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Cardinal (passenger train)

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Title: Cardinal (passenger train)  
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Subject: Amtrak, Indianapolis, Connersville, Indiana, Rensselaer, Indiana, Dyer, Indiana, Crawfordsville, Indiana, Northeast Regional, Dearborn Station, Wilmington Station, Kentucky Cardinal
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Cardinal (passenger train)

Eastbound Cardinal stopped in Prince, WV
Service type Inter-city rail
Locale Midwestern United States
Southeastern United States
Mid-Atlantic states
Predecessor James Whitcomb Riley
First service October 30, 1977
Current operator(s) Amtrak
Ridership 116,373 total (FY12)[1]
Start Chicago, Illinois
End New York City
Distance travelled 1,146 miles (1,844 km)
Average journey time 26.5 hours
Service frequency Thrice-weekly
Train number(s) 50/51
On-board services

  • First class sleeper
  • Reserved coach
Seating arrangements Airline-style
Sleeping arrangements Roomettes and bedrooms
Catering facilities Diner/lounge
Baggage facilities Checked baggage available at
selected stations
Track gauge
Track owner(s) Amtrak, CSX, BB, NS, CN, UP, and Metra

The Cardinal is a passenger train route operated by Amtrak three times per week. It departs New York Penn Station on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to connect with Chicago Union Station via Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wilmington, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Charlottesville, Virginia, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Trains leaving Chicago Union Station depart on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The length of the route is 26½ hours, and operated over 1,146 miles (1,844 km).[2] The Hoosier State provides service the other four days on the 196 miles (315 km) section from Chicago to Indianapolis.[3]

During fiscal year 2012, the Cardinal carried 116,373 passengers,[1] up 4.9% from the same period in 2011 when the route had a ridership of 110,923. The 2011 ridership was a 3.6% increase over the same period in 2010,[4] when the line carried 107,842 passengers.

The Cardinal had total revenue of $7,536,903 in fiscal year 2012,[1] an increase of 6.2% from the same period in 2011 when the route brought in $7,097,809.[4] The 2011 figure was a 11.3% increase from 2010.


The Cardinal is the successor of several previous trains, primarily the New York Central (later Penn Central) James Whitcomb Riley and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) George Washington. The James Whitcomb Riley was a daytime all-coach train which operated between Chicago and Cincinnati (via Indianapolis), while the George Washington was a C&O sleeper which ran east from Cincinnati to Washington, DC and Newport News, Virginia. Up until the late 1950s the Riley would carry the Washington's sleeper cars between Cincinnati and Chicago.[5] Both routes survived until the formation of Amtrak in 1971.[6]:51; 93

Amtrak kept service mostly identical at first.[7] Through Washington-Chicago and Newport News-Chicago coaches began operating July 12, and a through sleeping car began September 8.[8] Throughout the 1970s Amtrak would drop the George Washington name and re-route the train off the rapidly deteriorating Penn Central track in Indiana.[8] The Newport News section ended in 1976, replaced by the New York—Newport News Colonial.[9]

The James Whitcomb Riley was renamed the Cardinal on October 30, 1977, as the Cardinal was the state bird of all six states through which it ran. However, due to poor track conditions in Indiana, the train was rerouted numerous times, first over various Penn Central/Conrail routings, then ultimately over the former Baltimore and Ohio route via Cottage Grove by 1980.[10]

The Cardinal was eventually extended from Washington, D.C. to New York City, but was discontinued on September 30, 1981. A congressional mandate resurrected the train on January 8, 1982, and followed another new route, via Richmond, Indiana and Muncie, Indiana. This arrangement lasted until April 27, 1986, when the train was finally moved to its current route via Indianapolis.[10]

Hoosier State

Main articles: Hoosier State (train) and Kentucky Cardinal (Amtrak)

With the Indianapolis routing, the Cardinal began operating jointly with the Chicago—Indianapolis Hoosier State. The Hoosier State operated to Indianapolis on the days the Cardinal does not. This pattern ceased on October 25, 1987, then resumed again on July 19, 1998. On December 17, 1999 Amtrak extended the Hoosier State to Jeffersonville, Indiana (and later to Louisville, Kentucky) and renamed the train the Kentucky Cardinal. This new train was a daily service; on days when the Cardinal operated, the two trains ran combined between Indianapolis and Chicago. Amtrak ultimately discontinued the Kentucky Cardinal on July 4, 2003.


In the July 2010 issue of Trains magazine, the Cardinal was noted as being one of five routes under consideration for performance improvement.[11] For the Cardinal, the proposed changes include:

  • Daily operation from tri-weekly
  • Conversion back to Superliner equipment
  • Changing the western terminus to St. Louis, Missouri

In addition, Railfan and Railroad magazine suggested that the train be rerouted to St. Louis as well, with a separate section bound for Chicago.

In early October 2010, Amtrak released a report detailing plans to increase the Cardinal's service from three trains a week to daily service, as well as increasing the train's on-time performance and food service.[12] The January 2011 issue of Trains later revealed that that Amtrak would scrap re-routing and Superliner conversion and instead adopt not only daily service, but also purchasing dome cars to be used along the Chicago-Washington, D.C. portion of the trip. In addition, the routing into Chicago Union Station would be changed and station platforms along the route containing coal dust would be scrubbed and cleaned.[13]

However, obstacles to a daily Cardinal persist. Track capacity is limited on the Buckingham Branch where the Cardinal operates, preventing frequent freight trains from passing a daily Cardinal. This problem applies to the future Greenbrier Presidential Express train, which would also traverse the Buckingham Branch on a weekly basis. The Buckingham Branch requires additional funding to expand several sidings before allowing additional service.[14]

Train consist

In the early 1990s, the Cardinal ran with the usual Amtrak long-distance consist of two F40s/E60 plus several MHC and material handling baggage cars, followed by several Amfleet coaches, an Amfleet lounge, a Heritage diner, two or three Heritage 10-6 sleepers, a slumbercoach, and finally, a baggage dormitory car. Following the delivery of the Superliner II fleet, however, the Cardinal was re-equipped with Superliner cars in 1995.[15] As a result, its route was truncated to end in Washington D.C. as the Superliner equipment could not run into Penn Station, New York, due to low clearances there. With the Superliner equipment, the consist would usually be two Superliner sleeping cars, a diner, a Sightseer Lounge, a baggage coach, and a coach.

In 2002, two derailments on other routes took numerous Superliner cars out of service. Because of this, insufficient Superliner equipment was available for use on the Cardinal. The Cardinal was re-equipped with a consist of single-level long-distance cars, including dining, lounge, sleeping, and dormitory cars. Subsequent fleet shortages shortened the Cardinal further, and at one point, the train was running with two or three Amfleet II coaches and a combined diner-lounge car. While the sleeping car was later restored, the Cardinal has not had a dormitory car or a diner since. Similarly, though the baggage car was also removed, it was restored in response to an upturn in patronage in mid-2010. The Cardinal currently runs with a single General Electric P40DC or P42DC engine, a Heritage fleet baggage car, a single Viewliner sleeping car, three (sometimes four during peak travel periods) Amfleet II long-distance coaches, and a single diner-lounge car.

During May 2013, the Cardinal was advertised online by for fall scenery viewings using the only remaining full-length dome car in Amtrak service, car number 10031. (Citation:

Route details

The Cardinal operates over Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, Buckingham Branch Railroad, Canadian National Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, and Metra trackage:

  • Amtrak Northeast Corridor, New York to Washington
  • CSX RF&P Subdivision, Washington to Alexandria
  • NS Washington District, Alexandria to Orange
  • BB Orange Subdivision and North Mountain Subdivision, Orange to Clifton Forge
  • CSX Alleghany Subdivision, New River Subdivision, Kanawha Subdivision, Russell Subdivision, Northern Subdivision, Cincinnati Subdivision, Cincinnati Terminal Subdivision, Indianapolis Subdivision, Indianapolis Terminal Subdivision, Crawfordsville Branch Subdivision, Lafayette Subdivision, and Monon Subdivision, Clifton Forge to Munster
  • CN Elsdon Subdivision, Munster to Thornton
  • UP Villa Grove Subdivision, Thornton to 81st Street
  • Metra SouthWest Service, 81st Street to Chicago

Station stops

State/Province Town/City Station Connections
Illinois Chicago Chicago Union Station Amtrak: Blue Water, Capitol Limited, Carl Sandburg, California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service, Hoosier State, Illini, Illinois Zephyr, Lake Shore Limited, Lincoln Service, Pere Marquette, Saluki, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Wolverine, Thruway Motorcoach
CTA Buses: 1, 7, 14, 19, 20, X20, X28, 56, 60, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 130, 151, 156, 157, 192
CTA Subway Stops: Clinton Blue Line, Quincy Brown, Orange, Pink, and Purple Lines
Megabus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7
Metra: North Central Service, Milwaukee District/North Line, Milwaukee District/West Line, BNSF Railway Line, Heritage Corridor, SouthWest Service
Indiana Dyer Dyer Amtrak Station None
Rensselaer Rensselaer Amtrak station None
Lafayette Lafayette Amtrak Station Greyhound Lines
CityBus: 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 4A, 4B, 5, 6A, 6B, 7
Crawfordsville Crawfordsville Station None
Indianapolis Indianapolis station Amtrak: Thruway Motorcoach (Burlington Trailways)
IndyGo: Route 16
Connersville Connersville station None
Ohio Cincinnati Cincinnati Union Terminal None
Kentucky Maysville Maysville station Maysville Transit
South Shore South Portsmouth-South Shore None
Ashland Ashland Transportation Center Greyhound Lines
ABS: All routes
West Virginia Huntington Huntington Amtrak station Tri-State Transit Authority: 2, 4, 5, 6, 10
Charleston Charleston Amtrak station KRT: Route 18
Montgomery Montgomery station None
Thurmond Thurmond station
Prince Prince depot
Hinton Hinton Amtrak Station
Alderson Alderson station
White Sulphur Springs White Sulphur Springs station
Virginia Clifton Forge Clifton Forge station
Staunton Staunton Amtrak station Staunton Free Trolley: Green Route
CATS: 250 Connector (at Staunton Visitor Center)
Charlottesville Charlottesville Union Station Amtrak: Crescent, Northeast Regional, Thruway Motorcoach to Richmond, Washington D.C.
Greyhound Lines
CAT: T, 7
Culpeper Culpeper Amtrak: Crescent, Northeast Regional
Manassas Manassas Amtrak: Crescent, Northeast Regional
VRE: Manassas Line
PRTC: Manassas Metro Direct, OmniLink Manassas
Alexandria Alexandria Union Station Amtrak: Crescent, Northeast Regional, Silver Meteor, Silver Star
VRE: Fredericksburg Line, Manassas Line
Metro: Blue Line, Yellow Line
Metrobus: REX, 28A, 28B, 29K, 29N
DASH: AT2, AT5, AT6, AT7, AT8, AT10
District of Columbia Washington Washington Union Station Amtrak: Acela Express, Capitol Limited, Carolinian, Crescent, Palmetto, Northeast Regional, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Vermonter, Thruway Motorcoach to Charlottesville, Virginia
MARC Train: Brunswick Line, Camden Line, Penn Line
VRE: Manassas Line, Fredericksburg Line
Metro: Red Line
Metrobus: D3, D6, D8, X1, X2, X8, X9, 80, 96, 97
DC Circulator: Georgetown, Navy Yard
MTA Maryland: 903, 922
Loudoun County Transit: Loudoun County
PRTC: Dale City

Electrification starts and ends and diesel train service starts and ends here: Trains going to Chicago must switch from an AEM-7 or HHP-8 electric locomotive to a GE Genesis diesel locomotive. Trains going to New York must switch from a GE Genesis diesel locomotive to a AEM-7 or HHP-8 electric locomotive due to diesels not being allowed in the Baltimore train tunnels, the North River Tunnels into NYC from New Jersey, and 30th Street Station.

Maryland Baltimore Baltimore Penn Station Amtrak: Acela Express, Carolinian, Crescent, Palmetto, Northeast Regional, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Vermonter
MARC Train: Penn Line
MTA Maryland: Light Rail, 3, 11, 61, 64
Delaware Wilmington Wilmington Station Amtrak: Acela Express, Carolinian, Crescent, Palmetto, Northeast Regional, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Vermonter
DART First State: 2, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 28, 32, 301
SEPTA Regional Rail: Wilmington/Newark Line
Pennsylvania Philadelphia 30th Street Station Amtrak: Acela Express, Carolinian, Crescent, Keystone Service, Northeast Regional, Palmetto, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Vermonter
NJ Transit: Atlantic City Line
SEPTA City Transit Division: Market-Frankford Line, SEPTA Subway-Surface Trolley Lines (Route 10, Route 11, Route 13, Route 34, Route 36), 9, 30, 31, 44, 62, 121, 316
SEPTA Suburban Transit Division: 124, 125
SEPTA Regional Rail: Airport Line, Warminster Line, Wilmington/Newark Line, West Trenton Line, Media/Elwyn Line, Lansdale/Doylestown Line, Paoli/Thorndale Line, Manayunk/Norristown Line, Cynwyd Line, Trenton Line, Chestnut Hill East Line, Chestnut Hill West Line, Fox Chase Line
New Jersey Trenton Trenton Rail Station Amtrak: Acela Express, Carolinian, Crescent, Keystone Service, Northeast Regional, Pennsylvanian, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Vermonter
NJ Transit: Northeast Corridor Line, River Line, 409, 418, 600, 601, 604, 606, 608, 609, 611, 619
SEPTA Regional Rail: Trenton Line
SEPTA Suburban Transit Division: Route 127
Newark Newark Penn Station Amtrak: Acela Express, Carolinian, Crescent, Keystone Service, Northeast Regional, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Vermonter
NJ Transit: Newark City Subway, Newark Light Rail, North Jersey Coast Line, Northeast Corridor Line, Raritan Valley Line, 1, 5, 21, 34, 40, 62, 67, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 76, 78, 79, 108, 308, 319
Coach USA: 31, 44
New York New York City Penn Station Amtrak: Acela Express, Adirondack, Carolinian, Crescent, Ethan Allen Express, Keystone Service, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Northeast Regional, Palmetto, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Vermonter
LIRR: Main Line
NJ Transit: North Jersey Coast Line, Northeast Corridor Line, Gladstone Branch, Montclair-Boonton Line, Morristown Line
NYC Subway: 1 2 3 A C E trains
NYC Transit buses: M4, M7, M20, M34 / M34A Select Bus Service, Q32


Further reading

  • Mike Schafer, Amtrak's atlas, Trains June 1991

External links

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