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Final Run of the Amtrak Kentucky Cardinal
July 5 - 7, 2003
By Matt Melzer of TrainWeb.com

On December 17, 1999, Amtrak initiated the Kentucky Cardinal, a new route between Indianapolis and Jeffersonville, Indiana (across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky). On the three days a week in which the Washington-Chicago Cardinal route operates, the Kentucky Cardinal's cars would attach and detach in Indianapolis, and on the other four days it would run between Chicago and Jeffersonville/Louisville as its own train. TrainWeb's Ray Burns covered the Inaugural Kentucky Cardinal (click here to see the travelogue and photos from that trip). Two years later, the taxpayers of the State of Kentucky spent $600,000 to bring the train across the river to Louisville Union Station, which hadn't seen passenger service since the discontinuance of the Amtrak Floridian in 1979, making the Kentucky Cardinal true to its name. The money was spent on constructing a new stub-end station track from the nearby CSX line, as well as a platform and signage. After much speculation that the Kentucky Cardinal was a "loser" train that would quickly languish, much hope was sparked in the hearts of rail advocates when the train finally reached Louisville. There was even talk of extending the train to Nashville, Tennessee, and Amtrak ran a time trial train there to investigate a possible extension, with the vision of eventual extension to Florida and restoration of the Floridian route.

Unfortunately, the Kentucky Cardinal was doomed by the reason behind its very existence. The policy of the previous Amtrak administration, led by George Warrington, was to augment Amtrak's revenues through expanding its core business from passenger transportation to Mail and Express (essentially, freight). This was to be manifested through a Network Growth Strategy (NGS), which would involve starting numerous new routes to reach Mail and Express markets, while at the same time serving new markets for passengers. Most observers agree, however, that Warrington was overzealous in this approach, turning countless trains into ones in which the freight clearly took priority over the passengers, which was particularly shameful given the fact that Amtrak legally exists for the sole purpose of transporting people. The Kentucky Cardinal was initiated not because of opportunity for passenger revenue, but in anticipation of Express business from Jeffersonville. Amtrak justified the train's existence in the context of passenger transportation by making it an overnight train with a sleeping car, as a 12-plus-hour day train (for a mere 312 miles) could never compete with an equivalent 1-hour flight, or even 5-hour drive. The slowness of the train had been largely due to the fact that it would have to utilize the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Company (also known as LIRC or L&I, and owned by Anacostia) tracks between Indianapolis and Louisville, a shortline that is unsignalled, has old, jointed rail, and carries a speed limit of 30 mph. (Ironically, much higher speeds were achieved decades ago when the line was a Pennsylvania Railroad mainline.)

The NGS never fully manifested. The only other new route that was initiated to expand freight business, the Chicago-Janesville Lake Country Limited (which foolishly left out Madison, Wisconsin, and which also ran painfully slow), was discontinued in 2001 after two years of low ridership and presumed express business from one single General Motors plant that never materialized. Likewise, the express business for the Kentucky Cardinal never came close to reaching its potential. Amtrak had spent a handsome sum of money on constructing a freight platform in Jeffersonville, one which would sit idle most of the time. After realizing that the Kentucky Cardinal was not producing the projected revenue, Amtrak severely downgraded the train's on-board service. Instead of having a Superliner sleeping car and a hi-level ex-ATSF Heritage coach with vending machine food service downstairs, the train became a Viewliner sleeper and a Horizon coach. Throughout the life of the train, the sleeping cars were removed for the summer peak seasons, and only spottily appeared when they were supposed to.

Eventually, the Kentucky Cardinal degenerated into one Horizon coach. No sleepers. No food service. And the trip was still an excruciating overnight run. It became regarded as the absolute worst train in the entire Amtrak system. To complicate matters, strong anecdotal evidence indicated that, day after day, Amtrak would intentionally assign a mechanically faulty coach to the Kentucky Cardinal, and on numerous occasions the train's Indianapolis-based operating crew would go 'AWOL', not even showing up to work. Naturally, revenue and ridership plummeted. Single-digit ridership south of Indianapolis would be commonplace, and an empty train would run every so often. Whenever there were no riders for Louisville, the southbound train 850 would not go beyond Jeffersonville, and northbound train 851 would originate there, stranding any passengers boarding in Louisville (who would have no information because the station was unstaffed, except for a security guard and the occasional employee of the Transit Authority of River City (TARC), Louisville's public transit agency). If those passengers were lucky, Amtrak would remember to send a substitute bus.

The death of the Kentucky Cardinal would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Four years after the route's inception, in December of 2002, Amtrak, led by new President and CEO David Gunn, announced the discontinuance of the Kentucky Cardinal effective July 6, 2003. The final southbound run would depart Chicago on July 5, and the final northbound run would depart Louisville on July 6. In May, TrainWeb decided to send me to cover the final Kentucky Cardinal, making this the first route in which TrainWeb would cover both the inaugural and final runs. (TrainWeb's Steve Grande did ride both the inaugural and final Texas Eagle California Service, but that train was an additional frequency of an existing route, not a new one.)

Travel agent and writer Gene Poon posted the following reflection on the Kentucky Cardinal to the All-Aboard List:

A lot of things have happened since the Kentucky Cardinal first spread
its wings. A new Amtrak president; a couple of management reshufflings,
one of which claimed the Product Line Manager of the Kentucky Cardinal;
and a financial crisis at Amtrak; and the fat lady hasn't sung, yet. Ed
Ellis, who was with us both ways on the inaugural, has left the company
and his Express operation is being dismantled. Jack Martin was still
living, and would have made the trip with us, but for a personal
obligation that came up. Who knows, if he had been there, he might
REALLY Have had a Grand Trunk switch key. Three major airlines filed
for bankruptcy. The terrorists took down the World Trade Center and
demolished part of the Pentagon. We went to war. 

Along the way the Kentucky Cardinal swelled to several sleepers and
coaches for Kentucky Derby Day. Amid a brief flurry of interest in
extending the train to Nashville and perhaps further south, we first
heard that Nashville wasn't on Amtrak's radar screen, then witnessed a
test VIP run. The city of Louisville put hundreds of thousands of its
tax-paying citizens' dollars into improvements that brought tracks back
to Louisville Union Station. But the train never caught on. It lost
its sleeping car, first seasonally and then permanently, the kiss of
death for a slow overnight run. The volume of Mail and express that
were supposed to support the train didn't materialize, either to support
a southward extension, or finally to keep the train going on its 30mph
meanderings south of Indianapolis.

So, it's good-bye, Kentucky Cardinal. In early July, its time runs
out. Will Louisville have to wait another twenty years to see service
again, as it did after the Floridian was discontinued? Or will it never
happen again?

-Gene Poon
May 9, 2003

Saturday, July 5

Krista and I arrived into Chicago off the Texas Eagle from Los Angeles. After checking in at the Metropolitan Lounge and getting some water, I asked the lounge attendant if it would be possible to board the Kentucky Cardinal early to photograph and record the consist, and she replied that she would try her best to get the necessary permissions, but that the standard boarding time remained 7:50 PM for the 8:15 PM departure. Krista and I ventured onto Adams Street to find a place to eat, but could not find anything to our liking. We even attempted to go to two separate drug stores to purchase snacks for the train, but they were both closed (as many stores are on weekends in the Chicago Loop). We decided to wait for a large meal until we could eat in the Cardinal's dining car, and have a small portion of pizza at the pizza place in Union Station's food court. Unfortunately, that storefront where it used to be was empty! They had obviously gone out of business. Instead, I purchased authentic Chicago-style chili dogs from Gold Coast Dogs, and we enjoyed our excellent meal in the lounge, which was considerably busier than before.

I again asked the Metropolitan Lounge attendant if we could board train 850 early, and she promptly said no. I persisted, and she said, "I'll see what I can do." At 7:45 PM, five minutes before the scheduled boarding time, she escorted us to our train on track 18. Krista and I boarded the rear vestibule of the Kentucky Cardinal coach, which we were dismayed to discover was an 84-seat Horizon coach, 54561, refurbished only with green seatback upholstery. This type of car is completely inadequate for such a long trip, but came as little surprise, given Amtrak's incessant apathy towards the Kentucky Cardinal, apparently to the bitter end. After the Kentucky Cardinal went to single-level equipment, it was ideally supposed to be equipped with a refurbished 60-seat Horizon coach, with extra legroom, legrests, footrests, and electrical outlets at every seat. Our car featured none of the above, and the air conditioning was weak. I stepped off to record the consist of train 50, the Cardinal, and train 850, the final Kentucky Cardinal, which went as follows:
  • P42DC #164 (Kentucky Cardinal)
  • P42DC #24 (Phase IV) (Kentucky Cardinal)
  • P42DC #158
  • Dorm Lounge #2515 "Pine Arroyo" (Phase IV)
  • Viewliner Sleeper #62021 "Morning View" (5100)
  • Heritage Diner (Timoinsa Rebuild) #8527 (Phase IV)
  • Amfleet II Lounge #28018 "Jacksonville Club" (Phase VI)
  • Amfleet II Coach #25099 (5111)
  • Amfleet II Coach (Refurbished) #25050 (5112)
  • Amfleet II Coach #25119 (Phase VI) (5113)
  • Horizon Coach #54561 (Phase III) (Kentucky Cardinal)

We departed Chicago at 8:27 PM, twelve minutes late, just as a very late Lake Shore Limited train 48 was departing. We stopped at Amtrak's 21st Street yards to let train 48 clear, but it stopped after losing its trainline connection, and we took its slot out of the yard. There were numerous passengers in our car who had traveled together on the northbound Kentucky Cardinal just a few days before, and were joking about the terrible service on the train! Most, however, were aware that this route was the exception and not the rule for Amtrak. There were apparently no announcements coming into our car, so Krista and I assumed that the dining car had already been opened for dinner. We were correct, and after shoving through an insanely long line in the lounge car, we were promptly seated in the beautiful Timoinsa-rebuilt Heritage diner, across from two older ladies, one from Indianapolis and one from Berkeley, California. The menu was limited, and all four of us enjoyed the Lemon Pepper Salmon, which was very fresh and delicious. Krista paid for the meal, and we returned to our car to see fireworks yet again passing through Rensselaer, Indiana. It would probably be safe to assume that they had been rained out on July 4!

Sunday, July 6

Nature soon took over the fireworks, and we drifted off to sleep watching spectacular thunderstorms in the distance. I suddenly awoke in Indianapolis at 2:15 AM, and went outside to see what was happening. All station work was done, and a few railfan passengers on our train were congregated to watch trains 50 and 850 separate. Train 50 soon departed, and engines 164 and 24 backed onto our car to form the trainset of the final Kentucky Cardinal. Ironically, each of the three pieces of equipment on our train had three different paint schemes: P42DC #164 was in Phase V, P42DC #24 was in Phase IV, and our Horizon coach #54561 sported Phase III paint. The rainbow hodgepodge of paint was yet another symbol of Amtrak's neglect for this route, hearkening to the early days of Amtrak when most trains had rainbow paint schemes and were in general disrepair.

I noticed branches woven into the coupler and cowl of engine 164, almost looking intentionally placed because this was the final run of the route. However, as I found out from conversation between our conductor, Carl, and our engineer, Bill, our train 50 had hit a tree in the midst of the thunderstorms, causing lots of debris to stick to the 164, noticeably scratching and denting both engines, and mangling the fireman's side ladder on the 24! Carl removed most of the debris at 3 AM, leaving one undignified-looking train to bring the Kentucky Cardinal into history. The HEP was soon restored, and we departed Indianapolis at 3:04 AM, one hour nineteen minutes late.

I was approached by Tim Watson, an avid railfan and former private railcar owner from Indianapolis, who was on-board for the same reason we were. He pointed out many of the historical local railroad features as we departed track 10. We engaged in some complicated switching to reach the proper CSX line which would take us to the Louisville & Indiana Rail Company tracks a few miles south. The antiquated, jointed rail began immediately. We switched to the L&I road channel, 41 (160.725). I soon heard the engineer Bill converse with the L&I dispatcher, but, unlike on Class I railroads, my handheld scanner was too weak to hear the dispatcher. Bill coped Track Warrant #1 for our train, and reported 6 passengers for Jeffersonville and 39 for Louisville, for a total of 45. Ironically, the Kentucky Cardinal seldom ever had passenger loads that healthy in its entire lifetime, and many of our passengers were not railfans! I could only surmise that there were many people returning home from the long weekend, and probably a few who wanted to take advantage of the train's convenience and low fares before it went away for good.

The jointed rail of the L&I produced that archetypal rhythmic rocking that I had always heard, read, and dreamed about, but seldom ever experienced on a mainline passenger train. It certainly made the accommodations seem all the less appropriate, as a sleeping car would have completed the experience. I could now see the magic which TrainWeb's Ray Burns recounted in his travelogue from the Inaugural run of the Kentucky Cardinal, in which he was comfortably set in a lower-level Superliner standard bedroom, with snow swirling around outside! Back to reality, snow would have been a nice touch, as the air conditioning in our coach continued to struggle. Thankfully, the temperature and the humidity outside were not unbearably high.

Because there were no electrical outlets in which to plug my computer, I documented the rest of the trip on my notepad, so it would be most fitting to share my "blow-by-blow" account as I wrote it:

3:47 AM: Crew discussed operational details; CSX crew would meet us in Louisville to wye train and store it in their yard (instead of Amtrak crew bringing it to Jeffersonville for the day). Engineer Bill also said a "friend from back east" would be present in Louisville. I couldn't help but wonder if it would be a high-level Amtrak official.
4:04 AM: Passed town of Franklin, historic station. Toilet in accessible restroom not flushing.
4:37 AM: Entered Columbus Yard north limits.
4:41 AM: Passed Columbus Yard with original Pennsylvania Railroad freight house. First light of day outside.
4:50 AM: Crossed main fork of White River. Tim said bridge still said "Pennsylvania Railroad" on the side.
4:52 AM: Engineer Bill contacted dispatcher to notify of our clearance of Columbus Yard south limits.
5:12 AM: Grade crossing with crossbuck and bell, but no lights.
5:25 AM: Crossed CSX St Louis-Cincinnati line at Seymour Interlocking.
5:43 AM: Tim pointed out parallel railroad right-of-way that belonged to the last interurban trolley line in Indiana.
5:45 AM - 6:20 AM: Sleep.
6:31 AM: Railfan photographing our train.
6:44 AM: Same railfan again!
6:45 AM: I asked conductor Carl if official from "back east" would be anyone important, and he shrugged it off.
6:56 AM CST => 7:56 AM EDT: Cleared Track Warrant #1, entered Jeffersonville Yard north limits, switched to yard channel 61 (161.025). Yardmaster asked us to hold at Jeffersonville so our train could be photographed. Many Louisville passengers stepped off there to photograph train as well.
8:07 AM: Departed Jeffersonville one hour two minutes late.

We soon crossed the Ohio River and the beautiful River City of Louisville came into view. Once we reached Kentucky, the same railfan that had been chasing our train was photographing us yet again! Track ownership changed to CSX, but the crew remained on channel 61. Once we reached the "new" access track to Louisville Union Station, which is a few hundred feet long, the conductor manually threw the switch, and we backed into the short platform at Louisville. Train 850 arrived for the final time at 8:32 AM, forty-two minutes late. A few railfans were present, as were a photographer and a reporter from the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper. Krista and I followed the signs to the beautifully restored Union Station waiting room. Two armed security guards were sitting on a bench outside, and one let us into the ornate, 1884-built structure, which was nearly deserted, and called a taxi for us. We took some photos and explored the details of the station, which now houses the administrative offices of the Transit Authority of River City (TARC), Louisville's transit agency.

The taxi soon arrived and whisked us to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where we would spend the day using a special day occupancy rate. We checked into the beautiful, grand hotel at 9 AM, an hour before we were told we would be allowed to check in. Our sixth-floor King room was large, well-appointed, and comfortable, and had a view across Jefferson Street, to the local Convention Center. After taking a much-needed shower, we ordered a room service breakfast, which took a inexcusable hour and ten minutes to arrive. Because of the tardiness, we were not charged for the meal. We then enjoyed a three-hour "power nap", waking up highly rejuvenated. We went two floors down to take advantage of the hotel's pool and spa facilities for almost an hour before bathing again, checking our e-mail for the first time in days, and preparing for the trip on northbound train 851, the very last Amtrak Kentucky Cardinal.

We walked two blocks to a gas station so I could purchase batteries, as I had forgotten to bring my NiMH battery recharger on the trip. We checked out of the Hyatt Regency at 6 PM, stored our bags with the bell captain, and walked a block to the somewhat rail-themed Old Spaghetti Factory, the only one in Kentucky. We both enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs, and left the restaurant thoroughly stuffed. After retrieving our bags, the bell captain called us a taxi, and we were back at Union Station by 7:45 PM. I noticed the old Louisville & Nashville Railroad building across 10th Street, which still features the grand L&N neon sign at the top.

We were greeted by Cliff Kuhl, Schedule Planner for TARC, as well as a very knowledgeable rail and transit fan. When the Kentucky Cardinal reached Louisville in December 2001, Cliff documented the construction and preparations on his excellent Louisville Union Station web site, which may be found by clicking here . While Krista sat and did some reading, Cliff was kind enough to take me upstairs to show me some of the TARC offices and allow me to photograph the waiting room from the upper level. He was full of information about the station itself, which had just completed restoration as a Federal Transit Administration capital project. He pointed out that TARC left the Seaboard Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville railroad heralds on a door to the office which now serves as TARC's Personnel department, which was a lovely touch. He also mentioned that the L&N station in Nashville, which was built in a very similar style, was located at the address of 10th and Broadway, just like the Louisville station!

I went outside to photograph the station and the dozens of railfans who had showed up to photograph our train. I retrieved Krista from the station, and we went out to the platform at 8:45 PM to await train 851's arrival. Two local television news crews (one identified as being from WHAS, channel 11, the local ABC affiliate) were present to interview passengers and cover the train. I walked south on 11th Street with Cliff to photograph the train arriving from the CSX yard and switching onto the station track for the final time. I walked back to the platform as a feeling of melancholy excitement filled the air. Train 851 was in the station at 8:50 PM, and the same crew of Bill and Carl emerged. We had a couple of the same passengers as from train 850, including Tim.

Krista and I immediately boarded under the watchful eye of one of the news cameras, and took the front four-seat pair of seats. The train was extremely hot and humid, with the climate control system in seemingly worse shape than it was the same morning. We detrained again to take some last-minute photos. A "memorial" wreath had been placed on the platform by well-wishers, and was later mounted on the rear of our coach by conductor Carl. I photographed the wreath from both sides, photographed the front of engine 164 from behind the station track bumper, and shot the train from as many perspectives as possible to thoroughly document the historical event. Among the railfans present was the one who had chased our train 851 that morning! As evidenced by him, some people are very persistent in their hobbies.

Conductor Carl gave the all-aboard, and at 9:21 PM, train 851, the Amtrak Kentucky Cardinal, departed Louisville Union Station for the final time ever, one minute late. Many railfans paced our slow-moving train down 11th Street, with other impatient drivers who couldn't care less passing them! After backing onto the CSX, Carl threw the switch for the last time, and we proceeded northward, with the sad wisdom of Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans" playing in my head (and, most likely, the minds of many railfans on-board). Engineer Bill reported to the L&I dispatcher 44 passengers: 17 for Jeffersonville, 17 for Indianapolis, and 10 for Chicago. As we crossed the Ohio River for the final time, Bill called the local tower operator to say that if anyone is to blame for this train's discontinuance, it's definitely not the L&I. He said, "You guys have given 150% to do everything you can to keep this train running." If only there could be reason for Amtrak to have the same kind of sentiment towards many of the Class I host railroads!

Carl soon gave the standard speech about the train's sparse features to passengers, but added a heartfelt plea: "I hope all of you can write. Write your Congressmen, ask them to save my job, and help my eleven grandchildren, and bring back this train." He gave credit to Dr Bill Powers, who was instrumental in coordinating the Kentucky Cardinal route's creation, and ended with the memorable line, "The train is dead, but not buried."

I was soon approached by Jon Owen of the Kentucky-Indiana Rail Advocates and the Friends of the Kentucky Cardinal (click here for their web site), who joined two other individuals in filing a class action lawsuit against Amtrak and the United States Department of Transportation for creating hardship on the Northern Kentucky community by discontinuing the route. Though nothing would change the fact that we were riding the final Kentucky Cardinal, and the plaintiffs' case is considered to be a longshot, he said the case was received by the local US District court, and could go to hearing within a few weeks. Jon distributed copies of the lawsuit before detraining in Jeffersonville along with numerous other railfans. Among the group was Dan Kuhl, Cliff's son. The heat and humidity became extreme in our car, and many passengers stepped off in Jeffersonville to enjoy the pleasant breeze outside. Many of the same railfans who were on the platform at Louisville were present yet again. Because there were so much padding in the schedule and we were so early, Bill stepped out of the cab to converse with local comrades, as did Carl.

It was amazing to think that on December 17, 1999, there was an immense amount of pomp and circumstance on this very platform as the Inaugural Kentucky Cardinal arrived with much fanfare, a banner-breaking, and a press conference. At 10:10 PM, train 851 departed Jeffersonville for the final time, and at that instant, an entire part of America lost passenger rail service. The most we rail advocates could hope for would be that the absence would be more temporary than the twenty-year moratorium from when the Floridian was discontinued in 1979. I could not help but be reminded that, although the Kentucky Cardinal became a "loser" train, it illustrated an important point: That the efficiency and utility of long-distance trains increase with distance. Had the Kentucky Cardinal been extended to Nashville, ridership would have been much healthier, even with the inferior one-coach service.

Of course, more could have been done to give the Kentucky Cardinal a fighting chance to begin with. With leaner and meaner operations, the running time between Chicago and Louisville could have been trimmed to 9.5 hours. Had the train kept or expanded its consist of a Superliner sleeper and hi-level coach, passenger comfort would have been a selling point, not a point of shame. The service could have been aggressively marketed in the new service area long before the train started, with continual advertising and promotions. All of the above would have led to high morale among the train's would-be employees, and infinitely higher ridership. Alas, instead, George Warrington did not have customer service in mind when launching the Kentucky Cardinal (which hypocritically contradicted the countless millions spent under Warrington to launch a Service Guarantee program, put employees through charm school, and invent a new Amtrak logo). It was to be a freight train that happened to carry passengers. In the end, the freight business never materialized, the passengers were driven away anyway, and David Gunn saw no choice but to put this miserable train out of its misery. It is a sad ending to a sad story, but can hopefully serve as an important lesson in how not to handle the addition of a new route. The bottom line is that the customer is always right. Freight is inanimate, humans are not. Freight does not tell others to ride the train, humans do. And freight certainly does nothing to convince America's lawmakers that we need a healthy passenger rail system, but humans definitely do, and more would if Amtrak could effectively serve more passengers. I am confident that the Kentucky Cardinal will live again, hopefully as a reincarnation of the Floridian, but it will take time.

The heat and humidity inside the car did not improve much, so Krista and I spent nearly all of the trip seated, fanning ourselves with safety instruction cards and drinking plenty of water. I switched my watch back to Central Standard Time, and at 11:21 PM Bill stopped the train to copy Amtrak's very last warrant on the L&I, Track Warrant #5. At 11:38 PM, we cleared the north limits of Columbus yard. Because of the uncomfortable accommodations, I got the idea for us to upgrade to a Viewliner standard bedroom in Indianapolis. I called Amtrak to check availability, and was told that six rooms were available. I asked Carl if he could figure out the charge, and he said it could cost as little as $47 for the lowest bucket, but couldn't be sure. I soon went to sleep and awoke at 12:56 AM. We arrived into Indianapolis at 1:10 AM. Since daily service would continue between Indianapolis and Chicago, it was at that moment that the Kentucky Cardinal officially passed into history. There would be much time to kill, as train 51, the Cardinal, was not scheduled to arrive until 5:25 AM, and we were not scheduled to depart until 6:10 AM, providing for a five-hour layover. Pitifully, that is the amount of time it takes to drive from Louisville to Chicago!

Monday, July 7

Krista and I walked into Indianapolis Union Station, which has been heavily altered from its original form, and is shared with Greyhound. I joked that we were lucky we didn't have to take Greyhound, but I guess it was a fatal error on my part not to knock on wood! We went back to our train to sleep at 1:40 AM, but I was awakened at 4:50 AM by a station agent explaining to passengers connecting to western trains in Chicago that the Cardinal was already running two hours late. More importantly, due to severe weather near Chicago, many signals were disrupted and an additional delay of three hours was expected. As a result, anyone making connections would have to take a Greyhound bus! So much for upgrading to a sleeper! I had definitely spoken too soon. We could not risk missing our connection to the Southwest Chief back to Los Angeles, so we had to take the safe route. It was fortunate, however, that I woke up to make sure the agent spoke to me, as we had two separate reservations which would not have shown us as connecting in Chicago! She explained to me that we would take nonstop Thruway bus 8251, departing at 7:45 AM, and arriving into Chicago at 11:30 AM, twenty-five minutes after the Cardinal's scheduled arrival time. The agent collected our tickets and later returned with reissued tickets, mainly for the bus to Chicago. She also included new ticket stubs for train 851 from Louisville to Indianapolis. These tickets for the train on July 6 were shown as being issued on July 7! I suppose it was a final reminder of how the Kentucky Cardinal existed in a time warp of sorts. The agent also gave us and the other passengers luggage tags for larger suitcases to go under the bus indicating Chicago as the destination, to show that we're Amtrak passengers.

Krista slept some more, and we took another walk, before the agent showed up again at 6:20 AM with a cart for the baggage. We and the other connecting passengers went downstairs into the environmentally cooler station ten minutes later to wait for our bus. We heard the Cardinal arrive upstairs at 7:32 AM, two hours seven minutes late. Our nonstop bus to Chicago boarded a few minutes later, and the old Americruiser quickly filled with both Amtrak and Greyhound passengers. Unfortunately, after a lengthy delay, the driver told us that the bus leaked 5 gallons of oil, and that a replacement was needed. I asked him if Greyhound and Amtrak would be in contact to ensure that the Chicago connections would be made, in case our bus became very late, and he skirted the question, jokingly saying, "Don't wish bad luck on us." I, of course, was not amused! Feeling impatient, we and most of the other passengers got off the bus to wait for a new one. I went to the Amtrak counter to inform the agent of what was happening. She thanked me and said she would keep in contact with Chicago Station Services.

Our replacement Americruiser eventually showed up, and we finally departed at 8:49 AM, an hour and four minutes late, and even later than the Cardinal! Of course, our ride would surely be faster. I told Krista that, if the Cardinal wound up beating us to Chicago, I would angrily demand a refund and a written apology. Fortunately, that would not be the case. We both slept for an hour during our smooth ride north on I-65 and west on the I-90 toll road. The bus first stopped at the unsightly Chicago Greyhound terminal, where Amtrak passengers also had to disembark to place our luggage back under the bus (as all luggage was removed). We finally arrived at Chicago Union Station at 12:05 PM, handily beating the Cardinal, and giving us ample time to connect to the Southwest Chief. Fittingly enough, our trip on the final Kentucky Cardinal ended with a bus, which would serve as the last remnants of scheduled ground transportation to Louisville... for now, at least.

Click on the below links to view each set of photos:
Set #01 - Final Southbound Kentucky Cardinal out of Chicago
Set #02 - Final Southbound Kentucky Cardinal at Indianapolis
Set #03 - Final Southbound Kentucky Cardinal on the L&I
Set #04 - Final Southbound Kentucky Cardinal at Jeffersonville
Set #05 - Final Southbound Kentucky Cardinal at Louisville
Set #06 - Louisville Union Station, Hyatt Regency Hotel
Set #07 - Louisville Union Station
Set #08 - Louisville Union Station
Set #09 - Final Northbound Kentucky Cardinal at Louisville
Set #10 - Final Northbound Kentucky Cardinal at Louisville
Set #11 - Final Northbound Kentucky Cardinal out of Louisville/Jeffersonville
Set #12 - Final Northbound Kentucky Cardinal at Indianapolis

Click here for the previous segment of this travelogue:
Amtrak Texas Eagle
Click here for the next segment of this travelogue:
Amtrak Southwest Chief

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