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Segment 5: Chicago, IL To Washington, D.C. On Amtrak's Cardinal
Fall Amtrak Vacation Trip 2004:
Chicago, IL To Washington, D.C.
On Amtrak's Cardinal
Tuesday-Wednesday, September 28th-29th, 2004

Cooling off at Huntington, West Virginia is Amtrak's Train #50 - The Cardinal with
P42DC #94 on the lead of a very short 5 car consist on September 29th, 2004
   As I waited inside Union Station, there were several passengers waiting to board Train #48 – The Lake Shore Limited which arrived into Chicago that day around 5pm putting it about 8 hours late, the word I heard was that there were engine problems that caused the delay. At around 7:20pm, after letting Senior Citizens, Families with small children, as well as the disabled passengers board the train, us “regular folks” boarded. An announcement was made stating that any baggage left unattended on the platform would either be “confiscated by a member of the Amtrak Police or by a thief, whichever comes first!!!” The whole waiting room started laughing.
   I boarded Amfleet II Coach #25105 which was an unrefurbished coach with no AC outlets at the seats, the second coach in the train also had no AC outlets, the third coach was refurbished but locked! This, along with the fact that we had an Amfleet II Café Car with a Smoker Lounge, would prove to make this trip ever more interesting, tonight’s train consist is shown at the bottom of this page.
   It was about 7:30pm when we were for the most part already boarded and ready to go, however we would end up sitting there, and sitting there some more, and some more yet! It turns out that our crew wasn’t rested until 8:04pm thus we didn’t actually leave Chicago until 8:11pm, right off the bat, we’re 41 minutes late, and the beginning of this trip would have us winding through a path of some 5 railroads operating at speeds between 10 and 20mph on the way to Dyer, IN, our next stop. An announcement was made that there was no smoking on the train for any reason as this was a new policy with Amtrak making most all of the long-distance trains Non-Smoking. Smoking stops would be granted at Indianapolis, as well as Cincinnati. I decided that I would stay awake to Indianapolis as I was rather tired from the day of riding to Chicago as well as sightseeing. A passenger whom I had rode with earlier today on the California Zephyr came up to me on the train after we left Chicago but this time he had been drinking rather heavily and was actually becoming a bit of a nuisance. While I was trying to work on this travelogue, he came into the café car and really wouldn’t leave me alone, I came very close to reporting him to the crew but being a calm, rational traveler, I figured that eventually he would just “go away”, so I left him alone.
   We left Dyer, IN at 9:40pm, 58 minutes late, we made stops in Rensselaer, IN, as well as Lafayette, and Crawfordsville, IN, by the time we arrived in Indianapolis, IN, we were running 54 minutes late as we arrived there at 1:12am. The two private cars on the end of the train were removed at the station and were to be left there for a week, not sure why though. The drunk passenger had been being belligerent and this caught the attention of the train crew. He narrowly missed being put off the train in Indianapolis but eventually cooled down and was able to continue on with the trip.
   As I said before, we had an Amfleet II Smoker Lounge on this train, I found out that this car was not supposed to be on this train to begin with and I would find out that this would cause a big problem the following day. Shortly after leaving Indianapolis, with the second of the five crews used on this train, I settled back into my coach seat and fell asleep, so ends one very interesting and exciting day on this trip. 
   I woke up around 6:45am to find us coming into Maysville, KY, meaning I had slept through stops at Connersville, IN, Hamilton, OH, and Cincinnati, OH. Someday, I’ll have to make the drive to Cincinnati Union Terminal in daylight to see the place as it was designed by the same designer who put together the Buffalo Central Terminal, it’s also an architectural marvel and on the National Register Of Historic Places! We left Maysville, KY at 7:13am, running 1 hour and 2 minutes late. I tried to go have breakfast in the Café Car as we didn’t have a dining car on this train, and this is where things started to get very interesting on this leg of the trip…
   I first asked if breakfast would be served and was told by the Sleeping Car Attendant that it would be served in the café car but only to First Class passengers and if anything was left over, that coach passengers could buy the same meals, fair enough. I went back a bit later to find out that there were no extra breakfast meals so I ended up having a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Bagel Sandwich and a bottle of Tropicana Orange Juice at my coach seat. Our train would make stops at Portsmouth and Ashland, KY with a crew change point and smoking break to come at our stop in Huntington, WV. We arrived into Huntington at 9:08am, having made up a significant amount of time overnight now running only 25 minutes late. I got off the train to take a quick slide of it as other passengers took a few drags of a cigarette on the platform. We left Huntington at 9:14am, now 31 minutes late with the third of the five crews that operate this train.
   I was told when I came back to the café car that it would once again be shut down for us coach passengers and only be open for lunch and dinner for First Class Passengers only. Now this in itself is not a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that the following two circumstances existed: The two coaches that were open to passengers both were unrefurbished and thus only had maybe 4 AC outlets in the entire car (Of course, I was not seated by one), plus the lounge car only had tables on the one end as it was a Smoker Lounge.
   With our crew that boarded the train in Huntington, the smoking lounge in the café car was now open. I spent some time in there with a member of the train crew as well as a few passengers who all were having a cigarette, we all had some interesting conversations as the train paralleled the New River, this was quite a site to watch. It’s too bad that this train doesn’t have Superliners on it because the views are amazing!!!
   At Charleston, WV, the drunk passenger from the night before would get off the train as this was his final destination. We also made stops in Montgomery, Prince and Hinton and White Sulphur Springs, WV. I went back into the café car between lunch and dinner, started to charge my cell phone and used my laptop until the battery died, since I could only charge one thing at a time (I only have one surge protector), I sat in the café car, had a Diet Pepsi and a couple candy bars, and had a few conversations with a couple passengers. At around 5:00pm, I was asked to leave the café car so it could be set up for dinner, for, you guessed it, First Class passengers! Again I walked the coaches in the train and couldn’t find another outlet so I just sat back and tried to enjoy the rest of the ride to Washington. The train would make stops in Clifton Forge, Staunton and Charlottesville, VA which was the next crew change point, this crew would bring the train to Washington, DC. Just before arriving in Charlottesville, we had to sit and wait for Train #51, the Westbound Cardinal to pass us.
   As we made our way through Culpeper, and Manassas, VA, I was told by a passenger sitting across from me that this train was a lot better when it had better equipment, namely Superliners. This train actually did have Superliners until about 2 years ago when the Auto Train Derailment forced Amtrak to reequip that train with The Cardinal’s Superliners as the Cardinal is a Tri-Weekly Train only. This passenger also told me there was a guided tour on this train as well, as you rode through Virginia, my guess is that may only be a seasonal thing, not sure though. The sun set as we left Manassas, VA with Alexandria, VA being our next stop. By now, many of us had become weary travelers, I for one, wanted to get some fried food in my tummy as the microwaved stuff on Amtrak just wasn’t cutting it! We left Alexandria, then crossed over the Potomac River and came into Washington Union Station at 7:48pm, running only 18 minutes late. Overall, the lateness on this train turned out to not be much of an issue. I do have to throw in my two cents over one thing though:
   I don’t fault the conductors in any way for the equipment used on this train, but I do have a problem with the fact that when Chicago was putting this train together, that they put this smoker café car on the train when we didn’t need it. This basically made coach passengers be more like “second class citizens” because we got stuck out of the café car during every meal time because First Class needed it. So what if we don’t pay $300 to get a room in the Viewliner? We as coach passengers are still entitled to the use of the café car, that car is supposed to be for everyone, this was a bad move on the part of Amtrak. Also, was there any reason that we had to have two unrefurbished coaches for passenger use on this train? I know not all of the coaches are refurbished, but this is ridiculous, this is a serious problem that Amtrak needs to focus on correcting, and very quickly or else a loss in ridership is likely to be the end result and nobody wants that to happen. Let's face it, this is 2004 and people travel with electronic gadgets (cell phones, MP3 Players, laptop computers, GPS, etc.) and these gadgets aren't going away, there should have been more places for passengers to charge their gadgets. Also, I am not riding the train for the purpose of finding a place to plug in my computer, I'm on the train for the purpose of enjoying the train ride, but I feel that it's important that Amtrak understand that today's traveler needs a place to plug in their stuff while traveling and properly equipping the train is the answer. Just my two cents.
   After arriving in Washington, I went inside to Union Station and grabbed a quick dinner at McDonalds, used the bathroom and sat down near gate H24 where my next train, Regional Service #66 would be boarding. I spent the next hour or so writing this travelogue while my computer and cell phone recharged as I was lucky to find an AC outlet near the seat I was at, I also must thank the Amtrak agent in the station who told me where to go to find such an outlet, thanks!
Amtrak's Cardinal - Tuesday, September 28th, 2004 - 32 Axles
Car/Engine Type:
Amfleet II Coach
Amfleet II Coach
Amfleet II Coach
Amfleet II Cafe Car
Cafe Car
Viewliner Sleeper
 American View
Sleeping Car
Private Car (CHI-IND)
Private Car (CHI-IND)
Observation/Deck Car