Hoosier State (train)

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Hoosier State
Amtrak's friday Hoosier State.jpg
The Hoosier State in Shelby, Indiana in 2011
Service typeInter-city rail
StatusOperating, but slated to be discontinued
First serviceOctober 1, 1980
Last serviceJune 30, 2019
Current operator(s)Amtrak
Annual ridership27,876 (FY18)[1]
Distance travelled196 miles (315 km)
Service frequencyQuad-weekly
Train number(s)850–851
Track owner(s)CSXT, UP, BRC Metra, NS
Route map
0 mi
29 mi
47 km
75 mi
121 km
122 mi
196 km
149 mi
240 km
DodgerBlue flag waving.svg
196 mi
315 km

DodgerBlue flag waving.svg = flag stop

The Hoosier State is an Amtrak passenger train that provides service on a 196-mile (315 km) route between Chicago and Indianapolis. It runs on the four days each week that the Cardinal does not run – departing Indianapolis Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings and departing Chicago on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons – giving the Chicago–Indianapolis market daily rail service.

Amtrak has announced that all Hoosier State service after June 30, 2019 will be suspended after funding for the train was not written into Indiana's 2019 state budget plan. The Cardinal line will continue running between Chicago and Indianapolis three days per week.[2]


Prior service[edit]

Prior to Amtrak, the Chicago–Indianapolis market was served by several daily trains, the Pennsylvania Railroad's South Wind and Kentuckian, and the New York Central's James Whitcomb Riley, Indianapolis Special, and Sycamore. There is a name antecedent to the train. The Monon Railroad ran The Hoosier daily between Chicago and Indianapolis. With the creation of Amtrak, riders were served by the South Wind and the George Washington/James Whitcomb Riley.[3][page needed] However, with Penn Central's financial instability, track maintenance in the Midwest suffered. Amtrak shifted both trains to other routes through Indiana, leaving Indianapolis to be served only by the National Limited (formerly the Spirit of St. Louis), which ran between New York and Kansas City.

The National Limited's discontinuance in 1979 severed Indianapolis from the national rail network, and isolated Amtrak's Beech Grove Shops in the Indianapolis suburb of Beech Grove. The passenger carrier had been using the National Limited to ferry railroad cars to and from its shops; it was forced to run special trains to Indianapolis instead.[3][page needed]

Hoosier State[edit]

The first northbound Hoosier State on October 3, 1980
Until 1994, the Hoosier State had a section of on-street running in Lafayette

The Hoosier State entered service on October 1, 1980. On April 27, 1986, the Cardinal (formerly the James Whitcomb Riley) was rerouted to use the same tracks as the Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis, and the Hoosier State began running on days the Cardinal did not operate. The Hoosier State was restored to daily operation on a separate schedule from the Cardinal on October 25, 1987.[4] However, funding cuts led to its discontinuance on September 8, 1995 while the Cardinal continued tri-weekly operation between Chicago, Indianapolis and the East Coast. Amtrak restored the Hoosier State on July 19, 1998, as a tri-, later quad-weekly train.[5]

On December 17, 1999, the Hoosier State was extended south from Indianapolis to Louisville, Kentucky, and renamed the Kentucky Cardinal. It was also expanded to a full-fledged daily train. On the three days the Cardinal operated, the Kentucky Cardinal operated as a section, splitting in Indianapolis. For the rest of the week, it ran independently to Chicago. However, the Kentucky Cardinal was plagued by extremely slow speeds along its Indianapolis-to-Louisville leg–as slow as 30 mph (48 km/h) in some places–making it slower than automobile traffic along the same stretch of Interstate 65. Amtrak discontinued the Kentucky Cardinal on July 4, 2003 and brought back the Hoosier State on its pre-1999 schedule, operating four days a week in tandem with the Cardinal.

State funding[edit]

On October 16, 2008, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) was signed into law, requiring states to bear the operating and capital costs of intercity rail passenger service on Amtrak routes of not more than 750 mi (1,210 km) within 5 years.[6][7] At a length of 196 mi (315 km), the Hoosier State was affected by this provision of PRIIA, and the State of Indiana became responsible for funding the Hoosier State beginning on October 1, 2013.

Faced with termination of a service that would have left the Chicago–Indianapolis corridor with only thrice-weekly train service, state and local officials arrived at a deal to share the US$3,000,000 annual cost of the service, becoming the last state in the nation to arrive at a deal to save its short-distance train line on October 15, 2013.[8][9] Operating costs above ticket revenue continue to be covered by the Indiana Department of Transportation and communities along the route.

Indiana sought alternatives to Amtrak operation and, on June 24, 2014, selected Corridor Capitol, a Chicago-based rail passenger services development company, as its preferred vendor to manage and operate the service. Planning was underway for the company to take over the service as early as October 1, 2014. However, Corridor Capitol did not meet that deadline and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) discontinued negotiations with the company in November 2014.[10] Amtrak continued to operate the train service under short-term contract extensions while the state considers alternative vendors.

During the Iowa Pacific era, the Hoosier State is the only short-haul Amtrak train featuring full dining service; business class patrons dine in a vintage dome car

On March 6, 2015, INDOT announced that the Hoosier State would discontinue service on April 1, 2015. The decision was made due to regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration that would have required the state of Indiana to act as a rail carrier, despite the state owning no tracks or trains, which – according to INDOT – would have increased the cost to Indiana taxpayers for no additional benefit.[11][12] After Indiana appealed to the FRA, the train's operation was extended to April 30,[13] while Amtrak continued to operate the Hoosier State under a short-term agreement while negotiations continued.[14]

Iowa Pacific operation[edit]

On August 2, 2015, INDOT contracted with both Iowa Pacific and Amtrak in order to continue the Hoosier State, with Iowa Pacific responsible for providing and maintaining equipment, food service, and marketing, and Amtrak responsible for providing ticketing services and train operating crews (engineers, assistant engineers, conductors, and assistant conductors). The contract had four option years.[15][16][17]

Once the service improvements instituted by Iowa Pacific took hold, including the addition of full-service dining, onboard Wi-Fi, business-class service, and a dome car, ridership began increasing and was up 5.8% in July 2016 over the previous July, with FY 2016 (October 2015–July 2016) revenues up 32.8% from the prior year.[18]

On January 30, 2017, INDOT announced that Iowa Pacific was no longer able to fulfill the contract and had asked to be released from the contract early, prior to its original end date of June 30, 2017. As a result, the equipment and personnel provided by Iowa Pacific were withdrawn and replaced by Amtrak equipment and on-board services personnel in advance of March 1 run of the westbound train from Indianapolis.[19][20]

Service cancellation and replacement[edit]

In February 2019, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb proposed a budget that does not include funding for the Hoosier State. Holcomb said that the train did not have enough ridership to justify a subsidy. Environmentalists were disappointed by the decision, indicating that the loss of the train service would increase the use of passenger cars by citing a 2016 Amtrak survey that found 57 percent of passengers in Indiana would drive to their destination if the service was cancelled.[21] On April 8, 2019, Amtrak announced that unless state funding was restored, the Hoosier State would end on June 30, 2019.[22] Passengers who already purchased Hoosier State tickets for travel after that date will be compensated with Cardinal tickets. The budget passed on April 24, without Hoosier State funding.[2][23]

In May 2019, a private transportation company, OurBus, announced plans to start a two-month pilot of daily round trip service from Indianapolis to Chicago to fill the gap left by the Hoosier State.[24] OurBus, will charge a $10 introductory rate before raising fares to between $25 and $35. The four initial stops on the OurBus route replacing the Hoosier State besides Indianapolis and Chicago are Zionsville and Lafayette in Indiana.[25] Other stops along the route will be added if at least 100 people make the request. Gold Shield Transportation is contracted to provide the bus service.[26]

Route details[edit]

The Hoosier State operates over Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Union Pacific Railroad, Metra, and Norfolk Southern trackage:

  • CSX Indianapolis Subdivision, Indianapolis Terminal Subdivision, Crawfordsville Branch Subdivision, Monon Subdivision, and Eldson Subdivision Indianapolis to Thornton
  • UP Villa Grove Subdivision, Thornton to 80th Street
  • BRC, 80th Street Interlocking
  • Metra SouthWest Service, 80th Street to 21st Street.
  • NS Chicago Line, CP518 to 21st Street.

Train consist[edit]

The standard Hoosier State consist is two coaches (generally Amtrak's short-distance Horizon equipment) and a Horizon or Amfleet cafe car. In addition to standard food service, the cafe car allows for Business Class seating and complimentary WiFi. Motive power is commonly a General Electric Genesis P42DC locomotive.[27] As the train is often used to shuttle equipment from the Beech Grove Shops to Chicago, deadhead equipment of all types can often be found in the consist as well. After Amtrak resumed operations in March 2017, the Great Dome car Ocean View was added.[28]

While operated by Iowa Pacific, the train included Iowa Pacific owned ex-Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Big Dome Summit View and three passenger cars, with power provided by a fleet of three ex-NJT GP40FH-2 diesel locomotives.[29]

Station stops[edit]

State/Province Town/City Station Connections
Indiana[30] Indianapolis Indianapolis Amtrak: Thruway Motorcoach to Champaign, Illinois; Danville, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa; Galesburg, Illinois; Greater Peoria Regional Airport in Peoria, Illinois; Louisville, Kentucky; Moline, Illinois; and Normal, Illinois
Crawfordsville Crawfordsville none
Lafayette Lafayette Greyhound
CityBus: 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3, 4A, 4B, 6A, 6B, 7, 9, 23
Rensselaer Rensselaer none
Dyer Dyer none
Illinois[30] Chicago Chicago Union Station Amtrak: Blue Water, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Carl Sandburg, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hiawatha, Illini, Illinois Zephyr, Lake Shore Limited, Lincoln Service, Pere Marquette, Saluki, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Wolverine, Thruway Motorcoach to Louisville, Kentucky; Madison, Wisconsin; and Rockford, Illinois
CTA: 14, 19, 20, X20, 38, 56, 60, 120, 122, 124, 127, 129, 157
Metra: BNSF Railway, HC, MD-N, MD-W, NCS, SWS


  1. ^ "Amtrak FY18 Ridership" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2018. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Amtrak suspends ticket sales for Hoosier State line after June 30". Indianapolis Business Journal. April 8, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Schafer 1991
  4. ^ Sanders 2006, p. 215
  5. ^ Sanders 2006, p. 220
  6. ^ "Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (P. L. 110-432, Division B) 122 Stat. 4907". Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. October 16, 2008. p. 122. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  7. ^ "Federal Railroad Administration Overview, Highlights and Summary of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA)" (PDF). Federal Railroad Administration. March 10, 2009. p. 2. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  8. ^ Ryckaert, Vic (September 24, 2013). "State hashing out plan to save daily Amtrak trains from Indianapolis to Chicago". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  9. ^ "Governor Pence Announces Agreement with Amtrak". State of Indiana, Department of Transportation (INDOT). October 15, 2013.
  10. ^ Vizza, Chris Morrise (November 10, 2014). "State ends negotiations with Amtrak alternative". Journal & Courier.
  11. ^ "Amtrak's Hoosier State Line to end service April 1". WTHR. March 6, 2015. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Tuohy, John (March 6, 2015). "State to end Amtrak's Hoosier State line". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Wilkins, Ron (March 13, 2015). "Hoosier State line gets 30-day extension". Journal & Courier. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  14. ^ "Short-term deal keeps Amtrak route between Chicago and Indianapolis open". Chicago Tribune. April 6, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  15. ^ Johnston, Bob (July 31, 2015). "'Hoosier State' Iowa Pacific Holdings takeover tentatively set for Aug. 2". Trains. Retrieved August 14, 2015. (subscription required)
  16. ^ Vizza, Chris Morisse (August 2, 2015). "Amtrak, state agreement on rail service pending". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  17. ^ "New Hoosier State Train Offers Wi-Fi, Food Service, Dome-Car". Mass Transit Magazine.
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "Hoosier State changes over to Amtrak beginning in March". WLFI-TV. January 30, 2017. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  20. ^ Spohr, George (January 31, 2017). "Amtrak takes over Hoosier State train". Lafayette Journal & Courier. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  21. ^ "End of the Hoosier State train line is a loss for air quality, environmentalists say". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  22. ^ "Amtrak stops selling Hoosier State tickets beyond June, as $3M state funding hopes dim". Journal & Courier. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  23. ^ Dave Bangert (April 25, 2019). "Amtrak's Hoosier State: Dead train walking, as state finalizes $3M cuts". Journal & Courier.
  24. ^ Wisniewski, Mary. "New 'crowdsourced' bus service between Chicago and Indianapolis will try to fill gap left by Hoosier State train's demise". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  25. ^ "The Hoosier State train is going away on July 1. Here's what it means for Indianapolis". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  26. ^ "New York startup to pilot Indianapolis-Chicago bus service". AP NEWS. May 31, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  27. ^ "Cardinal / Hoosier State". Amtrak. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  28. ^ "Hoosier State Train Service Transitions on Wednesday". XRock 103.9. February 28, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  29. ^ Johnston, Bob (March 6, 2015). "Indiana may challenge FRA decision; Iowa Pacific reveals planned 'Hoosier State' equipment". Trains. Retrieved March 7, 2015. (subscription required)
  30. ^ a b Cardinal and Hoosier State; New York and Chicago route Schedule; 2008


Further reading[edit]

  • Johnston, Bob (March 2016). "Hoosier State reflects a new approach". Trains. 76 (3).

External links[edit]