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On Board The Amtrak Cardinal

On Board The Amtrak Cardinal

Amtrak is one of my favorite ways to travel and I’ve enjoyed their service in the Northeast Corridor as well as in the Pacific Northwest but I’ve been longing for an extended overnight sleeper compartment trip.

I arrived in Chicago to attend a conference and things didn’t go well. I decided to bail and feed my soul — what better than an overnight train? I decided to ditch my United Airlines tickets from Chicago to Washington and, sans reservations, grab a cab to Chicago’s Union Station.

I jumped onto Amtrak’s i-phone app to locate a sleeper on one of their trains to DC and there was nothing available but I wasn’t giving up! I decided to keep refreshing my browser and a Viewliner Roomette on the Amtrak Cardinal wondrously appeared! The Roomette is perfect for two and even better for one, so I knew this was going to be an absolute dream-trip!

The departure was 5 hours later and luckily my ticket also included access to the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station to help kill some time and get some work done. But I needed fuel, so I had the cab drop me for an intermediate deep dish pizza stop at Giordano’s Pizzeria since I had time on my hands and hours before my first meal about the Cardinal.

Chicago’s Union Station 

Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago Union Station

The Metropolitan Lounge has an amazing staff that offers luggage storage and information regarding boarding procedures and train status. There is free wifi along with complimentary coffee, beverages and a cash bar. There is also a quiet area located on the upper level. Direct access to is available from the lounge when train boardings are announced.

Time To Board The Amtrak Cardinal!

If you’d like a closer look at the Viewliner Roomette, this is a great YouTube tour that convinced me to give it a try on a shorter route from New York to Washington. Once I’d tried it, I knew it’d be perfect for a much longer overnight trip.

Once You’re On Board

Upon boarding, take your time getting settled in. Your on-board attendant will come around shortly after boarding to familiarize you with your railcar and roomette and provide all the details you need regarding the dining car procedures and anything else you’re bound to be wondering about. One of my challenges was remaining patient and allowing my attendant to get to me and everything was followed up by announcements over the public address system.

Coffee was ready in the morning at 5:30 AM at the end of the car and is always available along with complimentary bottled water.

At bedtime, the attendant transforms your roomette into a comfortable bedroom. I slept really well but had to wake up every now and then to peek out of the window at the lights or a station we had pulled into. The beds are perfectly in line with the windows so you’re able to rest your head on your pillow and just watch the scenery roll.

Future of Amtrak

Taking the Amtrak Cardinal had me thinking of my next long distance rail journey but as I did my research I came across articles detailing possible cutbacks to Amtrak service. I reached out to Amtrak to find out what their plans are to maintain and even expand the long-distance network.

“We are changing intercity passenger rail to meet the needs of America – modernizing our trains and stations, improving on-time performance, and adding contemporary amenities – making it the preferred mode of travel for customers,” said Amtrak President & CEO Richard Anderson. “We are experiencing record growth, and we look forward to working with Congress to further invest in our rail infrastructure to better serve the changing landscape of our nation.”

First Step?

Do what I did and visit Amtrak.com and just search for your dream itinerary. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter because they are always running promotions and you’ll be the first to know when the fares drop.

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