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Amtrak Cardinal Trip Report

We began our journey on the Cardinal in Chicago on 30 June 2015 after spending the day riding Metra. Like most of our other long distance journeys we booked a roomette using AGR points, so we waited in the lounge at Union Station for our train to board. We left Chicago on time and as the train entered Indiana we made our way to the diner for dinner. We hadn't been too impressed by the last minute substitution of a Diner Lite on our trip out on the Lake Shore Limited, so our expectations were a bit low for the same menu on the Cardinal, but we were happy to find the food a little bit better on the Cardinal. The train continued to make good time initially with on-time departures from the first few stops. We arrived at Lafayette on time in the late evening, but had to wait at the station for well over an hour for freight traffic in front of us to clear, putting us well behind schedule. We went to bed while we were still stopped at the station. At the now just past midnight stop at Indianapolis we got out for a few minutes to stretch our legs. Daylight returned soon after we left Cincinnati, where we also took a brief walk on the platform in the chilly morning air. Delays had continued overnight and as we made our way through Kentucky and then West Virginia we were running hours behind schedule. The scenery through the very small towns in West Virginia was quite lovely though so although late we enjoyed the ride. We took a stroll at the very busy Charlottesville station as the sun approached the horizon, and by the time we reached Manassas night had again fallen.

Because we were riding on AGR tickets, our original plan was to take the Cardinal to Newark, change to NJ Transit for the ride to NY Penn Station, take the subway to Grand Central Terminal, and Metro-North home from there at probably close to midnight. Having arrived many hours late into Washington, it was clear our original plans would not work. Even if the Cardinal made up some time along the corridor, which was likely, it would still be close to midnight before our train reached its destination. As we left Washington we discussed our predicament with the car attendant and conductor, and since the train was running so late got the OK to stay on to New York. We decided we should try to get some sleep since we'd be traveling most of the night, so we slept until we were departing Philadelphia. We awoke to find that instead of making up time we had actually lost more, and were now expected to arrive in New York only about 20 minutes before our train out of GCT, a very tight connection. Not wanting to get stuck in NYC for the night without a hotel, we decided instead to try to rent a car at Newark Airport, since it's open 24 hours, and drive home. We spent much of the ride to Trenton and through New Jersey trying to reserve a car, finding the first company we called was sold out, but being successful with the second one. We left the Cardinal at Newark after midnight, found most of the station locked but one door open to get out to the street, and found a cab to take us to the airport. Once we got to the rental office, although two agents were working, they were each dealing with people with major issues so we had to wait about 20 minutes. Finally it was our turn and in a few minutes we had a car and began our long drive home.

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