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Armchair Brakeman
Royal Oak to Chicago

Recently we took the Amtrak train from Royal Oak to New Buffalo Michigan to go to a new casino. We were scheduled to leave Royal Oak at 11:25 AM and the train was right on time. Soon we were traveling over what should have been familiar territory since I had driven west from Detroit many times but the train seemed to be traveling on the back side of everything we knew. Looking from the train everything seemed somewhat typical but at the same time, strange and unfamiliar.

One of things I like about train travel is this unfamiliarity. Most of the time, when approaching a city, you get to see its underbelly. The train doesn’t usually travel through the very nicest part of a city. I like that. A person gets to see the back of factories, endless expanses of junk yards, and even vast areas of open fields reclaimed from the city, scattered with broken trees and branches. You can usually see huge train yards with tracks heading in all directions. In the out-lying areas you often see stacks of track ties, and other abandoned rail equipment. It is a different world and I like it.

We arrived at Niles MI at 3:43 PM, on time, after passing through many familiar cities. At least I was familiar with the front side. We then picked up a rental car and went to the casino. I am not much of a gambler so the day after we got to New Buffalo I took a train to Chicago for the day while my wife went on to win money for our next adventure. The trip to Chicago is easy to manage since it is only an hour each way.

The train left New Buffalo at 10:00 AM. You may wonder why our train came into Niles MI and I was now leaving from New Buffalo. Here is the answer: The Amtrak train from Royal Oak does not stop at New Buffalo and the closest stop is Niles MI. However, the Pere Marquette Train number 371, a state supported train, travels from Grand Rapids MI to Chicago IL and passes through New Buffalo. I hopped this train to Chicago.

Once in Chicago, I had my lunch. The Corner Bakery in Union Station has excellent food and I recommend it for fast lunches. Good sandwiches and excellent deserts.

After my stroll around Chicago I headed back to New Buffalo. The Pere Marquette train number 371 left the station at 5:20 PM, exactly on time and except for waiting for a freight train just outside of Chicago, the return trip was fine. The train made up the time on route and we arrived on time.

The following morning there was a snowstorm and the wind was blowing the snow into huge drifts. When we finally dropped our rental car off and were in the railroad station I was very glad we were not driving all the way back to Royal Oak. The train seemed to stop more than usual, and was traveling slower, but we arrived in Royal Oak only twenty minutes late, and we stepped off the train with 8 inches of snow on the ground.





Royal oak train station
Royal Oak train station



New Buffalo stopNew Buffalo Train Station



Union StationUnion Station, Chicago


Union Station hallGreat Hall, Union Station