Would have served Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and intermediate points
Assigned Amtrak train numbers: 15 and 16
Predecessor railroad train numbers: None
In January 1997, Amtrak began operating the Superliner equipment from the Washington-Chicago Capitol Limited and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief as if it were one train that just happened to have a long layover in Chicago, allowing through passengers to keep their carry-on luggage on the train, and even allowing them to stay aboard the train themselves during the time it was sitting at the platform in Chicago (about four hours eastbound and eight hours westbound).
The through service was announced in the fall 1996 Amtrak timetable as the forthcoming National Chief, trains 15 and 16. However, when it actually started, the new name and number were never used.
One early problem with the through service was that Amtrak's reservation computers hadn't been properly programmed, and many through sleeping car passengers ended up being assigned to different rooms east and west of Chicago. That was fixed, but other problems included the occasional need to swap one car for another and the need to provide security for the possessions of passengers who had gotten off the train, plus the desire of Chicago Union Station management to strictly control who was on the Amtrak platforms (since the dining car and snack car weren't in operation, even passengers who had chosen to stay aboard the train would get off and head into the station in search of food).
Although the Capitol Limited and Southwest Chief continued to be operated as if they were two halves of the same train, the practice of allowing passengers and/or their baggage to remain aboard ended in May 1998. Since the reservation system remained fixed, though, through sleeping car passengers still tend to be assigned to the same room in the same car on both the Capitol Limited and the Southwest Chief.
The Amtrak Train Names Project