Serving Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., and intermediate points

Amtrak train number: 50 and 51

Predecessor railroad train numbers: None

Effective October 30, 1977, Amtrak's James Whitcomb Riley became the Cardinal, apparently because the ticket agents were sick of explaining to people who James Whitcomb Riley was and how he got a train named after him. The Cardinal name came from the fact that it was the state bird of every state the train passed through (Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois).

A section of the train that ran between Newport News and Charlottesville was soon discontinued, and then the entire train was discontinued in late 1981. However, intense lobbying by the state of West Virginia and the city of Cincinnati managed to get it reinstated in early 1982, albeit without full dining car service and on a three-day-a-week schedule that continues to the present day; the route was also extended to New York.

On April 27, 1986, the Cardinal was rerouted to serve Indianapolis over a different route than the James Whitcomb Riley had been forced to move off in 1974. A train called the Hoosier State had been running daily between Chicago and Indianapolis, and the Cardinal took over its schedule on the three days of the week it operated. For a brief period in the late 1980s, the four-day-a-week Chicago-Indianapolis train was renamed the Cardinal, but that proved to be too confusing, so the Hoosier State name returned.

On December 17, 1999, it became a daily train between Chicago and Jeffersonville, Indiana, later extended to Louisville, named the Kentucky Cardinal. After the Kentucky Cardinal was discontinued in 2003, the Cardinal name returned to the four-day-a-week Chicago-Indianapolis service.

In 1996, on-board service on the Cardinal was upgraded with the addition of Superliners, which brought a full dining car back to the train but meant the route had to be truncated in Washington, D.C. because the Superliners couldn't run under the Northeast Corridor catenary.

In the spring and summer of 2002, following a derailment on the Auto Train, the Cardinal temporarily became a single-level train again so that its equipment could replace the damaged Superliners in the Auto Train equipment pool.

Condensed historical timetables:

           READ DOWN                                             READ UP
(1979)  (1987)  (1994)  (2002)                       (2002)  (1994)  (1987)  (1979)
 -----   9:45A   9:42A   ----- Dp New York        Ar  -----  11:30P  10:48P   -----
 9:35P   1:50P   1:45P  10:35A    Washington          7:35P   7:05P   7:10P   8:35A
12:02A   4:25P   4:20P   1:13P    Charlottesville     4:37P   4:11P   4:50P   5:47A
11:22A   3:50A   3:55A  11:59P    Cincinnati          5:29A   5:00A   4:45A   6:46P
 -----   7:00A   7:45A   3:50A    Indianapolis        1:55A  11:59P  11:40P   -----
 2:28P   -----   -----   -----    Muncie              -----   -----   -----   3:25P
 6:15P  11:20A  11:25A   8:37A Ar Chicago         Dp  7:45P   7:40P   7:00P   9:55A

The Amtrak Train Names Project