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Flying Home From Disneyland to my first ride on Amtrak’s Blue Water to Niles

After a great day at Dinseyland, on a trip designed to keep us on eastern time, we work up (almost naturally) shortly before 6:00am at the Courtyard by Marriot Anaheim Convention Center, quickly packed up and hailed a Lyft to John Wayne Airport. The ride was quick (taking from 6:09 to 6:27) and cost $16.49, plus a $2.00 tip to the driver who waited for us when I realized I had left my camera in the hotel room and ran up to grab it.

We get to the nice, small John Wayne Airport and clear security into a terminal with tons of planes getting ready to depart, although the first take-off can’t be until 8:00am due to the airport’s overnight curfew. At a departures monitor I noticed something unique and helpful, arrows pointing in opposite directions (the terminal is one long building with gates on one side) orienting travelers on the location of their gate.

The only decent thing nearby for breakfast was McDonalds so we head there to grab breakfast before heading back to the gate. The plane boards relatively early with a notice on the jetway to comply with California’s lets put a sign that everything causes cancer to alert us just before we board the plane. There’s also a sign warning us of the effects of drinking like we’re entering a bar (I guess since planes serve booze).

The flight itself has one fun event. Louise starts by napping. I watch Enchanted! a strange live-action Disney movie that takes place in New York on the seatback TV (this is one of the planes American hadn’t gotten to rip the TV out of yet). When the free drink cart comes I order us both ginger ale before overhearing someone else ask for Dr. Pepper. Before the cart moves on I ask if they have Louise’s soft drink of choice Diet Dr. Pepper, and the flight attendant says “Yes we do! Not many people know about it” handing us a third can of soda.

We get to O’Hare pretty much on time around 1:50pm. The next train to the South Bend area is Amtrak’s Blue Water. I booked these during a sale a few weeks ago for $17.00 each, there’s no good taxi service from Niles (Uber and Lyft’s from South Bend can’t pick up across state lines in Michigan), so we’ve arranged for Louise’s Dad to pick us up (in return we will take him out to dinner). So at O’Hare we head for the Blue Line(2 Photos).


As we leave O’Hare I watch the train’s destination roll sign and think for a minute we may be running express but the sign soon settles on Forest Park.

We head downtown and get off at Washington Street and head to a Roti for a late lunch since were both quite hungry. After lunch we board a bus on the Loop Link, taking advantage of the free transfers on the $5 single-use Ventra passes I’ve bought at O’hare. I’m convinced that just tapping a regular Ventra card at O’Hare would have been more expensive since you will still be charged the CTA 25 cent transfer fee on most tickets.

We get to Union Station-(1 Photo) at 3:30pm, and soon join the Kindergarten walk to the Blue Water to Port Huron scheduled to leave at 4:00pm. This train runs in a pull-pull configuration with P42s at each end. A Cabbage can’t be used because of the 110mph stretch of running on the Michigan Lines and Cabbages aren’t raited for those speeds.


We board and I enjoy looking out at the Horizon cars of some other Amtrak Midwest trains in the station.

The train slowly leaves Chicago on time at 4:00pm and heads down past the train yard on the same route used the Lake Shore & Capitol Limited and all other Michigan trains towards Indiana. The conductor comes and a I learn a few travelers going to Dearborn booked the unnecessary connection Amtrak has built into Arrow by taking the Blue Water to Battle Creek and then transferring to the Wolverine that originates in Chicago 2 hours later. They seem in good spirits about their Battle Creek layover. I’m not quite ready with my camera to get photos as we cross over the Dan Ryan Expressway.

At 4:22 we’re back in Indiana, passing the Casino and then through the Hammond-Whiting Station. We then go through one of the abandoned steel mills.

Soon we’re going through Gary, and past it’s abandoned station, with the South Shore Line’s Gary Metro Station visible, across the Toll Road.

Next landmark is at 4:41 CT when we pass the South Shore Line’s Portage-Ogden Dunes Station.

I have my camera at the ready when we reach the town of Porter Indiana where we curve off the Norfolk Southern main line and onto the Amtrak Michigan district at 4:42 with a sign welcoming us to it in the same style as the one at the other end that I saw a few weeks ago in Kalamazoo.

We then pick up speed as we head towards Michigan City, crossing the South Shore Line (which has to yield to all Amtrak traffic, I’ve been made late waiting for Amtrak trains to cross and even a crossing bar blocking the South Shore’s track), and then Amtrak’s small waterfront station.

We make our one intermediate stop at New Buffalo at 6:10pm. Then its another quick ride through some fields to Niles(24 Photos) where we arrive at 6:29 on the outside track.


Louise’s Dad isn’t there so we head into the station to wait on this cold day. I get some photos of the recently closed ticket office while we wait.


He pulls up 15 minutes late fuming because he got lost in downtown Niles (just south of the Amtrak Station) due to the lack of a sign telling him when to turn to stay on Michigan 51 (also known as 5th Street) to reach the train station. We take him out to dinner which makes him feel better.

We get home at a reasonable hour by 8:00pm. Staying on Eastern Time definitely works! We both wake up the next morning feeling well rested and not at all jet lagged with long productive days working and none of the usual post-trip (especially from the West Coast) fatigue.