Blue Water Line celebrates 35 years of connecting communitiesPublished 9:33am Thursday, October 15, 2009
The City of Dowagiac and its historic train depot will be one of nine station communities that on Wednesday, Oct. 21, commemorate the 35th anniversary of the state-supported Amtrak Blue Water passenger train, linking The Grand Old City to communities from Port Huron to Chicago.
In celebration of this milestone, the public is invited to attend the local event, beginning at 10:30 a.m. outside the train depot, where presentations will be given by Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons and Steve Arseneau, director of the Museum at Southwestern Michigan College.
Similar ceremonies are being organized by eight other communities and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which will be held immediately prior to the departure of the westbound train, which leaves from Port Huron at 6 a.m.
The passenger train that day will feature special Superliner train equipment, including a sightseer lounge car and coaches.
Passengers traveling that day will receive a gift bag containing products from Dowagiac and the other station communities.
Two weekend packages for Dowagiac, with a complimentary night of lodging for two parties, dinner for two and gift certificates, which will be randomly inserted into two of the gift bags the 250 train passengers will receive.
Residents who attend the Oct. 21 event at the Dowagiac train depot will have the opportunity to enter an on-site drawing to win commemorative apparel, saluting Blue Water’s 35th anniversary, provided by Amtrak and MDOT; and an autographed copy of “Dowagiac … Images of America,” donated by the Chamber of Commerce.
They will also enjoy refreshments and the harp music of Carl Payne, who has appeared for the past several years at Dowagiac’s Beckwith Park Summer Concert Series.
Amtrak is also offering a fare sale of 35 percent off the regular (full) adult rail price on the Blue Water service from Monday, Oct. 19, through Thursday, Oct. 22.
Tickets must be purchased by Oct. 21 from Amtrak.com, a Quik-Trak Self-Serve Ticketing Kiosk, by calling 800-USA-RAIL, or visiting a staffed Amtrak ticket office or select travel agents. (use V155 for discount fare.) Children ages 2-15 may accompany each adult at half the regular (full) adult rail fare.
From fiscal year 2007 to 2008, ridership on the Blue Water service increased 7 percent to 138,604.
This is one of two state-supported routes in Michigan.
From 2002 to 2008, Amtrak ridership on all three train routes in Michigan – Pere Marquette, Wolverine and Blue Water – grew by a combined 60 percent.
The inauguration of the partnership between Amtrak and the State of Michigan for the Blue Water service began on Sept. 13, 1974, when a special inaugural train left Chicago at 6:35 a.m.
The train left with MDOT and Amtrak dignitaries aboard. Gov. William Milliken and his wife, Helen Milliken, boarded the train at Three Oaks and the train made stops at Niles, Kalamazoo (where the governor deboarded) and other stops to Port Huron.
Revenue service began on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1974.
The Blue Water service was renamed the Blue Water Limited in 1975 and enjoyed a peak ridership of about 113,000 in 1981.
In 1982, the service was replaced by the International, with service from Chicago to Toronto, as a joint train with VIA Rail Canada.
Ridership on the International peaked in 1997 with more than 125,000 passengers, then started a steady decline after it was rerouted via Stratford in Canada.
Ridership took an even sharper plunge after Sept. 11, 2001, resulting in discontinuation of the International in 2004.
However, resumption of Blue Water service began one day later. Ridership immediately jumped 20 percent and growth has continued.
The Blue Water and the International have now provided continuous daily service to Durand, East Lansing, Flint, Lapeer and Port Huron since 1974, carrying about 3.8 million passengers.
Michigan is among 15 states that pay Amtrak for service, including the Midwestern states of Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.