After spending three days in uncomfortable Amtrak seats and eating mediocre Amtrak food during my travels from Washington DC to Los Angeles, I was ready to condemn the entire operation. But then the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Portland made up for it all.
I started out on the Cardinal, a three-day-a-week train that goes from New York to Chicago via Washington, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. This train uses Amfleet cars, which were originally designed for short-distance travel such as New York to Washington. They are noisy and bumpy–sometimes I felt like a jackhammer was operating next to my head–and the food service is inferior to most other long-distance trains.
The train is also slow, taking 24 hours to get from DC to Chicago compared with 18 on the Capital Limited. Other than the fact that it serves several cities not reached by other Amtrak trains, the train’s main redeeming feature is that it goes through the highly scenic New River Gorge–but in the westbound direction it does so at night. Unlike the Capital Limited, the Cardinal also has wifi. Continue reading