Cardinal vs Capitol Limited

Cardinal Train in Virginia

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.

CardinalCapitol Limited
Route Length1,146 miles764 miles
Frequency3x per weekDaily
Number of Stops3614
Type of TrainViewlinerSuperliner
Sleeper CarYesYes
Sightseer LoungeNoNo
Dining OptionsCafé and free meals for
sleeper car passengers
Café and free meals for sleeper car passengers
States on the RouteIL, IN, OH, KY, WV, VA,
End-of-the Line StationsChicago and New York CityChicago and Washington D.C.
Popular StopsChicago, Indianapolis, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYCChicago, South Bend, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Harpers Ferry, DC
LandscapesMidwest farmland, Alleghany Mountains, New River Gorge, Shenandoah ValleyMidwest farmland, Alleghany Mountains, Potomac River

More Information

Top photo credit: Bob Wilcox (Cardinal train in Virginia)