Cardinal Route Guide

New York City to Chicago
Amtrak Train Numbers 50 (eastbound) and 51 (westbound)

Click for larger Map
Click for larger Map

About  Route 

The Cardinal provides long distance train service to many small towns and villages in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana as it travels between New York City and Chicago via Cincinnati, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. The train runs three times per week. If you want to travel the entire distance between Chicago and New York you’ll spend more time and make several more stops on this train than on the Lake Shore Limited, but you’ll be treated to some famous civil war sites, old railroad towns and outstanding river gorge scenery along the way.

Starting in New York City, your journey begins with a ride down the well traveled Northeast Corridor to Alexandria where you embark on the Virginia leg of your train ride. After Alexandria, the first Virginia stop is Manassas, site of the Manassas National Battlefield where the first major land battle of the US Civil war was waged. Next are Culpeper, a town that has its roots in railroad history, and Charlottesville, home of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia. Charlottesville is also a major current day railroad junction used by the CSX, Norfolk & Southern and Buckingham Branch railroads. From Charlottesville the Cardinal heads west on Buckingham Branch Railroad trackage through the sleepy Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains on its way to Staunton and Clifton Forge, Virginia.

Say goodbye to the Buckingham Branch Railroad in Clifton Forge where the Cardinal starts operating on N&S tracks again and heads for White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and the famous Greenbrier resort where Sam Snead made his golfing debut and later served as Golf Pro Emeritus until his death in 2002. The main gate of the Greenbrier is just across the parking lot from the platform adjacent to the unique “candy cane station”. Alderson, West Virginia, where Martha Stewart once took up residency, is next on the way to Hinton, West Virginia. In 1871 the Chesapeake & Ohio River Railroad company blasted a path through the New River gorge and made Hinton its division terminal. Thanks to that initial effort you’re now able to enjoy the great vistas provided in the New River Gorge National River. Get out your camera as you ride through this stretch of railroad starting near Hinton then passing through Prince, the Thurmond Historic District, by the New River Gorge Bridge and on to Montgomery. The westbound Cardinal makes its way through the gorge in the afternoon and early evening hours; the eastbound train passes through in the morning daylight.

The westbound trip from Montgomery, West Virginia to Cincinnati, Ohio begins in the evening and you’ll reach Cincinnati at about 1 am after stopping briefly in Charleston, West Virginia and the Kentucky towns of Ashland, South Shore and Maysville. The eastbound Cardinal reaches Cincinnati at between 3 and 4 am. However, if you’re touring on this train and don’t mind deboarding in the middle of the night, you might want to stop off in Cincinnati and spend some time the next day touring Cincinnati’s treasured Union Terminal, a wonderful National Historic Landmark. You might also take in a ballgame at Great American Ballpark in the summertime if you’re a baseball fan and would enjoy watching the Reds play. Click on one of the links above to learn more about the Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky cities and towns between the New River Gorge National River and Cincinnati that you will pass through in the evening or early morning hours.

Indianapolis celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2009 and in 2011  celebrated the 100th anniversary of the traditional Indy 500 race. The Cardinal passes within a few blocks to the south of the speedway which is 6 or 7 miles to the northwest of Indianapolis Union Station.

On the way from Indianapolis to Chicago you’ll pass through the Indiana countryside towns Crawfordsville, Indiana where the “Crawfordsville monster” once roamed; Lafayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University (Go Boilermakers!); Rensselaer, Indiana that has a nice water tower; and Dyer, Indiana that is inhabited in part by long distance Chicago commuters. All of the cities and towns between Chicago and Indianapolis are also served by Amtrak’s Hoosier State that runs on the four days of the week that the Cardinal doesn’t.

So rail traveler, go ahead, slow down and enjoy yourself on this one of a kind Amtrak long distance train!

The rail travel distance between New York and Chicago via the Cardinal is about 1,150 miles. The trip takes a little over one full calendar day… the approximate rail travel time is 28 hours and 40 minutes.