Endpoints: Chicago-Valparaiso, Indiana
Numbers: 321, 324
Intermediate Stations: Hammond, Whiting, Indiana Harbor, Gary (two stations) Hobart, and Wheeling, Indiana.
Host Railroad: Conrail (Pennsylvania Railroad)
Amtrak Operated: October 29, 1979 to January 10, 1986
Named for: That the trains connected northwest Indiana with Chicago.
Pre-Amtrak History: The Pennsylvania Railroad began operating Chicago-Valparaiso commuter service in the 1890s. The law that created Amtrak did not allow railroads to discontinue trains that were primarily commuter in nature, so Penn Central and later Conrail continued to operate these trains, Nos. 453/454 and 455/456.
Conrail repeatedly sought to end the service, taking the fight to the Interstate Commerce Commission and federal court. At times, the State of Indiana provided funding to keep the service going. The Regional Transportation Authority in Illinois declined to provide funding because the trains did not service any intermediate Illinois stations.
Amtrak History: The prohibition that kept Amtrak from operating commuter trains was removed in 1978 by amending the1970 Rail Passenger Service Act, which had created Amtrak. Indiana Congressman Adam Benjamin Jr. was instrumental in getting a clause inserted into the Amtrak Improvement Act of 1979 directing the company to take two pairs of Chicago-Valparaiso commuter trains off of Conrail’s hands.
Amtrak named the trains Indiana Connection and Calumet on August 3, 1980. The trains departed Valparaiso at 6 a.m. and 6:35 a.m., and Chicago at 5:05 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. The trains began stopping at Amtrak’s new station in Hammond in September 1982.
Initially the Indiana Connection operated with former Chicago & North Western bi-level coaches that had seen duty on other Midwest Corridor trains in the 1970s. Because of the lack of turning facilities at Valparaiso, the train operated with a locomotive at each end. For a while this included a P30CH and an E series locomotive.
The last E units based in Chicago (Nos. 414 and 434) were assigned to Valparaiso service in early 1980. These were the last E units assigned to regularly scheduled Amtrak trains west of New Haven, Connecticut. The last SDP40F locomotives based in Chicago worked the route in 1981.
Amtrak contracted with Illinois Central Gulf in 1980 to rebuild four of the ex-C&NW bi-levels into cab cars and to make them compatible with Amfleet equipment. This work, done at the Woodcrest shops in Chicago, was completed in 1981 and the Indiana Connection began operating as a push-pull train with an F40PH typically providing the motive power.
Am Amtrak budget shortfall led to a number of service cuts in early 1986. The Valparaiso trains were vulnerable because they were among the system’s least efficient trains in cost per passenger mile. The Indiana Connection made its final trips on January 10, 1986.