Black Hawk (Amtrak train)

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Black Hawk (previous route)
Black Hawk at Dubuque, 1981.jpg
The Black Hawk at Dubuque in 1981
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Discontinued
Locale Illinois, Iowa
Predecessor Land O'Corn
First service February 14, 1974
Last service September 30, 1981
Former operator(s) Amtrak
Start Chicago, Illinois
Stops 6
End Dubuque, Iowa
Distance travelled 182 miles (293 km)
Average journey time 4 hours 10 minutes
Service frequency Daily
Train number(s) 370-372
On-board services
Class(es) Unreserved coach
Catering facilities On-board cafe
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner(s) Chicago Central (CN)

The Black Hawk is a planned Amtrak intercity rail route which will ultimately run from Chicago, Illinois, to Dubuque, Iowa via Rockford, Illinois. Service from Chicago to Rockford was expected to begin in 2015, but the start of the service was put on hold by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Service to Dubuque was to open at a later date. Once train service begins, the new service will operate under the Illinois Service umbrella.

Amtrak previously operated the Black Hawk from 1974 to 1981 Illinois Central route, now the Canadian National's Chicago Central/Iowa Zone. From 2010 to 2014 plans called for the restored route to follow the same corridor; however, the state government could not come to an agreement with the railroad. Instead, the route will follow Metra trackage from Union Station to Big Timber Road, then the Union Pacific Railroad to Rockford.


Previous operation[edit]

See also: Land O'Corn
The Black Hawk, made up of Budd Rail Diesel Cars, at Rockford in July 1975

Prior to Amtrak, the Illinois Central Railroad operated the Land O'Corn between Chicago and Waterloo, Iowa, discontinuing it in 1967. The first Black Hawk began running on February 14, 1974, using Budd Company rail diesel cars (RDCs). Conventional diesel locomotives and coaches replaced the RDCs after February 2, 1976. Equipment varied, including ex-Chicago & North Western gallery cars, dome cars, boat-tailed observation cars, full diners, lunch counter diners and ex-ATSF Hi-Level Coaches. Further, power for the Black Hawk also varied on a regular basis with GE P30CHs, EMD SDP40Fs, EMD F40PHs and the occasional Illinois Central Gulf "Geep" filling in for ailing power (an ICG EMD GP10 towed the last RDC consist into Chicago in 1976). Amfleet coaches arrived in November 1976. Service ended on September 30, 1981, after Illinois reduced its appropriations for passenger service.[1]:248; 251

Several Rockford based groups sponsored special charter trips to Chicago events such as Bears, Cubs and Sox games as well as performances of "The Ice Capades" on the Black Hawk. On these trips, the consists could swell to as many as seven to 10 cars. During the RDC days, the usual consist consisted of three RDCs. During the mid-to-late 1970s the consist usually included 3 cars, including a food service car of one type or another. During a good part of the summer of 1977, the Black Hawk ran with a full dining car and dome coaches.

The route used the former Illinois Central Railroad route (then part of the Illinois Central Gulf) between Chicago's Union Station and Bridgeport and the Freeport Subdivision west of Bridgeport.[2]:44


Black Hawk (new route)
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Proposed
Locale Illinois, Iowa
Predecessor Black Hawk
First service 2015 (planned)
Current operator(s) Amtrak
Start Chicago, Illinois
Stops 7
End Rockford, Illinois (2015)
Dubuque, Iowa (later)
Service frequency Once daily (2015)
Twice daily (2016)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Operating speed 59 miles per hour (95 km/h) (2015)
79 miles per hour (127 km/h) (2016)
Track owner(s) METX, UP, CN (later)

In 2007 Amtrak, at the state of Illinois' request, conducted a feasibility study to reinstate the Black Hawk route to Rockford and Dubuque. Initial capital costs ranged from $32 million to $55 million, depending on the route. Once in operation, the service would require roughly $5 million a year in subsidies from the state.[3] On December 10, 2010, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced the route choice for the resumption of service to begin in 2014 going over mostly Chicago Central railway owned by Canadian National.[4]This line will be the only Amtrak Illinois Service route that will not be on track used by Metra. IDOT confirmed the return of the "Black Hawk" name in 2012.[5] The equipment to be used on the route will be built by Nippon Sharyo at a new plant in Rochelle, Illinois, which is located just 24 miles south of a portion of the proposed route.[6]

New proposal[edit]

On April 10, 2014, a new plan for Amtrak service that would terminate in Rockford was released due to the inability for IDOT to negotiate a deal with the Canadian National Railway, who owns the tracks the old proposal was going to use. IDOT will continue to work with the CN to eventually get the route extended to its planned terminus of Dubuque, IA. The new proposal is going to use a route through downtown Elgin, Huntley, and Belvidere before terminating in Rockford.[7]

Plans on hold[edit]

On February 9, 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced that the plans for the route would be put on hold until further notice, as the state did not have sufficient funds to continue the project. $3 million had been spent out of the $223 million plan. Huntley, IL had spent over $50,000 to build a station platform.[8]


  1. ^ Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34705-X. 
  2. ^ Solomon, Brian (2004). Amtrak. Saint Paul, MN: MBI. ISBN 0-760-31765-8. OCLC 56490949. 
  3. ^ "Amtrak-Illinois DOT Feasibility Study Determines Most Direct Route Best for Service to Rockford, Northwestern Illinois and Dubuque, Iowa". National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Press release). Amtrak. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Weskerna, Nicole (11 December 2010). "Amtrak will roll through Genoa". Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  5. ^ Sweeny, Chuck (18 May 2012). "Amtrak route for area on target for late 2014, early 2015". Rockford Register-Star. Rockford, Illinois: GateHouse Media. Retrieved 24 Jun 2012. [permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Leaf, Brian. "Rochelle's Nippon Sharyo train car plant lands $352 mil contract". Rockford Register-Star. Rockford, Illinois: GateHouse Media. Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 29 Nov 2012. 
  7. ^ "$223 Million Announced to Restore Chicago to Rockford Amtrak Service". WIFR. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  8. ^ "Plan for Amtrak service from Chicago to Rockford on hold". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 

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