News & Reviews News Wire Second train between Twin Cities and Chicago slated to begin in 2024

Second train between Twin Cities and Chicago slated to begin in 2024

By Steve Glischinski | November 3, 2023

Minnesota DOT surveying potential riders about possible amenities

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Passenger train with two locomotives on straight section of track
The westbound Empire Builder passes through Northbrook, Ill., on Oct. 18, 2023. A second train on the Chicago-Twin Cities portion of the Builder route is slated to begin in 2024. David Lassen

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In a social media post Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced the long-awaited second passenger train between St. Paul and Chicago will begin service in 2024. MnDOT is also asking potential passengers to take a survey about amenities they would like to see aboard the train. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Transportation, and MnDOT are sponsoring the service. Amtrak will operate the trains on CPKC’s route.

While infrastructure improvements are planned in the La Crosse, Wis., and Winona, Minn., areas, CPKC has agreed to start the service before the improvements are completed as part of a deal reached when Amtrak endorsed the Canadian Pacific/Kansas City Southern merger.

Service on the route is currently provided by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. While westbound service from Chicago to St. Paul is fairly reliable, eastbound service suffers when the Empire Builder is late making the long trek from the West Coast. Amtrak operated a second train on the route from November 1971 to October 1981, when the overnight North Star was discontinued, leaving the Empire Builder as route’s only train.

The MnDOT survey is available here.

19 thoughts on “Second train between Twin Cities and Chicago slated to begin in 2024

  1. I love the model train aficionados who insist the Second Train isn’t viable or needed. They arrogantly assume that because they can and want to fly that all travelers do, and they just as arrogantly ignore all intermediate stops. These people really need to stick to HO and let the adults worry about transportation.

  2. Both Burlington Route and Milwaukee Road ran two daytime Chicago-Twin Cities trains each way. Why not Amtrak?

    1. Mr. Graetz, a few points in response:
      – The MSP-CHI flights do not serve any intermediate towns. I count 7 intermediate stops on the “Builder,” not counting Glenview which presumably can access CHI airports, and Milwaukee which presumably has direct flights to MSP. A second train may be able to serve additional, new stops as well.
      – Transit time is not the only consideration. Also convenience, comfort, TSA/security waits etc., and some people simply cannot or do not fly (or drive).
      – Most people prefer a train to a bus, for better or for worse.

  3. Every state supported service is tenuous a change in the political climate and “poof” its gone, its even worse when more that one state is involved. But then again Amtrak itself is basically always in the same position only on a larger scale as is bring played out now by the imbeciles in the House. I would hope they have a business class available on this train apparently all they can only scrape up is the 30 yr old Horizon cars for this train. The overnight Northstar was ideal for passengers from MSP you could make all the connections in CHI & on returns to CHI on the CZ or SWC you didn’t have to stay the night in a hotel in CHI.

    1. Northstar was ideal 50 years ago when you didn’t have 5 non-stop flights per day connecting Minneapolis with Cincinnati or 6 non-stops connecting MSP and Nashville.

      Today using modern technology, the jet plan, the flight from Minneapolis to these connection cities takes less time than you would’ve wasted taking the Northstar and sitting in Chicago waiting for your connection.

    2. As an overnight train, Amtrak’s short-lived North Star was well worth the trip in its time.

      Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  4. Given all of the issues and problems with Amtrak these days, nevermind the State of Illinois, I do have to wonder how firm this commitment is to run a second daily Chicago – MSP passenger train really is ….

    Also, interesting point above by Mr. Rice about how/if METRA might weigh in on this additional (?) Amtrak service.

  5. Not waiting until everything is ‘just right’ with regard to planned improvements sounds like a good idea. It allows a service to get started sooner, which will help build ridership and a better reputation.

  6. I will believe this when I see it. We have been fooled by announcements like this from a variety of “sources” too many times.

    1. From what I understand, the second Chicago to MSP train will be an extension of one of the current Hiawatha trains.

    2. Yes Mr. Rice, Metra does have “opinions”/concerns “on just about everything CPKC does” that concern the Metra Milwaukee North and Metra Milwaukee West Lines. That’s because Metra OWNS those lines to Fox Lake and Big Timber Road respectively but CPKC has train dispatching rights dating back to events and agreements made in the 1980s. Metra went before the STB and tried to make conveyance of train dispatching rights a condition for its approval of CP+KCS. But Martin Oberman & Co decided those 1980 agreements couldn’t/ shouldn’t be overturned even though the then administration in DC was was knocking down, or attempting to knock down, all the political, social, and cultural norms we took for granted.

      And the STB decided it was appropriate for a foreign national freight railroad they were allowing to vastly expand its reach to continue having train dispatching rights on an American taxpayer-owned taxpayer-funded commuter railroad. Would you care to cite where this situation exists at any other commuter/regional railroad in the U.S.?

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