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The New York-Chicago Amtrak Cardinal is named for the state bird of each state of the train's route from Virginia to Illinois.

Rails to Chi-town

A Unique Family Trip

by Floyd Selzer


I, along with my wife and daughter, waited eagerly to board the Cardinal, the name of the train that will take us from Indianapolis to Chicago — Amtrak's answer to long airport delays.

I wanted to do something with my family, something that was a little different, something that I wouldn't have to take out a second mortgage to do. Then, it hit me. Why not take the train to Chicago? I hurriedly got online and scheduled the trip, unbeknownst to my wife and daughter.

I personally, had never been on a passenger train, and the anticipation was overwhelming. What I knew about train travel came from old black-and-white movies, and stories from a bygone generation.

It was 6:30 in the morning as the train pulled into the station on schedule, and we were greeted by a friendly conductor who helped us (and our luggage) onto the train. I couldn't believe how much room there was. I felt like I was sitting in my living room.

As the train pulled away from the station we all just sat in quiet amazement looking out the huge windows watching the city skyline disappear. The train began to accelerate as I began to hear and feel what so many before me had experienced. With the countryside whizzing before my eyes I began to get a different perspective and a sense of discovery as the scenery was ever-changing.

My wife and I went to the Lounge Car and dined on some snacks while engaging other travelers in conversation. Many of whom were going to Chicago just to catch the Southwest Chief or the Empire Builder. It was fun to meet so many different people all with their unique stories. I soon realized that I had discovered an entire subculture of train travelers.

As the train pulled into Union Station in Chicago, we said goodbye to the people we met and the friends we had made. My family all agreed that our next trip will definitely be by train.