The Valpo Local was a 43.6-mile (70.2 km) passenger train route operated by Amtrak between Chicago and Valparaiso, Indiana. Despite Amtrak's mandate to provide only intercity service, the Calumet was a commuter train. Transferred from Conrail in 1979, the full route was shared with Amtrak's Broadway Limited until 1990; the Calumet was discontinued the next year.
The service first ran August 30, 1869, called the Chicago-Valparaiso Accommodation, though usually colloquially referred to as the "Valpo Local" or "The Dummy", by the Pennsylvania Railroad on its Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway, its main line from Pittsburgh west to Chicago. From April 1, 1871 until January 1, 1920, the Pennsylvania Company operated the line. After that it returned to direct operation by the Pennsylvania Railroad until February 1, 1968, when the PRR was merged into Penn Central Transportation. With the May 1, 1971 startup of Amtrak, all Penn Central intercity trains were taken over by Amtrak, but Penn Central continued to run commuter trains in several metropolitan areas, including the Valpo Local. The formation of the Regional Transportation Authority in Illinois in 1973 did not help, as the service ran into Indiana.
A May 7, 1973 survey of customers revealed that 37% would not take the train if the fare was doubled. 28% would continue to pay, and 34% were undecided. The bankrupt Penn Central merged into Conrail on April 1, 1976, which continued operations until 1979, at which point Amtrak took over. The route was also served by the daily Broadway Limited to New York City, and on October 1, 1981 the daily Capitol Limited to Washington, DC began using it. At first the Valpo Local was served by two daily trains, the Calumet and the Indiana Connection; the Indiana Connection was discontinued first.
Due to Conrail's desire to abandon part of the former PRR main line, the Broadway Limited and Capitol Limited were rerouted respectively onto the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and New York Central Railroad lines on November 11, 1990, leaving about half of the Calumet route with no other service. Amtrak announced that it would discontinue the Calumet on December 31. Representative Peter J. Visclosky introduced H.R. 5660 to require Amtrak to continue operations until July 1, 1991, to allow time for the State of Indiana to consider subsidizing the route. The date was changed to May 6 and the mandate was included in S. 3012, an amendment to the Independent Safety Board Act of 1974, signed into law November 28, 1990, by George H. W. Bush as Public Law No. 101-641. Indiana decided not to pay the required $1.5 million a year, and the weekday-only Calumet last ran Friday, May 3, 1991.
Commuter service from Chicago into northern Indiana is still provided by the South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District over its own alignment, whose closest stop is 15 miles from Valparaiso, closer to Lake Michigan. On August 1, 2004, the Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern Railroad started freight operations over the old route of the Calumet and beyond.
The Calumet and Indiana Connection were assigned numbers between 321 and 324, with odd numbers running westbound and even numbers eastbound. Trains made the following station stops (some of which closed prior to Amtrak's takeover of the route):
- Baer, Christopher T.. PRR Chronology - 1869 (PDF).
- Corporate Genealogy - Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago. Interstate Commerce Commission.
- Baer, Christopher T.. PRR Chronology - 1973 (PDF).
- Chicago Commuter Equipment from the Recent Past.
- Schafer, Mike (June 1991). "Amtrak's atlas". Trains.
- Visclosky, Peter J. (September 18, 1990). Keep Commuter Rail on Track.
- To temporarily prevent the discontinuance by Amtrak of commuter rail service between Valparaiso, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved on 2008-01-01.
- S.3012. Retrieved on 2008-01-01.
- "$1.5 million annually needed to keep Valpo-Chicago Amtrak", November 22, 1990.
- (July 1991) "Arrivals and Departures". Trains.
- March 3, 1971 and April 30, 1972 timetables.