Capitol Limited

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Capitol Limited
Amtrak 30 on the Magnolia Cutoff.jpg
Capitol Limited emerges from the Graham Tunnel and crosses the Potomac River in Magnolia, West Virginia
Service typeInter-city rail
LocaleEastern United States
First serviceOctober 1, 1981
Current operator(s)Amtrak
Annual ridership167,713 (FY22) Increase 73.1%[a][1]
TerminiWashington, D.C.
Chicago, Illinois
Distance travelled780 miles (1,260 km)
Average journey time17 hours, 30 minutes[2]
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)29, 30
On-board services
Class(es)Coach Class
Sleeper Service
Disabled accessTrain lower level, all stations
Sleeping arrangements
  • Roomette (2 beds)
  • Bedroom (2 beds)
  • Bedroom Suite (4 beds)
  • Accessible Bedroom (2 beds)
  • Family Bedroom (4 beds)
Catering facilitiesDining car, Café
Observation facilitiesSightseer lounge car
Baggage facilitiesOverhead racks, checked baggage available at selected stations
Rolling stockGE Genesis
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed45 mph (72 km/h) (avg.)
79 mph (127 km/h) (top)
Track owner(s)CSX, NS

The Capitol Limited is a daily Amtrak train between Washington, D.C., and Chicago, running 764 miles (1,230 km) via Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Service began in 1981 and was named after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Capitol Limited which ended in 1971 upon the formation of Amtrak. It carries the Amtrak train numbers 29 and 30, which were previously assigned to the discontinued National Limited.

During fiscal year 2019, the Capitol Limited carried 209,578 passengers, down 4.3% from FY2018.[3] The train had a total revenue of $18,973,626 in fiscal year 2016, down 0.7% from FY2015.[4]

In October 2020, Amtrak temporarily reduced service on all long-distance routes, including the Capitol Limited, to three days per week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[5] Regular daily service was restored on May 31, 2021, with funding from the American Rescue Plan.[6]


The Shenandoah, predecessor to the Capitol Limited, in 1978
The Capitol Limited and a MARC commuter train collided at Silver Spring, Maryland in 1996

On October 1, 1981, Amtrak stopped running the Shenandoah, which connected Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati, Ohio, and began running the Capitol Limited. Amtrak's version of the CL ran over the same route as the B&O's train east of Pittsburgh, but west of Pittsburgh it ran combined with the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited over the former Pennsylvania Railroad's Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway. Its numbers, 440 (eastbound) and 441 (westbound), were derived from the Broadway Limited's 40 and 41 and the new train also used Heritage Fleet equipment.[7] The new train replaced the Broadway Limited's former Washington section which had diverged at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[8]

In late 1984, the Capitol Limited re-equipped with new Amfleet II coaches but also lost its full diner east of Pittsburgh.

Beginning with the October 26, 1986, timetable, Amtrak split up the Capitol Limited and Broadway Limited. The Capitol Limited continued to operate over the same route, regained a full diner east of Pittsburgh (which it had lost in 1984), received new train numbers (29 and 30, which had been assigned to the defunct National Limited), and a later schedule.[9]: 146 

On November 12, 1990, trains were rerouted west of Alliance, Ohio, due to Conrail's desire to abandon part of the former PFW&C in northwestern Indiana; the Capitol Limited now uses the former Pennsylvania Railroad Cleveland and Pittsburgh (C&P) line north from Alliance through Hudson, Ohio, to Cleveland route. The Broadway Limited and its successor, the Three Rivers, were re-routed over the B&O's Chicago-Pittsburgh route.[9]: 146–147  In October 1994, Amtrak, with great fanfare, relaunched the Capitol Limited with a new bilevel Superliner II consist.[10][11]

On February 16, 1996, an eastbound rush-hour MARC commuter train headed to Washington Union Station collided with the westbound Capitol Limited near Georgetown Junction on a snow-covered stretch of track just west of Silver Spring, Maryland. Eleven people died aboard the MARC train in the accident. Three died of injuries suffered in the impact; the rest were killed by smoke and flames. The MARC engineer and two conductors were among the dead.[12]

In November 2014, Amtrak, in the face of extreme delays, filed a complaint with the Surface Transportation Board, against CSX and Norfolk Southern, due to the frequency of extreme delays caused by freight train interference.[13]

On April 19, 2018, Amtrak announced that it would discontinue full-service dining aboard the train on June 1. Instead of hot meals prepared on the train and served to diners in the dining car, sleeper passengers were now served a selection of primarily cold pre-packaged boxed meals, served in a "Sleeper Lounge".[14][15] In January 2019, Amtrak expanded the boxed meal service to offer a full continental buffet at breakfast (with hot options such as oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches), and multiple hot entrées for lunch and dinner.[16]

Through cars[edit]

Between 1984 and 1986 and again from 1991 to 1993, the Capitol Limited exchanged a Chicago-Miami coach with the New York-Miami Silver Star at Washington, D.C.

During 1997 and part of 1998, Amtrak operated the Capitol Limited in conjunction with the Southwest Chief, a daily Los Angeles–Chicago service. The two trains used the same Superliner equipment sets, and passengers traveling on both trains could remain aboard during the layover in Chicago. Originally announced in 1996, Amtrak planned to call this through service the "National Chief" with its own numbers (15/16), although the name and numbers were never used. Amtrak dropped the practice with the May 1998 timetable.[17][18][19]

This route was mentioned amongst five others in the July 2010 issue of Trains magazine as slated for performance improvement,[20] and as part of its federally mandated analysis of the worst-performing long-distance routes, Amtrak determined that reinstating a through-car connection with the Pennsylvanian would result in the highest gain in monetary and customer service measurements of possible options.[21] To implement this, Amtrak had plans to operate a Viewliner sleeping car, an Amfleet cafe car and two Amfleet coaches between Chicago and New York via the Capitol Limited and Pennsylvanian, beginning sometime in 2011.[21] Trains magazine picked up on this in their January 2011 issue, citing that a switch would be re-installed to give the thru-cars access to parallel track. Issues cited with providing such a service included a consist switch in Pittsburgh (shuffling sleeper and coach positions so that the transition sleeper was in the rear), an eight-hour layover on Sundays due to the Pennsylvanian's 1:20p departure (since eliminated), and a lack of Viewliner sleepers (delivery of new Viewliner II sleepers was delayed by several years).[22]

Former stops[edit]

The PATrain at McKeesport, Pennsylvania in 1985. The Capitol Limited also used this station from 1982 to 1991.

The Capitol Limited's original routing west of Pittsburgh included Ohio stops in Canton, Crestline, and Lima; and Indiana stops in Fort Wayne, Valparaiso, and Gary. Amtrak dropped Gary as a station stop on April 28, 1985. On April 27, 1986, Amtrak added Warsaw, Indiana, located between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne. All these cities lost service when Amtrak re-routed the Capitol Limited north through Toledo on November 11, 1990.[23] For a year, a dedicated bus connection was offered between Fort Wayne and Waterloo, Indiana.

Between March 2, 1982, and April 7, 1991, the Capitol Limited stopped in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, located in the Monongahela Valley southeast of Pittsburgh. At the time the Port Authority of Allegheny County operated the "PATrain" commuter rail between McKeesport and downtown Pittsburgh. The Port Authority ended the service in 1989, citing low ridership. Amtrak followed suit a year later, noting that on average one passenger boarded at McKeesport per trip during the train's final months of service at that station.[24][25] Station platform track was subsequently removed, and the facility became an all-bus terminal.

Route details[edit]

Route of the Capitol Limited (interactive map)

Between Washington and Pittsburgh, the Capitol Limited mostly follows the historic B&O route along narrow river valleys hemmed in by steep slopes, including the upper Potomac, Youghiogheny, and Monongahela Rivers. Rail trails parallel much of this route, often on the opposite banks. The route straightens and levels out from Ohio onward.[26]

Westbound trains leave Washington before the afternoon rush and arrive in Chicago in the morning, while eastbound trains leave Chicago in early evening and arrive in Washington in early afternoon.

The Capitol Limited operates over the following Amtrak, CSX Transportation, and Norfolk Southern Railway trackage:


Traffic by Fiscal Year (October–September)
Ridership Change over previous year Ticket Revenue Change over previous year
2007[27] 193,748 - $14,877,428 -
2008[27] 216,350 Increase011.66% $17,431,949 Increase017.17%
2009[27] 215,371 Decrease00.45% $17,581,767 Increase00.85%
2010[28] 218,956 Increase01.66% $18,578,926 Increase05.67%
2011[28] 226,597 Increase03.48% $20,312,544 Increase09.33%
2012[29] 226,884 Increase00.12% $20,480,182 Increase00.82%
2013[29] 229,668 Increase01.22% $21,373,833 Increase04.36%
2014[30] 235,926 Increase02.72% $20,591,711 Decrease03.65%
2015[30] 226,240 Decrease04.1% $19,103,951 Decrease07.22%
2016[31] 228,444 Increase00.97% $18,973,626 Decrease00.68%
2017[32] 231,000 Increase01.11% - -
2018[33] 219,033 Decrease05.18% - -
2019[33] 209,578 Decrease04.31% - -
2020[34] 126,997 Decrease037.7% - -
2021[35] 96,885 Decrease023.7% - -
2022[35] 167,713 Increase073.1% - -


A typical Capitol Limited with Superliner cars
Sample consist
July 4, 2018
  • GE P42DC
  • GE P42DC
  • Viewliner Baggage car
  • Superliner II transition-dorm
  • Superliner II sleeping car
  • Superliner I sleeping car
  • Superliner II sleeping car
  • Superliner I dining car
  • Superliner I Sightseer Lounge
  • Superliner I Coach-Baggage
  • Superliner I coach
  • Superliner I coach

The Capitol Limited uses Superliner equipment. As of July 2018, a typical train consists of:[36]

  • 2 GE P40DC/P42DC locomotives
  • 1 Viewliner II baggage car
  • 1 Superliner Transition Sleeper
  • 2 Superliner sleepers
  • 1 Superliner dining car or diner-lounge
  • 1 Superliner Sightseer Lounge
  • 1 Superliner coach-baggage car
  • 2 Superliner coaches

In late 2014, with delays due to freight train interference resulting in equipment shortages, Amtrak modified the consist, in order to create a fourth train set, which included two sleeping cars, two coaches, and a combined diner-lounge, and the removal of the baggage car, sightseer lounge car, a sleeping car, and a transition dormitory.[37] Complaints, however, resulted in Amtrak reverting to their standard consist.[38]


  1. ^ "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2022 Ridership" (PDF). Amtrak. November 29, 2022. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  2. ^ "Amtrak Timetable Results". Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  3. ^ "Amtrak FY19 Ridership" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Amtrak® FY16 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Amtrak to end daily service on most long-distance routes starting in October". Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  6. ^ "With Increased Demand and Congressional Funding, Amtrak Restores 12 Long Distance Routes to Daily Service". Amtrak Media. March 10, 2021. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  7. ^ Amtrak (October 25, 1981). "National Train Timetables". Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  8. ^ Sanders, Craig (2009). Canton Area Railroads. Arcadia. p. 109. ISBN 9780738561110.
  9. ^ a b Welsh, Joe (2006). Pennsylvania Railroad's Broadway Limited. Saint Paul, MN: Voyageur Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-2302-1.
  10. ^ Amtrak (October 30, 1994). "National Timetable". Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  11. ^ Patch, David (October 26, 1994). "Superliner introduces travel to Chicago-Toledo-Washington". Toledo Blade. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  12. ^ "Collision in Silver Spring MARC-Amtrak tragedy". The Baltimore Sun. February 20, 1996. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  13. ^ Vantuono, William (November 17, 2014). "Amtrak files complaint with STB over Capitol Limited performance". Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  14. ^ "New and Contemporary Dining Soon on Two Amtrak Routes". Amtrak Media (Press release). Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  15. ^ "New and Contemporary Dining Soon on Two Amtrak Routes - Amtrak Media". Amtrak Media. April 19, 2018. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  16. ^ Johnston, Bob (January 17, 2019). "'Lake Shore', 'Capitol' get hot entrees; coach passengers left in the cold". Trains Magazine. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  17. ^ "Amtrak National Timetable". November 10, 1996. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  18. ^ "Amtrak National Timetable". May 11, 1997. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  19. ^ "Amtrak National Timetable". May 17, 1998. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  20. ^ "Amtrak Trains Under the Microscope in 2010". Trains. July 2010. p. 20.
  21. ^ a b "PRIIA Section 210 FY10 Performance Improvement Plan Capitol Limited". Trains Magazine. Amtrak. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  22. ^ "Amtrak's Improvement Wish List". Trains. January 2011. pp. 20–21.
  23. ^ Harvey, Hank (November 11, 1990). "'Train Town USA' loses rail service after 146 years". Toledo Blade. Retrieved May 23, 2010.[dead link]
  24. ^ Bowman, Lee (March 1, 1982). "Amtrak D.C. Train Stops In McKeesport". Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  25. ^ Butler, Ann (February 20, 1991). "Amtrak to end McKeesport stop on Capitol Limited". Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  26. ^ "Capitol Limited Route Guide" (PDF). Amtrak. 2010. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  27. ^ a b c "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2009, Oct. 2008-Sept. 2009" (PDF). Trains Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 30, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2020.
  28. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 8, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ a b "AMTRAK SETS RIDERSHIP RECORD AND MOVES THE NATION'S ECONOMY FORWARD" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 24, 2020.
  30. ^ a b "Amtrak FY15 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF).
  31. ^ "Amtrak FY16 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF). Amtrak. April 17, 2017.
  32. ^ "Amtrak FY17 Ridership" (PDF).
  33. ^ a b "Amtrak FY19 Ridership" (PDF).
  34. ^ Luczak, Marybeth (November 23, 2020). "Amtrak Releases FY 2020 Data". Railway Age. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Inc. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  35. ^ a b "Amtrak Route Ridership: FY22 vs. FY21" (PDF). November 29, 2022. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  36. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Adam Klimchock (July 5, 2018), A Late Capitol Limited - Sand Patch PA, retrieved July 13, 2018
  37. ^ "Capitol Limited Down to 5 Cars, 1 Locomotive". Akron Railroad Club. October 23, 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
  38. ^ "Capitol Limited Gains Another Sleeper". Akron Railroad Club. November 5, 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2015.


  1. ^ Amtrak's Fiscal Year (FY) runs from October 1 of the prior year to September 30 of the named year.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata