Cardinal Trip Report

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by dogbert617, May 31, 2019.

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  1. May 31, 2019 #1

    dogbert617

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    A week ago, I rode one way eastbound on the #50 Cardinal from Chicago to Culpeper, VA. That was the first time ever riding that route of Amtrak, and aside from too much food running out in the cafe car (thank goodness I brought my own snacks onto that train), it was a great experience! Like others had noted, the scenery between Charleston, WV and Staunton, VA was really great. Plus it was cool to see what the Lafayette, IN and Staunton, VA stations looked like, and also the Indy and Cincy skylines at night. Also thought it was interesting the train ran through several different tunnels(albeit not as long as the Moffat Tunnel the CA Zephyr goes through), in WV and VA.

    Now that the mods moved this thread here, I'll expand on this post some more. Anyway, I was very impressed the train ran on time throughout the first part of the trip(into Cincinnati). And that it didn't lose much time at all going through Kentucky, and honestly I think this train was never more than 5-10 minutes behind its regular schedule for the WV and VA parts of this trip.

    My favorite part of this trip for sure, was going through West Virginia east of Charleston through the small towns such as Montgomery, Alderson, and Hinton to name examples. To be honest when I looked up Hinton, WV on google street view and looked at that town, I almost would someday consider doing a trip east to that town and do an all day trip there. Then go back west to Chicago, at the end of that day! Ditto with possibly using this train, to do an all day trip to either Huntington or Charleston. Too bad the Cardinal only runs 3 days a week in each direction, and isn't a daily train. Also I loved the look of the depots in Alderson, Hinton, and Thurmond myself. They were so nice, and historic to look at! And I take it looking from both street view, satellite images, and maps that Prince, WV doesn't have a lot around it, and has to mainly be used by those in and around Beckley, WV as a nearby station to drive to and catch the train from.

    I will post some train pics in a follow-up post(mainly from the WV part of the trip, and what I was most excited to see on this route), very soon. For July, I may do an Empire Builder trip from Chicago to Glacier National Park for several days, but we'll see. Fingers crossed!
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
  2. Jun 2, 2019 #2

    NEPATrainTraveler

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    We’re you in coach, business, or sleeper?
     
  3. Jun 3, 2019 #3

    City of Miami

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    The town of Hinton has a 2 weekend street fare/event in October called Railroad Days. It is timed to coincide with the weekends of the New River Train excursion which I hear might run again this fall. I considered going over a couple of years but it hasn't worked out, mainly because of the lack of daily service. I did go over to Charleston and back one year and had to spend 2 nights there. One time I got lucky and took the Cardinal to Staunton and back to Charlottesville on the same day. I had 2-3 yours in town. You have to be sure #50 is at least 2 hours late or you won't make it back.
     
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  4. Jun 4, 2019 #4

    dogbert617

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    Coach. I looked into the sleeper, but decided against doing that since it would've been $330 more, to do that upgrade. Plus with the lack of a full dining car (i.e. CA Zephyr, Empire Builder, etc), and only having the cafe car, I think I made the right decision. Hopefully it isn't the norm for the Cardinal, with how many food items I saw the cafe had run out of by the time it hit West Virginia east of Charleston. Aside from ramen, it was sad most of the more interesting food items the cafe had already run out of!

    I didn't know Hinton, WV had such an event, so thanks for mentioning it. Maybe one day, I will look into leaving from Chicago on Saturday on 50, and arrive in Hinton on a Sunday all day to do this event, and ride 51 back to return in Chi. on Monday?

    Also if you started that Cardinal trip east of Staunton where you spent 2-3 hours in town, I think you got lucky that day. I wouldn't trust the timetable to allow a 2-3 hour visit there, EVEN IF the webite showed 50 was that late getting to Staunton. And my preference would be to do a train trip as if I'd have to spend 2 nights there in Staunton(coming from Chicago and from eastbound train 50), until the next 51 westbound Cardinal train back. But that's just me!

    I'll add more trip details and thoughts from this train 50 trip, in a following post. BTW for those who were wondering, I went back with my family in the car after I got to Culpeper, back home to Chicago. But glad I did finally clinch my longtime goal, of riding the Cardinal!
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
  5. Jul 9, 2019 #5

    dogbert617

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    And as for the better side for scenery, I'd say past Indianapolis that most of the interesting scenery(i.e. Hamilton, OH's downtown, if you rewake up that late going east briefly) are on the left(going east on #50, it'd be on the right going west on #51). Occasionally there might be something interesting on the right(going east) through one of the various small town and city downtowns(i.e. Maysville, KY, Ashland, KY where you can see some interesting downtown buildings in both towns on the right going east, and left going west), but to me most of the interesting scenery including the Ohio River, was on the left. This changes when you get past Charleston, WV, and the interesting river scenery starts to mainly occur on the right(going east), and if you're going west on the left. Including seeing the New River Gorge Bridge very briefly on your right, as you go east. I will say between Hinton and Alderson(both station stops), the interesting scenery starts to occur on the left instead of the right as you go east(opposite if you're going west). I wish I could've pulled off better a shot of the White Sulphur Springs station, since I liked its red colored station building design. And like another person once said in past Cardinal train discussion threads, you have better odds of seeing the Charleston, WV to Staunton, VA portion totally in daylight if you go east on this train, instead of west. This more applies for winter train trips btw, when days are shorter.

    Pics to come, once I do another follow up post. Sorry it has taken me a while, to get around to uploading pics.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
  6. Jul 9, 2019 #6

    Michigan Mom

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    Thanks for the TR. The Cardinal is on my to-do list as well. Actually thinking of incorporating the CONO and Card, somehow.
     
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  7. Jul 9, 2019 #7

    dogbert617

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    You're welcome. Also I'll note for White Sulphur Springs, WV that you do NOT directly see the main building for the Greenbriar from the train while passing through WSS on the train, but just the side buildings and parts of the golf course for that country club in case you were wondering. You'd have to get off the train there, in order to see that. And to my knowledge, I think there's some sort of fee($10? not sure, this is just my memory of what the Grand Hotel charges on Mackinac Island to go inside that building, if you aren't spending an overnight there), to go inside the main Greenbriar building. That would be something you'd have to research, to figure out what it'd cost to visit that building, if you aren't staying there overnight.

    And at least looking up the schedule for CONO and Card, that I don't think there's any risk you'd miss a same day connection in Chicago(9:20am CONO arrival into Chicago, 5:45pm Card departure from Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays only just to note). Juckins.net also shows going back to January 2018, that ONLY one time ever was a northbound CONO so late that it missed an outbound Card train(in October 2018, https://juckins.net/amtrak_status/archive/html/connections.php?a_train_num=58&c_train_num=50&station=chi&date_start=01/01/2018&date_end=07/09/2019&df1=1&df2=1&df3=1&df4=1&df5=1&df6=1&df7=1&buffer_mins=5&sort_dir=DESC&dfon=1 ), so that's great that it looks like you have a 99.9% chance of making such a same day connection in Chicago. A la how I often hear about horror stories about people coming from the west on say the California Zephyr(which seems to be the most late train from the west into Chicago, vs. the Empire Builder and Southwest Chief which are both less late getting into Chicago, SW Chief being the least late of these 2 trains), and often missing a connecting train into Chicago(except for CONO or Lake Shore Limited, the last 2 outbound long distance trains of the night). I hope you do have a great CONO and Card combined train trip, whenever you do so.
     
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  8. Jul 18, 2019 #8

    dogbert617

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    Some pics, from that Card trip. Sorry I'm WAAAAAY the heck behind, in posting these pics! And somehow I rewoke up in time, to see the limited dark scenery going through Hamilton, OH(couldn't quite pull off a pic here unfortunately due to it being dark enough, but the little lights I could see below of Hamilton were nice), Cincinnati(skyline was very clear and cool going through, albeit it was after 3am!), and Maysville(briefly rewoke up and slept again, did get one regular digital camera pic off of area by Mayville's stop, including an Italian restaurant).

    Enjoy these pics(between Cincinnati and Prince, WV (outside Beckley, WV), with a few more batches of pics to come later. I'll answer any questions you have of course, about these pics that anyone has. Like I've said in the past, THE best Cardinal train scenery is between Charleston and Staunton, for sure.

    Editing to add pic info while I still can:

    Pics 1 and 2 are of Cincinnati's skyline, at some time like after 3 or 3:30am! Can't believe I rewoke up in time, to see this part. For sure, I thought originally I'd sleep through Cincy.

    Pic 3 is Ashland, KY, and 4 is Charleston, WV's skyline.

    5 is somewhere between Charleston and Montgomery, WV. 6 and 7 are in Montgomery, WV(1st station stop east of Charleston). 8 and 9 are Thurmond, WV(allegedly the smallest town in WV to have Amtrak service), and 10 is Prince, WV's station house(main station for those in the Beckley, WV area, to catch the Cardinal).
     

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    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
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  9. Jul 18, 2019 #9

    dogbert617

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    A few more from my phone. Later, I'll upload some from my digital camera. These pics are from Hinton, WV, to Culpeper, VA. Last pics are of Culpeper's downtown, and admiring how charming it is!

    ETA for pic info for JUST this post:

    Pics 1 and 2 are of Hinton, WV. The track level is below the level of the streets in this town's downtown area, btw. I recommend looking at this town on google street view, since it's surprisingly charming. Maybe one day, I'll consider a Cardinal train trip here?

    Pics 3 and 4 are of Alderson, WV. It's funny how I did not know this town had a federal women's prison which once had Martha Stewart as a prisoner, till my mom told me this fact!

    Pic 5 is Clifton Forge, VA, and 6 and 7 are Staunton, VA. 8 is the station house in Culpeper, VA(and it's getting some sort of minor renovation work which I'm not sure what is going on at the moment), and 9 and 10 are Culpeper's downtown after I arrived there.

    I'm bummed that when I attempted to upload one of the pics I REALLY wanted to share here(a ghost ad for Pepsi, that I saw on the side of a building right after I got off the train in Culpeper), this site thought that pic's size was too large to post. :( I wonder if the megabite size limit for any pics uploaded here, is 5 MB?
     

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    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
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  10. Jul 18, 2019 #10

    Paull65

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    My first overnight train ride included 51 from WAS to CHI in coach about 7 years ago in May. I still have a vivid memory when I woke up about 10 minutes before crossing the Ohio River at Cincinnati. I was sitting on the left side of the train and we were going very slow across the bridge and there was a towboat pushing barges passing under us all lit up going down river. I still remember it looking like we were floating along above the river and the barge below. I think that the memory that I have became so vivid because of the angle of the bridge to the river below with the relative speed and angle of the towboat and barges all lit up passing below. Just one of those memories that is hard to describe. Ya had to be there...
    Thanks for your pics. Brought back this and other fond memories of my first long distance Amtrak trip.
     
  11. Jul 19, 2019 #11

    dogbert617

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    You're welcome. And yep if your Cardinal train was late enough, for sure that'd be a nice sight to see passing through Cincinnati and either Covington or Newport, seeing a river barge and/or towboat below like that! Will post some regular digital camera pics later, plus also look through my phone pics to see if I have any more good ones I hadn't yet posted.
     
  12. Jul 27, 2019 #12

    AFS1970

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    Funny that you mention Thurmond, I just saw a documentary on that town the other day. I think it was an episode of Mysteries of the Abandoned as there is an old station and possibly hotel that are semi abandoned semi used by the national parks service. They said it was the smallest town in WV, the smallest town in the US with train service and the second least used station in Amtrak. Also the town had no street access for many years and the only way in and out was by train. Also no main street, the buildings all faced on the tracks. Kind of made me want to go there.
     
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  13. Jul 28, 2019 #13

    dogbert617

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    It was funny when I was taking Cardinal #50 east that Montgomery, WV appeared to have noone get off, nor get on. Yet in Thurmond I saw at least a handful of people get off the train, but no one as I recall got on the train there that day. Go figure!

    And with Thurmond and Prince, that I don't think any businesses existed nearby when I looked at satellite map views, and just mainly a limited number of houses were nearby. Prince probably does well as a station, and even held on to a ticket agent and staffing till a few years ago, since it's a short drive from Beckley, WV at least. On the other hand with Thurmond, I'm surprised that holds on as a station. It's almost like the equivalent of Sanderson, TX on the Sunset Limited route, where you wonder how that station even gets enough ridership to hold on as a station!

    Ah, the oddities about which places are Amtrak stations, and which aren't on those long distance routes. Where you'd think if say Hamilton, OH had found a way to raise enough money to fix the condition of that station, that I'm sure that station would've held on as a Cardinal station for sure.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019
  14. Aug 3, 2019 #14

    anumberone

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    Hey Dog, if I can call you that. Thanks for filling me in on all the things I missed on my West bound trip from DC to Indy. It was in December and the days were short. I never got a chance to see a lot.
     
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  15. Aug 4, 2019 #15

    dogbert617

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    You're welcome, glad you did enjoy the pics and the details I uploaded and typed about my Cardinal train trip! I still have more pics to upload, which I still hadn't gotten to yet. As for that one pic I wanted to upload that oddly would not upload here due to the pic's size being too big for this message board(a ghost/faded advertisement for Pepsi, in Culpeper, VA), I think I may try to upload that onto Imgur, and post a link over to that pic on Imgur(once I upload it eventually) in the hopes that you are can see it that way.

    BTW my actual name is Allan, and one of these days I may come up with a proper signature that shows it, for all of my posts. Have also been meaning to add an avatar that shows up next to my screenname, but hadn't gotten around to that just yet. Very soon, I may edit this post, and post some regular pics from my Cardinal trip. I think this time I'll upload some that were taken from my regular camera, and not my phone.
     
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