Hilltopper (train)

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Amtrak Hilltopper at Roanoke station, April 1978.jpg
The Hilltopper at Roanoke, Virginia in April 1978
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Discontinued
Locale Eastern United States
Predecessor Mountaineer
Former operator(s) Amtrak
Start Boston, Massachusetts
Stops 34
End Catlettsburg, Kentucky
Distance travelled 1,674 miles (2,694 km)
Average journey time 26 hours 35 minutes
Service frequency Daily
Train number(s) 66, 67
On-board services
  • Sleeping car service (Boston-Washington)
  • Reserved and unreserved coach
Catering facilities On-board cafe
Rolling stock Amfleet coaches
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner(s) Amtrak, RF&P, N&W

The Hilltopper was a passenger train operated by Amtrak in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It ran daily from South Station in Boston, Massachusetts to Catlettsburg, Kentucky. The 1,674 mi (2,694 km) run made 34 stops in 11 states and the District of Columbia.[1]


1977 map of the Hilltopper route

The Hilltopper replaced the discontinued Mountaineer on June 1, 1977.[2] Initially it terminated at Washington, D.C., but on January 8, 1978 was combined with the Night Owl and extended to Boston.[3]:73

The Hilltopper had warm supporters in West Virginian congressman Harley Staggers and Robert C. Byrd, but it was "cited by critics as an example of everything that was wrong with Amtrak".[4][5]:51 The train averaged 33 passengers per trip in 1978, dropping to between 2 and 15 per trip in 1979, and its average speed of 37.1 miles per hour (59.7 km/h) was the lowest on the long-distance system. Farebox recovery was a dismal 25%, with the train losing $200,000 per year.[6]

The Hilltopper was one of five routes cut on October 1, 1979 as part of a reorganization by the Carter Administration, and the only of the five where no federal injunctions were obtained to keep service running.[6] Many of the train's riders were former N&W employees with lifetime passes. The Night Owl continued to be run after the cut.[6]

Service has not returned many of its stops in Southwest Virginia and West Virginia, although one daily Northeast Regional round trip will be extended from Lynchburg to Roanoke in late 2017.[7]


  1. ^ "National Train Timetables". National Railroad Passenger Corporation. July 29, 1979. p. 34 – via Museum of Railway Timetables. 
  2. ^ "Hilltopper Begins Service". Amtrak NEWS 4 (11). 15 June 1977. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34705-X. 
  4. ^ Dilger, Robert Jay (2003). American Transportation Policy. Praeger. p. 91. ISBN 9780275978532. 
  5. ^ Solomon, Brian (2004). Amtrak. Saint Paul, MN: MBI. ISBN 0-760-31765-8. OCLC 56490949. 
  6. ^ a b c Franklin, Ben A. (October 1, 1979). "Amtrak Hilltopper Given Last 'All Aboard!'". New York Times. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  7. ^ Sturgeon, Jeff (23 May 2016). "Building of Roanoke's Amtrak platform expected to start this fall, state says". Roanoke Times. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Hilltopper (train) at Wikimedia Commons