For Want of One Sleeper
Amtrak’s pressing need for new, better, and more equipment can be experienced first hand when you ride the thrice-weekly Cardinal between Chicago and Washington, as I did on this past Saturday and Sunday.
There is one Viewliner sleeping car on the Cardinal—just one—and Amtrak can only sell eight of the 12 roomettes because four of them are occupied by crew members. As a consequence, and to regain some of the lost revenue, Amtrak charges roughly 30-percent more for a roomette on the Cardinal than it does on its other Chicago-Washington train, the Capitol Limited.
And so, because the Cardinal only operates three days a week, and because fares are high, ridership suffers … and that makes the task of convincing Amtrak that the Cardinal should be a daily train all the more difficult. That’s frustrating because another sleeping car on the Cardinal would add three bedrooms and another eleven roomettes to the inventory. (One goes to the car attendant.)
We arrived in Washington very early Monday morning, about six hours late. The cause? Two separate accidents by two different freight trains just outside of Staunton, Virginia. Each involved a civilian fatality and, of course, that meant a detailed investigation by the authorities.
Little Known Fact: Six of Amtrak’s 14 overnight trains have names that begin with “C”. Tonight I’m on another one, the Crescent, heading for New Orleans. (OK, OK … I’ve counted the Chief as one of the six.)