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Northbound Carolinian pulling in to High Point.
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Locale||Northeastern United States/Southern United States|
|First service||May 12, 1990|
|Current operator(s)||Amtrak in partnership with the|
North Carolina Department of Transportation
|Ridership||706 (FY18 daily avg.)|
|Annual ridership||256,886 (FY18) |
|Start||Penn Station, New York City|
|End||Charlotte station, Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Distance travelled||704 miles (1,133 km)|
|Class(es)||Coach and business class|
|Seating arrangements||Reserved Coach Seat|
|Catering facilities||Cafe car|
|Baggage facilities||Checked baggage available at|
|Rolling stock||Amfleet cars|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Track owner(s)||Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern/NCRR|
The Carolinian is a daily passenger train that runs between Charlotte, North Carolina and New York City. The train began operation in 1990 and is jointly funded and operated by Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. A previous iteration operated between 1984-1985. Onboard services include coach, business class, and a cafe car. The train operates over the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington, D.C. Northbound trains leave Charlotte at breakfast time and arrive in New York in the early evening, while southbound trains leave New York during the morning rush and arrive in Charlotte in the evening.
Intermediate stops in North Carolina include Rocky Mount, Wilson, Selma, Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, and Kannapolis. The North Carolina portion of the route runs along the North Carolina Railroad, a state-owned railroad which is leased to Norfolk Southern.
During fiscal year 2018, the Carolinian carried 256,886 passengers, an 8% decrease from FY2017. Ridership on the Carolinian has steadily decreased since fiscal year 2013, when the Carolinian carried over 317,550 passengers. The line had a total revenue of $19,841,847 during FY2013.
The Carolinian and Piedmont are notable because they allow walk-up checked bicycle transportation at station stops in North Carolina. The two trains are marketed by NCDOT under the NC By Train brand.
For most of Amtrak's first two decades, service in North Carolina was limited to long-distance trains, which were not well-suited to regional travel. The Piedmont from Greensboro to Charlotte continued to be served by Southern Railway for much of the 1970s; Southern had been one of the few large railroads to opt out of Amtrak in 1971. However, Southern drastically reduced its remaining service in 1976, including its remaining medium-haul trains going through the state, before handing its remaining service to Amtrak in 1979.
Amtrak first introduced the Carolinian on October 28, 1984, in partnership with the state of North Carolina. It was originally a section of the Palmetto, which ran between New York and Savannah, Georgia. It ran from Charlotte to Raleigh, where it stopped at the old Seaboard Air Line Railroad station. From there, it ran to Henderson to Collier Yard south of Petersburg, Virginia. At Richmond, Virginia, the Carolinian joined the Palmetto for the journey to New York along the Northeast Corridor. The southbound train operated in the reverse direction, splitting from the Palmetto in Richmond while the Palmetto continued to Savannah. North Carolina supported the Carolinian with a $436,000 yearly subsidy from Charlotte to the Virginia line. It was the first direct Raleigh—Charlotte service in 30 years and the first North Carolina-specific service in 20 years. An early alternative name for the service was the Piedmont Palmetto.
Amtrak intended the Carolinian to be a one-year pilot project, and was very open to making the route permanent. However, while ridership exceeded expectations, revenues did not: most passengers traveled within North Carolina and did not continue to the Northeast. Amtrak was also hampered by the proliferation of cheap airfares from Charlotte and Raleigh to the Northeast. Amid losses of $800,000, Amtrak discontinued the Carolinian on September 3, 1985 after North Carolina declined to increase its subsidy. Supporters of the Carolinian blamed Amtrak and the state for not marketing the train properly; many passengers were unaware that the train went all the way to New York.
Amtrak and North Carolina re-launched the Carolinian on May 12, 1990. Like the original, it was originally a section of the Palmetto, only this time the split occurred in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. This incarnation proved successful enough that in April 1991, Amtrak made the Carolinian a full-fledged day train running from Charlotte to New York. While the Palmetto runs through from Richmond to Alexandria, Virginia; the Carolinian stops at Fredericksburg and Quantico (shared with Northeast Regional trains going to Newport News or Norfolk) before continuing on to Alexandria.
In 1995, the Carolinian was joined with a sister regional train, the Piedmont, which runs along the I-85 Corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte–the southern leg of the Carolinian. The Piedmont was originally due to enter service in 1993, but was delayed when Norfolk Southern insisted that Amtrak build a new wye in Charlotte to turn the Carolinian and Piedmont around. Previously, the southbound Carolinian had to make a time-consuming 10-mile deadhead trip to the nearest wye in Pineville, North Carolina.
Until 2004, the Carolinian also had a stop at BWI Marshall Airport Rail Station.
NCDOT subsidizes the Carolinian from Charlotte to the Virginia border. Since 2017, NCDOT has been considering an extension of the Carolinian to New Haven, Connecticut. The extension would reduce or eliminate the need for NCDOT to fund the North Carolina portion of the route, and would provide an earlier southbound train from New Haven than currently operates.
Long-term plans call for restoring a portion of the former Seaboard main line between Raleigh and Richmond, known as the "S-Line," as part of construction of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor between Charlotte and Washington. The S-Line had been abandoned in 1985, forcing Amtrak to route its trains linking Raleigh and the Northeast through Selma along the NCRR. It is estimated that restoring the S-Line will cut an hour off the train's running time by enabling a more direct route over the Virginia border.
From July 2019 to September 2019, Amtrak truncated the Carolinian to Raleigh from Monday through Thursday to allow CSX to perform track maintenance. The train ran on its normal schedule on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In April 2020, NCDOT and Amtrak suspended the Carolinian until May 4 as part of a round of service reductions in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension was extended through May 17 to allow CSX to perform track maintenance. The train returned on May 18 as a truncated Charlotte-Raleigh service, though state and Amtrak officials hoped to extend the train at least as far as Washington by June. The Piedmont was suspended on the same day the Carolinian returns as a cost-cutting measure, leaving the Carolinian as the only rail link between Charlotte and Raleigh until further notice. On May 29, NCDOT announced on Twitter that full service would resume to New York on June 1.
2015 Halifax train crash
On March 9, 2015, a northbound Carolinian collided with a tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in Halifax County, North Carolina, with 55 people injured. The locomotive landed on its side, while all of the cars remained upright.
The Carolinian operates over Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, and North Carolina Railroad trackage. Since 1871, Norfolk Southern and its predecessors have leased the NCRR from the state.
- Amtrak Northeast Corridor, New York to Washington
- CSX RF&P Subdivision, Richmond Terminal Subdivision, North End Subdivision, and South End Subdivision, Washington to Selma
- NS Raleigh District, Selma to Greensboro (leased from NCRR from Raleigh to Greensboro)
- NS Danville District, Greensboro to Linwood (leased from NCRR)
- NS Charlotte District, Linwood to Charlotte (leased from NCRR)
Two Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach routes connect large swaths of eastern North Carolina to the Wilson station. One route serves Greenville, New Bern, Havelock, and Morehead City; another serves Goldsboro, Kinston, Jacksonville, and Wilmington. A third Thruway Motorcoach route runs from Winston-Salem to High Point.
Before 2019, the northbound Carolinian followed the practice of most medium- and long-distance trains operating in the Northeast and did not allow passengers to travel only between stations on the Northeast Corridor. It only stopped to discharge passengers from Washington northward in order to keep seats available for passengers making longer trips. Starting in 2019, the northbound Carolinian began allowing local travel on the Northeast Corridor on Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays. The southbound Carolinian allows local travel in the Northeast at all times from Trenton southward.
The Carolinian typically operates with 4 Amfleet I coaches, an Amfleet café, an Amfleet business class car, and a Viewliner baggage car. Motive power is provided by a GE P42DC diesel locomotive south of Washington, D.C.. Service between Washington and New York is handled by a Siemens ACS-64 electric locomotive. Maximum seating in such a configuration is 346, split between business class and reserved coach.
The NCDOT offers free transit passes which allow detraining Piedmont passengers to get one free bus ride and one transfer on the same day of travel. Passes are honored by 13 participating transit systems along its route.
- "Amtrak General and Legislative Annual Report & FY2020 Grant Request" (PDF). Amtrack. March 19, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
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- @NC_By_Train (May 29, 2020). "Greetings, passengers. Starting Monday, June 1, Carolinian trains 79 and 80 will resume service between Charlotte and New York" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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