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The Cardinal is one of two Amtrak passenger trains with routes in West Virginia. The Cardinal begins its 921-mile, 23-hour trip in New York City, and ends in Chicago, traversing southern West Virginia en route. Another Amtrak train, the Capitol Limited, travels across the state’s Eastern Panhandle.

The Cardinal was born shortly after Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, began service in 1971. The train passes through the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It takes its name from the cardinal, the state bird of all five states. It also passes through Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware on its way to New York.

The Cardinal follows the historic route of the old Chesapeake & Ohio main line through West Virginia. From the east, the train enters the state near White Sulphur Springs, proceeds to Hinton, passes through the New River Gorge towns of Prince and Thurmond, and continues to Montgomery, Charleston, and Huntington.

Because of its relatively low ridership, the Cardinal often has been the target of federal budget cuts. West Virginia’s congressional delegation has fought to keep the Cardinal. In particular, Sen. Robert C. Byrd worked with Amtrak officials to keep the Cardinal operating, touting the train’s importance to the state’s tourism industry. The Cardinal currently runs three times per week, but Amtrak is seeking funding to expand the service.

On June 20, 2016, business class was added to the Cardinal. More spacious seating, free Wi-Fi, and unlimited online access to digital editions of leading newspapers are among the perks available to passengers that make reservations in the business-class car. The Cardinal also offers dining and berths for sleeping.

Last Revised on October 19, 2023

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Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "The Cardinal." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 19 October 2023. Web. 24 May 2024.

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