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New York to Chicago by Train

As of September, 2005, there were three routes to choose from: the shorter Lake Shore Limited, which follows a northern route that goes north from New York City to Albany, and then west along the old Erie Canal route before dipping a little south to pass beneath the Great Lakes; the more scenic Capital Limited from Washington to Chicago; and the Cardinal, which departs from New York, passes through Washington, and hten dips farther south and passes through Virginia, West Virginia, and the southern edge of Ohio before crossing Indiana to get back north.

With the Lake Shore Limited, you pull out of New York Penn Station in the afternoon and head north along the scenic Hudson River on the left. There's a short delay at Albany while the Boston connection joins up, and then its westward with darkness concealing much of New York state and Ohio, breakfast served in Indiana, and Chicago pulling into sight at mid-morning.

You can easily catch the Capital Limited by taking any of the many Northeast Corridor trains from New York Penn Station to Washington. The late afternoon departure from Washington means that much of the pretty scenery is obscured by darkness on the way out. On the way back east, however, the Capital Limited is winding through scenic mountain valleys from dawn onward, so you are afforded magnificent views of curves, switchbacks, rivers and streams below, and mountain tops above.

We do not have experience with the Cardinal, but Amtrak's gushes that the Cardinalís route is "one of Amtrakís most scenic and enjoyable" and includes:

  • the mighty Ohio River
  • tranquil rural Kentucky
  • the magnificent green mountains of West Virginia
  • the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

In particular, they rave that "as the Cardinal passes through the spectacular New River Gorge, youíll experience 60 miles of the most breathtaking scenery east of the Rockies, which is known for its wild beauty and awesome grandeur. As the train twists and turns through the canyon, wooded cliffs rise to heights of 1,300 feet above the great Kanawha River."

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