Route Recommendation: I would like to recommend this route of the Amtrak Pere Marquette for TS 18. The route begins and ends in Grand Rapids, Mi and Chicago, IL. The train usually consists of the new Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotive on one end, and a Amtrak F40PH NPCU or "Cabbage" car on the other to get rid of the logistics of turning around. The train normally uses 3 Superliner Coach cars while sometimes uses upwards of 5 Superliner Coach cars. One of the Superliners also act as a mini cafe car. Sometimes, the Pere Marquette will use 4-5 Amfleet cars with one of them being a cafe car. Schedule: The Pere Marquette runs one round trip daily between Chicago and Grand Rapids, leaving Grand Rapids at 6 am as train 371 and stops at Holland, MI at 6:49 am, then Bangor, MI at 7:32 am, St. Joseph/Benton Harbor at 8:10 am. The train then runs all the way to Chicago to arrive at 9:08 am. One the return trip, the Pere Marquette leaves Chicago at 6:30 pm as train 370. It then stops at the same locations at 9:14 pm, 9:50 pm, 10:33 pm, and arrives at Grand Rapids at 11:34 pm. The schedules does look deceiving making it look like the evening train is a snail compared to the morning one, but you have to factor in the 1 hour time change. Really, if you were to do "Eastern Standard Time" the whole time, it would arrive and depart Chicago at 10:08 am, and 7:30 pm, making both trips about 4 hours in length. Total route mileage is 176 miles. Route Overview: If you were to take the Pere Marquette from Grand Rapids to Chicago, the scenery would look like this. After departing Grand Rapids, the train pulls out of the station in an unusual way. The Grand Rapids station is actually a terminal, and how it is set up, the engine on the front, near the end of the platform making it look like the head end, is actually the back. The engine that is facing the station itself is actually the head end because the train "backs" in and "backs" out of the station. When arriving into Grand Rapids, the train comes around the curve, and then the back of the train leads the rest of the train into the terminal. Once the train leaves the station and continues on it's way to Chicago, the train starts to leave the city of Grand Rapids and goes into a more industrial part of town. While going through the industry, the train slows down and goes through the CSX Wyoming, MI train yard. After traversing the yard, the train then goes right through the middle of Grandville, MI, and Jenison, MI. After passing the city Jenison, the train then speeds up to 65 mph along farm fields and Michigan State Road 121 (M-121) also known as Chicago Dr. After paralleling Chicago Dr. for some time, the train then slows for Hudsonville, MI, then speed back up to 65 mph after passing through Hudsonville still paralleling Chicago Dr. Once nearing Holland, the train slows to pass through Zeeland, MI and splits away from Chicago Dr., and also passes through the CSX Waverly yard, just outside of the Holland Amtrak station. After stopping in Holland, the train then goes through downtown Holland and over multiple grade crossings. The train then speeds up and pass the Holland Airport, before entering the forest and slowing down for a winding stretch of track and going over the Sugatuck Hill before crossing the Kalamazoo River, then coming out of Sugatuck Hill. The grade at Sugatuck Hill averages around 2%. The train then passes Fennville, MI after exiting Sugatuck Hill and enters into a scene of farm lands and sporadic woodlands on a fairly straight piece of track. The train then goes into some curves before stopping at Bangor, MI. After Bangor, the route again passes farmlands and the occasional forest before making a turn West to head towards the lake shore near Hartford, MI. The train then goes over the St. Joseph River via a swing bridge. After that, the train stops at St. Joseph/Benton Harbor. Leaving the station, the train runs right along the lake shore for a little while before "S-ing" back inland a little bit and heading along parallel to Interstate 94. The train then crosses under the highway before crossing over the Wolverine and Blue Water tracks outside of New Buffalo, MI. (The train used to stop at New Buffalo, but the station was moved to a different part of town). After passing through New Buffalo, the train continues South to the Michigan-Indiana border. Shortly after entering Indiana, the train then curves through downtown Michigan City, IN. Shortly after Michigan City, the train enters more industry near Porter and Gary Indiana where the train hooks up with the Norfolk Southern mainline near Porter Indiana, and travels the rest of the distance on NS tracks. The train passes through small yards and industry while travelling near the lake shore and turning back North to Chicago. The train then enters Illinois and passes more yards and then South Chicago and glimpses of the Chicago skyline start to appear. The train passes more suburbs on elevated track before entering the Chicago Amtrak Coach yard, and then Chicago Union Station itself. And that is an overview of the route. Freight: In Grand Rapids, Grandville, and Holland, there are many opportunities for a local freight service. From lumber to yard to yard freight movements, there is lots to do. Another thing that can be added is a small spur line that goes from Holland to a coal fired power plant in Port Sheldon, MI. This is a very big power plant as it provides power for much of West Michigan. The plant receives many coal trains per week that take the same route as the Pere Marquette before spurring off to the power plant just East of Holland. The coal train are sometimes, especially in the summer 100+ cars long. Many times the trains do use BNSF power since the coal train are coming from the state of Wyoming and the coal fields there. And since the trains are so long, in one of the very few applications of this in the State of Michigan, the train when passes over the Sugatuck Hill many times needs to use helper locomotives to keep the sometimes 130 car coal train from not stalling on the hill. Once exiting the hill, the helper are detached and the trains continue on to the power plant. The spur extension would be about 15 miles of small towns, farm fields and forested areas. The track for about 6-7 miles does parallel U.S. Highway 31 with some grade crossings. The trains when coming from the Wyoming coal fields, pass through in Chicago via the CSX 71st St Yard in Bedford Park IL. The trains then exit the yard and head East towards Interstate 94, then curving its way to parallel U.S. Highway 20. before connecting up with the route the Pere Marquette takes near Interstate 90, or near Calumet Park near the lake shore. Conclusion: In my opinion, this route doesn't see the most rail traffic in the world, but it does have some major trains that traverse weekly and daily. Large freight and coal trains from Chicago heading towards Grand Rapids and vice versa, along with Amtrak's Pere Marquette train. One cool part would be I believe this would be the first route on TS 18 that has a time change, occurring near Michigan City, IN. This would be a interesting route to drive on, and in the Fall/Autumn and Winter seasons, this route is just breath taking. Also, this route is the perfect excuse to introduce the Siemens SC-44 Charger and the introduction of the Amtrak NPCU/Cabbage cars to the game. Overall, I think this route would be a wonderful touch to the TS 18 brand.