Capitol Limited to Resume Daily Operation

Starting Monday, Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited will begin sharing train sets with the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

The move coincides with both trains resuming daily operation rather than the five-day-week operation they have been following since late January.

At that time the Capitol Limited began departing Chicago and Washington on Sunday through Thursday with no departures on Friday and Saturday.

At the time of the service reduction, Amtrak cited staffing shortages in reducing the operation of most long-distance trains from daily to five-days-a-week.

A report on the website of Trains magazine said the equipment from inbound No. 29 will make a same-day turn with minimal maintenance to become No. 21 for Texas.

Three days a week the Texas Eagle interchanges in San Antonio through cars to and from Los Angeles with the Sunset Limited.

Trains said the equipment sharing between the Eagle and Capitol will reduce the number of equipment sets needed to cover both trains from seven to six.

Currently, Amtrak assigns three equipment sets to Nos. 29 and 30 and four equipment sets to Nos. 21 and 22.

The trains will continue to be treated as separate for purposes of ticketing and those who are connecting from the Capitol to the Eagle or vice versa must disembark in Chicago rather than remain onboard.

The Eagle and Capitol have similar equipment sets of two coaches, a sleeping car and a Cross Country Café that serves as a dining car for sleeping car passengers and a café car for coach passengers.

The Eagle operates with a third coach between Chicago and St. Louis.

As part of the change, Amtrak plans to shift the federally-mandated 1,500 mile equipment inspection to St. Louis rather than Chicago.

To accommodate that, Amtrak is adding additional dwell time in St. Louis so that the Eagle will sit there for two hours in each direction.

During the St. Louis dwell time passengers will either have to disembark for the entire dwell time or remain in their coach seat or sleeping car room.

Amtrak wanted to retain the same schedule between St. Louis and San Antonio in both directions so it modified the schedule between Chicago and St. Louis.

No. 21 will now depart Chicago at 11:55 a.m. rather than the current 1:45 p.m. It will depart St. Louis at 9:22 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:21 p.m. Currently, No. 22 departs St. Louis at 7:55 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 1:22 p.m.

Currently, the St. Louis dwell time for the Texas Eagle in both directions is 30 minutes.

A potential challenge for the new schedule can occur if the inbound Capitol Limited is excessively late arriving in Chicago.

It is common for No. 29 to lose time while operating over host railroad Norfolk Southern west of Toledo.

In addition to the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle resuming daily operation, the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight will also begin operating daily next week.

Although Amtrak’s website shows all other long-distance trains now operating five days a week resuming daily operation on May 23, that is not guaranteed even though passengers are being allowed to book travel on days those trains currently do not operate.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Railway Age that the daily operation shown on the website for all long distance trains effective March 23 is the carrier’s spring schedule and the summer schedule has yet to be posted.

Amtrak has thus far declined to say how long the less-than-daily operation will continue.

That means the Lake Shore Limited, Crescent, City of New Orleans, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder will continue to operate on their present five-days-a-week schedules.

Also uncertain is when the New York-Miami Silver Meteor will resume operation.

Some corridor services will resume operating on March 28, including all trains in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor and some Empire Service trains that had been suspended between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

However, in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini remain suspended.

The former departed Chicago in the morning while the latter departed Carbondale in late afternoon.

Some shuttle trains between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts, also remain suspended.

A few Northeast Corridor trains also have yet to return, including overnight Nos. 66 and 67 between Boston and Washington.

This is not the first time Amtrak has operated equipment sharing for long-distance trains in Chicago.

In past years the Capitol Limited has shared equipment with the Southwest Chief, the Texas Chief has shared equipment with the City of New Orleans, and the Empire Builder has shared equipment with the City of New Orleans.

Magliari told Railway Age that combining the equipment sets for the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle was done due to shortages of operating and maintenance employees.

Another factor, he said, is that both are one-night trains, rather than taking two nights.

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