Endpoints: Detroit-Jackson, Michigan
Numbers: 373, 374
Intermediate Stations: Chelsea, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Dearborn, Michigan
Host Railroads: Penn Central, Conrail (Michigan Central)
Amtrak Operated: January 20, 1975-January 13, 1984
Named for: It was a commuter train operating within Michigan.
Pre-Amtrak History: Penn Central had a pair of Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter trains (Nos. 357, 374) that were not eligible for Amtrak operation. Historically, these had not been commuter trains. No. 374 had been created in spring 1968, operating daily except Sunday. No. 357 had been the westbound Twilight Limited until discontinued west of Ann Arbor in mid-October 1968. Many riders were Penn Central employees who worked at the railroad’s offices in Detroit’s Michigan Central Station. In the final days of PC operation, the train had a single rail diesel car that originated and terminated at Jackson, but carried no passengers between Jackson and Ann Arbor.
Amtrak History: The State of Michigan agreed to fund the Ann Arbor commuter trains if Amtrak would operate them. Amtrak also agreed to carry passengers between Jackson and Ann Arbor. The Michigan Executive did not operate on weekends.
Under Amtrak auspices, ridership increased by 50 percent. In the early years of Amtrak operation, patronage averaged 10-15 a day west of Ann Arbor, but nearly 250 east of there.
The state had agreed to fund the trains with the expectation that similar commuter service would be launched between Detroit and Toledo, and Detroit and Port Huron, Michigan. The latter service never came about, but Amtrak would eventually begin service between Detroit and Toledo in 1980. That service was part of a Chicago-Detroit-Toledo route and not oriented toward commuter service.
Ridership of the Michigan Executive peaked in 1979 at 96,573. An economic downtown in the early 1980s combined with the deterioration of downtown Detroit as a business and retail center depressed ridership to 26,000 in 1983. Also blamed for the downward spiral of patronage was competition from state-supported van pools and fare increases. Many riders ceased taking the train when the cost of a monthly pass hit $100.
The Michigan Executive initially operated with three conventional coaches. By 1976, the consist had become two 64-seat coaches and a coach-observation car. A second coach-observation car was added when needed. Motive power was an E series locomotive.
Amfleet equipment had been assigned to the Michigan Executive by April 1978. New Superliner coaches did break-in work on the train in spring and summer 1980 and former Santa Fe Hi-Level coaches were assigned in 1981.
The Michigan Executive became Detroit’s last commuter train after the Detroit-Pontiac trains operated by the Southeastern Michigan Transit Authority made their last runs over the Grand Trunk Western on October 17, 1983.
State budget problems triggered by an economic recession would lead to the demise of the Michigan Executive. Amtrak discontinued the westbound Michigan Executive on June 14, 1982. The eastbound Executive ceased carrying passengers between Jackson and Ann Arbor. Commuters returned home on the Detroit to Chicago Twilight Limited, which was rescheduled and had stops added to accommodate former Michigan Executive passengers.
The inbound Michigan Executive used equipment assigned to Detroit to Chicago No. 351 (Wolverine). The equipment dead-headed to Ann Arbor in the morning, made the run to Detroit and then departed for Chicago 35 minutes later.
The state withdrew its funding of the Michigan Executive in early 1984 and it made it final trip on January 13.