A number of questions have come in over the past week or so. Here’s the first one:
Q. Later this year I’m going to visit relatives in D.C. Both the Cardinal and the Capitol Limited operate between Chicago and Washington. Is one train better than the other?
A. Better, No . . . but different, yes.
The Capitol Limited is a daily train that leaves Chicago at 6:40 every evening and arrives at Union Station in Washington at 1:30 the following afternoon. The train crosses below Lake Erie en route to Toledo and Cleveland. That’s where it angles more to the south, reaching Pittsburgh around dawn, passing through Harpers Ferry at about 11:30 and arriving in Washington two hours later.
The Cardinal operates only three days a week, leaving Chicago at 5:55 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It heads almost due south to Cincinnati then, turning east into West Virginia, it runs through the New River Gorge, crosses the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge mountains. After arriving in Washington, D.C., the Cardinal continues on up to New York City.
Besides the different routes, there are other significant differences between the two trains.
1. Both trains are serving a limited selection of microwaved meals due to the COVID protocols.
2. The Capitol Limited uses Superliner equipment while the one sleeping car in the Cardinal consist is a Viewliner.
3. The Capitol Limited terminates at Union Station in Washington, while the Cardinal turns north after leaving Washington, finally coming to the end of its run in New York City.
My preference? The Cardinal, because of the wonderful scenery—particularly on he eastbound train, and because, if I have a choice, I prefer the Viewliner roomettes for any overnight rides.
But note, please: as mentioned, the Cardinal has only one sleeper in its consist and, since four of the roomettes are allocated to crew members and the train only operates three days a week, would-be sleeping car passengers too
often find the Cardinal to be sold out. My advice? Book early and stay another night or two in Chicago or Washington so you can take the Cardinal.