While most people would be pissed off at the prospect of a 6 hour Amtrak delay I was in fact excited because instead of being bustituted we were going to be detoured over an alternate route, and a freight-only, rare-mileage route at that! I was catching the Cardinal out of Chicago later that evening and since I was going to spend the day railfaning anyway I might as well railfan on Amtrak from the comfort of my sleeping car accommodation.
Our detour route was to go between CP-482 in Porter, IN and CP-502 in Gary, IN. This would take us over what is now the CSX Porter Branch. The porter branch was the former Michigan Central main line into Chicago, but with the NYC takeover of the MC fell into a secondary freight access role. It was given to CSX in the Conrail breakup and hooks into the IHB in Calumet, IL.
Now, the real bottleneck for this detour was getting a CSX pilot to come out and help navigate our train over this "foreign territory". Amtrak knew this was going to take a lot of time and as we weren't the only train out there, we combined with Train 29, The Capitol Limited, at CP-435 near Elkhardt, IN. The 50 some miles went rather slowly as we were now about 24 cars long and had to make 4 stops at South Bend. At Porter things got even more interesting with Michigan service trains 635 and 651 being attached to the end of our our already long behemoth train.
There became a problem with the dispatchers not knowing what to call our train. One referred to it as the Amtrak Train 49, 29, 635, 651 combo, but this was soon shortened to just the Train 49 combo special.
After waiting at CP-423 on the Porter Branch for everything to get settled and for some freights to clear, we finally got our super-long passenger extra under way. I originally thought we were just going to go down to the CSX main crossing at Willow Creek and make a reverse move onto CSX and follow that on the old Three River's route to the Chicago Line connection at CP-501. Instead we continued all the way to the EJE crossing at IVANHOE where we switched over into IHB territory.
From there we passed CALUMET Tower and CP-100 before rejoining the Chicago Line at CP-502 which is next to HICK tower. We continued to the Hammond Station where trains 651 and 635 were cut off and the pilot transferred to two combined eastbound Michigan trains. We stayed combined with train 29 through the quad draws at CP-509 and all the way into the terminal. The reason Train 29 was coupled to us and not the other way round was that Train 29's crew went dead on hours at 21ST ST interlocking, just short of the station.
You can see all the pics from my little detour at:
We started out at CP-435 with Train 29 hooking onto us. The engineer was not used to yard work and rammed us pretty hard on the couple attempt.
Next our super-train paused by the MC bracket signals at CP-482 in porter, IN for the MI service trains to hook on.
The crew of this IHB train could not believe their eyes when we crawled through. One remarked on the radio that we looked like a freight train.