NARP: The Cardinal Should Run Daily.
Amtrak’s train, the Cardinal, gets my vote for the most scenic of all the eastern trains. It takes a meandering southern route between Chicago and New York City, passing through Indianapolis; Cincinnati; White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia (home of the venerable Greenbrier resort); Charlottesville, Virginia (location of Monticello, Jefferson’s home); then up the East Coast from Washington to New York City by way of Baltimore and Philadelphia.
En route, the Cardinal passes through the New River Gorge, crosses the Shenandoah Valley and climbs over the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a great ride and I’d guess I’ve taken it seven or eight times over the past couple of decades.
But not as often as I’d like. The problem is the Cardinal’s schedule because the train only runs three days a week. That means when I’m booking a rail trip, there’s almost a 60-percent chance that I won’t be able to plug the Cardinal into my itinerary. That’s discouraging, because the alternative is to spend one or possibly two extra nights in a hotel in Chicago or New York (ka-ching, ka-ching).
Over the past several weeks, NARP—that’s the National Association of Railroad Passengers—has begun to actively promote the idea of the Cardinal becoming a daily train.
NARP is also pressing Amtrak to make the Cardinal bigger as well as better. There is usually just one Viewliner sleeping car in the Cardinal’s consist (at the rear of the above photo) and of the fourteen roomettes, at least four are occupied by on board crew members—car attendants and the diner/lounge crew. That, of course, reduces the potential revenue by almost a third. NARP, therefore, is urging that a least one more sleeping car be added.
Three 30-second public service radio spots have been produced and sent to more than 125 radio stations along most of the Cardinal’s route. Each spot says that a three-days-a-week Cardinal is simply not sufficient service for all the people across all those states for whom that train is the main source of public transportation. You can hear the spots by going here on the NARP web site and scrolling to the bottom of the page.
If you’re going from Indianapolis to Chicago, you’d better pick the four days the “Cardinal”‘ doesn’t run and take the “Hoosier State”. Real dining car, dome, great coaches etc. It’s too slow, but until someone opens the purse strings, to upgrade the track, that’s all we have.
The NARP Fall meetings were in Indianapolis last October, but unfortunately my timing was wrong on both days.