Amtrak Cardinal Train: Your Complete Rider Guide

Amtrak operates the Cardinal, a long-distance passenger train that runs between New York Penn Station and Chicago Union Station via Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charlottesville, Charleston, Huntington, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. It is one of three trains that connect the Northeast to Chicago, alongside the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore Limited. The 1,146-mile (1,844 km) voyage from New York to Chicago takes 281⁄4 hours.

The Cardinal makes three round journeys every week, leaving New York City on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and departing Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Before its discontinuation in 2019, the Hoosier State operated service on the Cardinal’s route between Indianapolis and Chicago on the remaining four days of the week.

The Cardinal’s ridership in fiscal year 2023 was 82,705, a 3.0% increase over FY2022, but around 25% lower than its pre-COVID-19 pandemic ridership of almost 109,000 in FY2019. Ridership climbed by 12.5% in the two fiscal years before the epidemic (FY2018 and FY2019). In FY2020, the Cardinal generated $7.1 million on costs of $22.6 million, for a revenue-to-cost ratio of 31%, the second lowest among all Amtrak routes.

Trip Planning


The Cardinal operates on a three-times-a-week schedule, offering passengers flexibility in planning their trip. Here’s a breakdown of the service:

  • Frequency: Runs three days a week (specific days to be determined – check with Amtrak for current schedule).
  • Travel Time: The total travel time between New York and Chicago is approximately 28 hours.

Booking in Advance: 

Be sure to book your tickets well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons (summer and fall), as seats and sleeping car accommodations tend to fill up quickly.


Major Stops:

  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • Wilmington, DE
  • Baltimore
  • Washington D.C.
  • Alexandria
  • Charlottesville
  • Charleston, WV
  • Indianapolis
  • Chicago

Onboard Experience

Amtrak Cardinal Train Onboard Experience


Coach Class Seat:

Coach class is available on all Amtrak trains and has wide, reclining seats with plenty of legroom, no middle seat option, at-seat trays, reading lights, and power outlets. There are restrooms in each car. Amtrak Guest Rewards customers who travel in Coach earn 2 points per dollar spent.

Viewliner Roomette:

For customers seeking both privacy and savings in First Class, Roomettes feature:

  • Two comfortable seats by day transformed into upper and lower beds by night
  • Newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens
  • Access to a restroom and shower in your car
  • A dedicated First Class attendant
  • Complimentary lounge access
  • Priority boarding
  • Complimentary meals

Once you have booked, your room number will be automatically issued. Your ticket will provide your exact car and room number. Upon arrival, your First Class attendant will direct you to your room.

Viewliner Bedroom:

For customers seeking plenty of comfort and room in First Class, Bedrooms feature:

  • 2x the space of a Roomette
  • A sofa and separate chair by day transformed into upper and lower beds by night
  • Newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens
  • In-room sink, restroom, and shower
  • A dedicated First Class attendant
  • Complimentary lounge access
  • Priority boarding
  • Complimentary meals

When you book, your room number will be assigned automatically. Your ticket will provide your precise car and room number. When you board, your First Class attendant will direct you to your room.

Viewliner Bedroom Suite:

Bedroom Suites, which include two adjoining bedrooms, provide consumers with the best First Class experience.

  • 2x the space of a Bedroom
  • Two sofas and separate chairs by day transformed into upper and lower beds by night
  • Newly upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens
  • Two in-room sinks, restrooms, and showers
  • A dedicated First Class attendant
  • Complimentary lounge access
  • Priority boarding
  • Complimentary meals

To reserve your suite, call 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Viewliner Accessible Bedroom:

Accessible Bedrooms are located on the train’s entry-level and can accommodate a wheelchair. Each room includes the following:

  • Seating during the day turned into upper and lower beds at night.
  • On single-level Viewliner trains: an in-room restroom with sink, toilet, and shower.
  • On bi-level Superliner trains: in-room restroom with sink and toilet, access to a private shower in your vehicle.
  • Recently renovated bedding, pillows, towels, and linens
  • A dedicated first-class attendant
  • Complimentary Lounge access
  • Priority Boarding
  • Complimentary meals, including room service.

Trainside Checked Bicycle:

Part of the excitement of rail travel is the opportunity to explore the stops along the route, and what better way to do that than by bike? If you want to ride their trains with your bike, they provide a variety of services for transporting it onboard. Each train has unique equipment and loading methods that determine what services are provided. The capabilities of your origin and destination stations also influence how bikes are handled, so read all of the facts here before you book your trip.

What’s Allowed?

Carry-On/Trainside: Bicycles and folding scooters up to 50 lbs. Standard bicycle sizes apply. Maximum tire width: 2″
Checked: Bicycles up to 50 lbs. and 70″ x 41″ x 8.5″ and non-folding scooters

Baggage option:

The majority of the staffed stations along this route offer checked luggage service. When making your reservation, look for the checked luggage symbol to ensure that this service is available at your preferred departure and arrival locations.


Amtrak Cardinal Train Onboard Dining

The Cardinal Train caters to your appetite throughout your journey with a couple of dining options:

Café Car:  Available to all passengers, the Café Car serves as your on-board restaurant, offering a selection of prepared meals, snacks, and beverages for purchase. This is a great option for a casual dining experience where you can grab a bite to eat and enjoy the scenery passing by the window.

Flexible Dining (Optional):  If you’re traveling in a private room (roomette or bedroom), you have the option to upgrade to Amtrak‘s Flexible Dining service. This complimentary service provides passengers with greater dining flexibility during their trip. Here’s what it offers:

  • Menu: A selection of hot, ready-to-serve meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available throughout their designated serving times.
  • Beverages: Enjoy a wide selection of wine, beer, and spirits throughout your trip. The first drink with dinner is even on the house! Additionally, you’ll have access to unlimited soft drinks.
  • Lounge Access: An exclusive onboard lounge is provided for Flexible Dining passengers to relax and socialize while enjoying their meals.
  • Room Service: For ultimate convenience, your personal car attendant can deliver your meals directly to your room if you prefer to dine in your private space.
  • Flexible Timing: Unlike the set meal times in the Cafe Car, Flexible Dining allows you to choose your preferred dining times within the designated breakfast, lunch, and dinner service windows. This eliminates the need for reservations and provides more flexibility for planning your day’s activities onboard.


Amtrak strives to offer a comfortable and accessible travel experience for all passengers on the Cardinal Train. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Accessible Train Cars:  A select number of Cardinal train cars are equipped with accessible features, including:
    • Wheelchair-accessible restrooms with grab bars and wider doorways.
    • Designated seating areas for passengers with wheelchairs.
    • Elevators or lifts to access different levels on some multi-level train cars.
  • Accessible Stations:  Many Amtrak stations along the Cardinal route are equipped with accessibility features, such as:
    • Ramps to avoid stairs.
    • Elevators for easy access between platforms and waiting areas.
    • Designated accessible parking spaces close to station entrances.

To ensure a smooth travel experience:

  • Amtrak recommends booking your trip well in advance and mentioning your accessibility needs when making your reservation. This allows them to assign you an accessible room on the train, if available.
  • You can also request additional assistance when booking, such as boarding or disembarking the train or using the restroom facilities.
  • Upon arrival at the station, notify Amtrak personnel of your accessibility needs so they can provide any required assistance.

For detailed information on accessibility features on the Cardinal Train and stations, you can consult Amtrak’s website or contact their accessibility department directly.

The Route

Amtrak Cardinal Train Route

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve:

  • A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent.
  • The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
  • Whitewater rafting and rock climbing are popular activities here.

Allegheny Mountains:

  • These majestic mountains provide a stunning backdrop as you travel through the region.
  • Enjoy the scenic beauty and explore hiking trails in this rugged landscape.

Shenandoah Valley:

  • Bordered by the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley offers some of the state’s most spectacular trails.
  • Explore charming towns, wineries, craft breweries, and outdoor adventures.

Time Zone Change:

  • As you travel from Chicago (Central Time) to other cities on the route (Eastern Time), remember that the Eastern Time Zone is one hour ahead of Central Time. For example, if it’s 5:00 PM in Chicago, it will be 6:00 PM in the Eastern Time Zone.

Optional Side Trips:

  • Charlottesville:
    • Visit the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton, Virginia. Explore the life and times of one of America’s most influential presidents.
  • White Sulphur Springs:
    • Experience luxury at The Greenbrier, a historic resort set amid the Allegheny Mountains. Enjoy golf, spa treatments, and elegant dining.
  • New River Gorge National Park:
    • Extend your journey by exploring this beautiful park known for its whitewater rafting, hiking trails, and breathtaking views.

Remember to take in the natural beauty and immerse yourself in the history and culture of these remarkable destinations! 

Additional Resources 

For the latest information on your Cardinal Train travel schedule, fares, and reservation options, visit the official Amtrak website or the dedicated Cardinal Train page. Here, you can explore the route in more detail, access timetables, and book your tickets to begin this unforgettable travel experience.

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