarily by citizens of German and Polish descent.

51.5   Pass beneath the Indiana Toll Road.

53     Pass through Durham, named after the town of Durham in New York State.  The area was settled beginning around 1837, but the town was not laid out until 1847.

          We are now entering a geomorphic region known as the Kankakee Outwash Plain.  The area is underlain by glacial outwash deposits (see MP 45.5 above), and generally follows the flow of the Kankakee River here, and later the flow of the St. Joseph River.  These outwash deposits were formed by waters flowing away from the Lake Michigan ice lobe near the end of the Wisconsin glaciation.

55      Pass through then unincorporated community of Pinola, allegedly named after the abundance of pine trees in the area.  On the right (eastbound) is the House of Fara, which manufactures molding, fireplace trim, and window & door trim from hardwood.

58-60                      Pass through La Porte, the county seat of La Porte County.  Like the county name, the name of the city is from the French for “the door.”  The city was founded in 1830 and incorporated in 1835.  La Porte has been a service-based community throughout its history.  After it was incorporated, the town soon developed into a trading center for the numerous farms in the area. The lakes in town (some of which are visible from the train on the north) provided one of the town’s first industries.  In the winter, local ice companies cut ice from the lakes and shipped it to Chicago.  Over the years, the same lakes attracted numerous summertime visitors, and today are lined with year-round homes.

          The city’s industrial history centers around its early-day woolen mill industry and farm equipment manufacturing, and that was followed by the railroad, which arrived in La Porte in 1852.  The arrival of the railroad promoted a period of rapid new growth in the community. Companies moved in and new ones were created, drawn by the accessibility of raw materials and a large labor force.  Over the decades, and innumerable line of products has originated in La Porte factories.  These products include baby carriages, bicycles, wagons, wool, bread, slicing machinery for the food industry, pianos, radiators, office furniture and supplies, and many others, including airplane wings and tanks during World War 2.

          The lakes visible to the north (left if eastbound) are likely kettle lakes in the Kankakee Outwash Plain.  Such lakes developed as large blocks of glacial ice did not melt as rapidly as others during the final retreat to the north of the Pleistocene-aged Wisconsin glaciers.

         La Porte was the home of William W. Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, as well as podiatrist Dr. William Scholl, founder of Dr. Scholl’s foot care company.  The city is also the home of the La Porte County Historical Society Museum, the Kingsbury State Fish and Wildlife Area, and the La Porte Little Theater Club, which was founded in 1925. and is one of the oldest and longest running live community theatre groups in the country.

66      Pass beneath U.S. 20, and pass through Rolling Prairie.  The town was created on May 25, 1831, and was originally named Nauvoo.  On November 26, 1853, the village was platted by W.J. Walker and named Portland.  The name of Rolling Prairie, descriptive of the undulating terrain, was adopted in 1857 by one of the railroad companies operating through the town.

          We are continuing to traverse the very flat and featureless Kankakee Outwash Plain.

70.5   The town of Hudson Lake, and the lake by the same name, are visible on the left (eastbound).

71.5   Enter ST. JOSEPH County, named after the St. Joseph River, which was in turn named after the Catholic Saint who was the husband of the Virgin Mary.  The county was organized on January 29, 1830. According to the Society of Indiana Pioneers, an individual was a pioneer of this county if he or she resided here prior to December 31, 1840.  The county seat of St. Joseph County is South Bend.

72      Pass through New Carlisle, which was originally known as Bourissa Hills, named after Lazarus Bourissa, a Pottawattomi Indian who was involved in the westward movement of the rest of the Pottawattomies.  In 1835, the name of the town was changed by Richard R. Carlisle, a Philadelphia-born traveler. The town’s motto is “A good place to visit, a great place to live.”

          The railroad tracks adjacent to this line on the north (left if eastbound) are the tracks of the Chicago, South Shore, & South Bend Railroad, an electrified interurban line, generally known as the “South Shore Line.”

74      Pass through Terre Coupee, an unincorporated community which was settled in 1828, primarily by Quakers.

75.5   Pass through the community of Olive, which was originally known as The South Woods, and later as Olive Church.

76      Pass through Zeigler.

77     Pass through Hubbard.

79      Pass through Lydick, which was named after a member of a local family. The town was established in 1851, and was originally known as Warren Center, for its location near the center of Warren Township. It was also formerly known as Lindley and Sweet Home.

          The hills along the railroad are composed of a mixture of glacial till and outwash, and are actually a part of the Valparaiso Moraine system, deposited by the Lake Michigan Lobe of the glaciers.

81      Pass beneath U.S. 31 and enter the South Bend-Mishawaka area.

83     Pass the large Honeywell Aerospace Plant on the left (eastbound).

84      SOUTH BEND station, 2702 W. Washington Avenue.  Elevation approximately 721 ft.  South Bend is the county seat of St. Joseph County, and the 4th largest city in Indiana.  It was named after its location on the southernmost bend in the St. Joseph River.

         The first permanent white settlers of South Bend were fur traders who established trading posts in the area.  In 1823, a trading post called Big Saint Joseph Station was established by Alexis Coquillard, an agent from John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. Then, In 1827, Lathrop Minor Taylor established a post for the Samuel Hanna and Company fur business.  Taylor was soon appointed postmaster, and the post office was designated as Southold.  In 1830, the name was changed to South Bend, and the city was then laid out in 1931, then first incorporated in 1835, then re-incorporated as a city in 1865.  The University of Notre Dame was established in 1842 as a mission for the Pottawattomi people, and as a center for both religious and secular education.

         The manufacture of transportation equipment and farm machinery in South Bend dates from the 1850’s, when Henry and Clement Studebaker opened a blacksmith and wagon shop here, then formed a partnership to manufacture plows and other farming machinery with a new steel-hardening technique.  In time, the Studebaker Brothers became major manufacturers of wagons, and in the 20th Century, cars, and Studebaker was a leading producer of automobiles.  The Studebaker Company ceased manufacturing cars in 1963.  In addition, the Singer Sewing Company and the Oliver Chilled Plow Company were among other companies that made manufacturing the driving force in the South Bend economy until the mid-20th Century.  In the early 20th Century, other companies, such as Honeywell, Bendix, and Allied Signal began manufacturing in South Bend.

                South Bend is the home of the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s College, and a campus of Indiana University, established in 1940. South Bend is also the home of the Northern Indiana Center for History, the College Football Hall of Fame, Studebaker National Museum, Pottawattomi Zoo, and the East Race Waterway, an artificial whitewater rafting attraction.  Notable alums of the University of Notre Dame include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, television star Regis Philbin, and legendary college football coaches Knute Rockne and Lou Holz.