The Cardinal and Capitol Limited are two of Amtrak’s long-distance routes. Both travel between Chicago and the East Coast through the Alleghany Mountains. However, the Cardinal only operates three days each week while the Capitol Limited is a daily train. The Capitol Limited is also a much shorter route and is the fastest way to get between Chicago and Washington D.C. on Amtrak (it’s more than six hours faster than the Cardinal).
One of the reasons why the Cardinal travel time is longer is because it travels through the New River Gorge in West Virginia. It’s one of the most scenic Amtrak trips on the East Coast. Plus, of the two routes, only the Cardinal stops in New York City (the train is one-level tall in order to fit in the Hudson River tunnels), while the Capitol Limited (aptly named) starts and ends in Washington D.C. and is two levels tall.
See the table below to learn more about the differences and similarities between the two routes.
|Route Length||1,146 miles||764 miles|
|Frequency||3x per week||Daily|
|Number of Stops||36||14|
|Type of Train||Viewliner||Superliner|
|Dining Options||Café and free meals for |
sleeper car passengers
|Café and free meals for sleeper car passengers|
|States on the Route||IL, IN, OH, KY, WV, VA, |
MD, DE, PA, NJ, NY
|IL, IN, OH, PA, WV, MD|
|End-of-the Line Stations||Chicago and New York City||Chicago and Washington D.C.|
|Popular Stops||Chicago, Indianapolis, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC||Chicago, South Bend, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Harpers Ferry, DC|
|Landscapes||Midwest farmland, Alleghany Mountains, New River Gorge, Shenandoah Valley||Midwest farmland, Alleghany Mountains, Potomac River|
- East Coast Amtrak Routes
- 7 top attractions along the Cardinal route
- Washington DC Amtrak Station Guide
- Chicago Amtrak Station Guide
Top photo credit: Bob Wilcox (Cardinal train in Virginia)