The Cardinal Lands in Charlottesville

cardinal-july-2012

It is a July afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia. Amtrak’s tri-weekly Cardinal is scheduled to arrive from both Chicago and New York.

In fact, the Cardinal calls in Charlottesville in both directions three days a week, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. That is not the case on the western end of the route where the Cardinal arrives in Chicago on Monday, but doesn’t depart again until Tuesday.

Otherwise, Nos. 50 and 51 arrives and departs Chicago on the same day, Thursday and Saturday.

I had some free time during a vacation trip so I made it a point to venture to the Amtrak station to catch the Cardinal. It is a train I used to ride when I lived in Indianapolis, but since leaving there in 1991 I seldom see the Cardinal.

On this day, No. 50 has its then standard consist of one P42DC, a Heritage Fleet baggage car, one Viewliner sleeper, a food service car and three Amfleet II coaches.

Since making this image four years, ago, the Heritage Fleet baggage car has been replaced by a Viewliner baggage car and the train now seems to routinely have two Viewliner sleepers.

It has been a long time since the Cardinal had a full-service dining car. Maybe it will get one when the new Viewliner dining car order is completed by CAF USA. And maybe the dining car will arrive, but the food service will be little different than it is today.

Change in Amtrak service on trains such as the Cardinal seems to be incremental. This train is unlikely to ever be confused with the George Washington, the one-time premier train of the Chesapeake & Ohio, whose tracks the Cardinal uses between Cincinnati and Washington.

But then maybe it doesn’t need to be. Given the history of the Cardinal and how political pressure is all that saved it back in the 1980s, having any service at all is a good thing.

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