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Indianapolis and Amtrak's Cardinal Train
Old 06-01-2014, 11:48 AM   #1
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Indianapolis and Amtrak's Cardinal Train

At the end of June, I will be going with my ladyfriend back to her home town of Louisville, Kentucky for a 2-week stay with her family. Having realized we share a liking for a long-distance trip by train (something I have never done but have always wanted to do), we will be taking Amtrak's Cardinal train from New York to Indianapolis before using other transit means to get from there to Louisville. Connections to other means of transit are a little awkward because of the unusual arrival and departure times from Indianapolis on the Cardinal. For example, the westbound train arrives at about 5 AM while the eastbound train leaves there at about midnight.

Amtrak offers a bus connection via Greyhound but the layover time to Louisville is huge, so we will rent a car for the 2-hour drive and return it in Louisville the next day. Enterprise car rental has an office about half a mile from the Indianapolis train station which opens at 9 AM, giving us time to rest and eat after the train arrives. On the return trip, we will take the Greyhound bus which will leave us at the station about 3 hours before the eastbound train arrives, giving us time to eat.

We have not yet booked our trip but will do so in a few days. Have any of you ridden the Cardinal before? According to Wikipedia, it is a very scenic train as it passes through the mountains of West Virginia. Unfortunately, it is one of the few routes which does not offer WiFi service so I won't be able to tell you about it until I get to either destination. Furthermore, are any of you from Indianapolis or have used its train station and can offer any pointers about the area near the station?
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:34 PM   #2
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Have you considered renting a car from the airport? The airport is about 15 minutes from downtown and you may be able to get a rental car earlier than 9am.
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Old 06-07-2014, 10:22 AM   #3
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Have you considered renting a car from the airport? The airport is about 15 minutes from downtown and you may be able to get a rental car earlier than 9am.
We are concerned about trying to find a taxi at 7 or 8 AM on a Saturday morning after we eat a liesurely breakfast at an eatery which is near the train station and the car rental place.

We will return the rental car to the Louisville airport the next day (Sunday) becasue all the other palces we can return the car are closed on Sundays. Thankfully, that city's airport is not far from where we will be staying (my ladyfriend's parents' house).
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Old 06-07-2014, 11:52 AM   #4
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The Crown Plaza hotel is right there at the Amtrak station so you should be able to find a taxi there with no problem. Enjoy your trip!
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Old 07-16-2014, 10:35 AM   #5
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So, let me tell you how our trip on Amtrak's Cardinal went.

My plan went well on the trip to Indy/KY. The train was about 45 minutes late through CIncy but made up most of the time on the 3-hour leg from Cincy to Indy, arriving at Indy at about 5:30 AM. It was a very scenic ride for my ladyfriend (Annette) and me. After resting at Indy for about 15 minutes until we had some daylight, we walked the few blocks to a nearby SteaknShake (my ladyfriend discovered this before our trip) and ate breakfast. They were very nice there and let us hang out for a few hours before the Enterprise car rental office opened up at 9 AM. SnS has WiFi so I was able to get on line and they even let me sit at a table near an electrical outlet so I would not have to drain the battery on the laptop I had with me.

We walked to the car rental office at 9 AM and were soon on our way to Louisville. It took just under 2 hours on the easy drive although there was some light rain along the way. All went well.

The return trip home was an ordeal. We took a 7 PM Greyhound Bus from Louisville which left 45 minutes late but arrived only 25 minutes late, around 9:30 PM. That was not of any great consequence because our Amtrak train was not due to leave until midnight. That gave us plenty of time to walk back to SnS for a late dinner before walking back to the station (Amtrak and Greyhound share the same station). So far, so good. We got back to the station shortly after 11 PM. However, before we left SnS, I went on line briefly to see a status on our Amtrak train. Oddly, while its scheduled departure time from Chicago was 5:45 PM (Central time), there was no further info about when it left Chicago or would arrive at Indy.

But then the plan went off the rails, so to speak. When I asked the Amtrak agent when our train was due in, she said, "3:30 AM." WHAT Yes, I heard her correctly, the train was already 3 1/2 hours late so we would have to spend at least 4 hours in this dank, somewhat creepy waiting room with the other ~30 people in our predicament.

I also realized this would impact our connection for a LIRR train in New York because the 3 1/2 hour delay would put us in Penn Station around 1:30 AM Monday morning instead of 10 PM Sunday night. Trains become more and more scarce as we get later and later and she has to go to work Monday morning. Annette was very unhappy about this.

And not surprisingly, the 3 1/2 hour delay became 4 hours which became 4 1/2 hours by the time the train arrived at 4:30 AM. It tok 30 minutes to unload departing passengers and checked baggage and load our passengers and checked baggage. They also had to cut loose a few empty passenger cars for their Hoosier train service between Indy and Chicago. We were finally on our way at 5 AM, 5 hours late.

It soon became daylight so the first 1/3 of our trip was not in darkness. We were able to see some scenery between Indy and Charleston (WVa) we did not expect to see. We remained 5 hours late for most of the trip thanks to CSX giving our train priority over their own freight trains (CSX owns the tracks through DC) most of the time. But we did end up 5 1/2 hours late by the time we arrived in DC at 11 PM.

In DC, Amtrak has to change engines which takes about 40 minutes. Becasue the Cafe car had pretty much run out of food hours earlier, my plan was to leave the train and run up to the large food court at DC's Union Station and bring something back for Annette and me. This was also my original plan had the train arrived at 6 PM, its regularly scheduled time. I was fearful that the food court might be closed at 11 PM. So I ran upstairs and saw a McDonalds open with people eating in there. I run up to the counter only to have the guy tell me they were closing (at 11 PM, 5 minutes before). DAMN! As I told Annette and another passenger, if this friggin' train were running only 4 1/2 hours LATE, I'd be sitting here eating a Happy Meal right now!

The trip from DC to NY was uneventful but we did not make up any further time, arriving in NY at about 3:20 AM. But, as I feared and from looking at some of the LIRR schedules I had with me, between 3:10 AM and 5 AM there are ZERO LIRR trains leaving Penn Station going anywhere to Long Island. So, we would have to wait until nearly 5 AM for our next train. Furthermore, the waiting room was closed in that time (for cleaning) so we had to sit on the floor to wait for our train. At least there were some eateries open (Annette bought a muffin and coffee while I bought a chocolate milk). At 5 AM we got on our train for the 35-minute ride home. A drunk man at the other end of our car vomited but they kicked him off the train and quickly cleaned up the mess.

We got back to my apartment at 5:45 AM Monday morning, already daylight, after having been awake for the last 48 hours more or less. Annette had to get up at 6 AM (she did not try to nap) so she could go to work. I drove her there at 7 AM, bought some milk on the way home, and napped for 2 hours. Later in the day, I napped again. I did not go dancing that night.
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Old 07-16-2014, 06:36 PM   #6
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Hmmm... Note to self: Never, ever, take an Amtrak train. Never.
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Old 07-16-2014, 08:36 PM   #7
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Hmmm... Note to self: Never, ever, take an Amtrak train. Never.
I wouldn't want to rely on making connections, or having a tight time frame. I've taken the Northeast Regional twice in the last few years from VA to Boston or NY and it worked pretty well for me. Once I was delayed an hour or so coming back through DC, where they do the electric/diesel switch. It was no big deal for me, but if I had to catch another bus or train it could've.

I also had bad delays and missed connecting flights on my last plane trip last month, both outbound and return.
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Old 07-16-2014, 09:07 PM   #8
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I have some Amtrak Guest Rewards miles to burn up and I was thinking about a trip from New Orleans to LA, through the desert. I like trains but its more "adventure" travel than an reliable way to travel...
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