Piedmont (train)

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Piedmont High Point.jpg
A state-owned EMD F59PH and EMD F59PHI lead the Piedmont into High Point on an autumn day in 2012.
Service typeInter-city rail
LocaleNorth Carolina
First serviceMay 26, 1995
Current operator(s)Amtrak,
Ridership167,203 total (FY18)[1]
StartRaleigh, North Carolina
EndCharlotte, North Carolina
Distance travelled173 miles (278 km)
Average journey time3 hrs, 10 mins
Service frequencyThree round-trips daily
Train number(s)(73/74/75/76/77/78)
On-board services
Class(es)Reserved Coach only
Disabled accessFully accessible
Catering facilitiesLounge car
Baggage facilitiesChecked baggage available at select stations
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Operating speed79 miles per hour (127 km/h) maximum; 55 miles per hour (89 km/h) average, including stops
Track owner(s)NCRR
Route map
Atlantic Coast Service
to New York City
0 mi
9 mi
14 km
26 mi
42 km
60 mi
97 km
84 mi
135 km
97 mi
156 km
High Point
131 mi
211 km
146 mi
235 km
173 mi
278 km
Gateway Station
CityLynx Gold Line(future)

The Piedmont or Piedmont Service is a regional passenger train operated by Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), running six times a day between Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina. It is a sister train to the Carolinian, which runs from Charlotte to New York City. The Piedmont route is coextensive with the far southern leg of the Carolinian, largely paralleling Interstate 85. Operations began in May 1995.

NCDOT owns the rolling stock used on the Piedmont, unlike the Carolinian, which uses Amtrak rolling stock. Both trains are marketed by NCDOT under the NC By Train brand.


North Carolina developed the Piedmont as a regional follow-on to the Carolinian, which had entered service in early 1990. With the growing popularity of the Carolinian, state officials sought to add a second daily round-trip between Charlotte and Raleigh. However, Amtrak initially balked, claiming that it didn't have enough rolling stock to spare.[2] Undaunted, in the fall of 1990, NCDOT approved the acquisition of five used passenger cars and the leasing of two diesel locomotives. The board planned to have the second train enter service by early 1992.[3]

The Piedmont (as the train came to be called) faced numerous delays. Norfolk Southern, which leased the track, insisted that the state construct a wye in Charlotte for turning the two trains around. At the time, the southbound Carolinian had deadheaded 10 miles (16 km) south to the nearest wye in Pineville and turned around there. In 1993, the cost of the wye plus land purchase was estimated at $200,000; by late 1994, this grew to $695,000, plus $1.5 million for a maintenance facility in Raleigh.[4][5] The Piedmont finally began operating on May 26, 1995.[6] Originally, it operated with an early-morning trip to Charlotte and a nighttime return to Raleigh. Its creation enabled same-day business travel between Charlotte and Raleigh in both directions.

After delays in refurbishing the motive power and passenger cars, an additional Piedmont round trip began operating on June 5, 2010.[7][8][9] With the addition of the second train, Amtrak rebranded the route Piedmont Service to reflect the multiple daily frequencies.[7]

On March 22, 2011, it was announced that an agreement between NCDOT, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and the North Carolina Railroad had been reached that would allow for $461 million in grants from the federal government to be used in upgrading infrastructure.[10] The money would be used to add additional double track and passing sidings, as well as reducing curves, resulting in a 13-minute reduction in travel time.[10]

NCDOT EMD F59PHI City of Asheville in Charlotte, having just pulled the westbound train from Raleigh

Improvements include the new Raleigh Union Station, which had its "ribbon cutting" in late April 2018 and began accepting trains that July.[11] A third daily Piedmont round trip was added on June 4, 2018[12][13] with a fourth round trip to be added in 2023.[14]

On April 6, 2020; the Piedmont was truncated to a single round trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15] On May 18, 2020, the Piedmont was suspended in a further round of COVID-related service cutbacks. This left the Carolinian, which returned that day after a month-long suspension, as the only rail link between Charlotte and Raleigh.[16][17] The Piedmont returned on August 10th, with a single round trip.[18] A second round trip was restored in December. On April 5, 2021, the Piedmont resumed its full schedule of three round trips. This was part of a planned larger restoration of service across the Amtrak system in the spring and summer of 2021.[19]

While the Piedmont is operated by Amtrak crews, most other operations are handled by NCDOT. The state sets schedules, owns the equipment, and handles most of the marketing. Maintenance is handled by state contractors at facilities in Charlotte and Raleigh.[2]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On May 13, 2010, a westbound Piedmont collided with a lowboy tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in Mebane, North Carolina, with 13 people injured.[20]

Route details[edit]

The Piedmont operates over North Carolina Railroad trackage. Norfolk Southern Railway and its predecessors have leased the NCRR from the state since 1871.

On-board volunteers from the North Carolina Train Host Association provide information about points of interest in North Carolina. Station hosts are also on hand at the Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh stations.

Rolling stock[edit]

Close-up view of two state-owned coaches on the Piedmont.
NCDOT F59PH engine City of Durham at Salisbury.
NCDOT F59PHI engine City of Salisbury at Greensboro on the Piedmont.

The motive power for the Piedmont has been provided by eight state-owned locomotives. Two are EMD F59PHIs, numbered 1755 (City of Salisbury) and 1797 (City of Asheville). Six are EMD F59PHs, numbered 1810 (City of Greensboro), 1859 (City of High Point), 1869 (City of Durham), 1871 (Town of Cary), 1893 (City of Burlington), and 1984 (City of Kannapolis). NCDOT also has five cab control units which are numbered 101-105. NCDOT's current F59PHs were originally used by GO Transit of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and rebuilt by American Motive Power and Altoona Works.[21] Locomotives from Amtrak's national fleet, such as the GE P42DC, may also be used.[22]

NCDOT formerly operated two GP40PH-2's rebuilt by AMF. 1768 (City of Charlotte), originally B&O GP40 4008, was sold to the Virginia Railway Express and became VRE V24.[23] 1792 (City of Raleigh), originally L&N GP40 3006, was wrecked in the Mebane accident. Everything except the EMD 645 engine, bell and horn were scrapped.

Since at least 2017, the Piedmont has operated with two locomotives on either end of the train to improve on-time performance. When westbound trains arrive in Charlotte, the engineer simply goes to the locomotive on the other end of the train to take it to Raleigh, and vice versa. With the addition of more cab control units, the Piedmont will eventually operate in push-pull mode.[24]

State-owned passenger cars on the Piedmont are refurbished coach cars originally built by Pullman-Standard and the St. Louis Car Company in the 1960s for the Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific. There are five lounge/baggage cars and one coach/baggage car originally built by the St. Louis Car Company in the 1950s and used by the United States Army. The lounge car includes vending machines and complimentary coffee and tea. There are 14 regular coaches used on trains in addition to the six lounge/baggage cars. Each coach is named after a state landmark or state symbol. During the COVID-related service cutbacks of 2020, NCDOT opted to run the Carolinian rather than the Piedmont to save the expense of maintaining the state-owned consists, since the Carolinian uses Amtrak rolling stock.[17]

All rolling stock has been painted in a blue and silver livery, with red accents, based on the North Carolina state flag. The Carolinian uses Amtrak's national red-white-blue livery.

In August 2019, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded NCDOT up to $76.9 million to purchase 13 new coaches, allowing the replacement of some older cars and an expansion to four daily round trips.[25] On May 22, 2020, Senator Thom Tillis announced that NCDOT will receive an $80 million dollar grant to order 13 additional new railcars (for an overall total of 26 new railcars) and 6 new locomotives to replace the remainder of the current fleet.[26] As of February 2020, nine former circus train cars purchased by NCDOT for $383,000 in 2017 for restoration and use on the Piedmont are stored in Spring Hope, North Carolina.[27] The state listed the nine cars for sale in December 2020.[28]


During fiscal year (FY) 2016, the Piedmont carried a total of 152,175 passengers, a 5.8% decrease from FY 2015's total of 161,487 passengers. The train had a total revenue of $3,213,742 during FY 2016, a drop of 2.7% below FY 2015's revenue of $3,402,929.[29]

Fiscal Year Ridership Ridership Change
(year to year)
Revenue Revenue Change
(year to year)
2009 68,427 n/a $1,119,573[30] n/a
2010 99,873 +46.0% $1,556,873[30] +39.1%
2011 140,016 +40.2% $2,498,540[31] +60.5%
2012 162,657 +16.2% $3,077,031[32] +23.2%
2013 170,266
$3,325,948[34] +8.1%
2014 170,413 -5.1% $3,402,929[33] +2.3%
2015 161,487 -5.2% $3,304,601[35] -2.9%
2016 152,175 -5.8% $3,213,742[29] -2.7%
2017 148,000 -2.7% $3,213,742[36] -2.7%
2018 165,244 +10.44% $3,213,742[37] -2.7%
2019 209,053 +26.51%[38] - -
2020 113,891 -45.5%[38] - -
  1. ^ a b In FY 2014, Amtrak began counting actual lifted ridership for multi-ride tickets (due to eTicketing), rather than the estimated multi-ride ridership used previously. Using the same method, FY 2013 ridership on the Piedmont calculates to 179,556 and the ridership change from FY 2012 to FY 2013 is +10.4%.[33]

Station stops[edit]

Amtrak Piedmont (interactive map)
State Town/City Station Connections
North Carolina Raleigh Raleigh Amtrak: Silver Star, Carolinian
GoRaleigh: R-Line, inbound 13 before 7pm,

inbound 8 after 7pm

Cary Cary Amtrak: Silver Star, Carolinian
GoCary: 3, 4, 5, 6, KFX
GoTriangle: 300, 301
Durham Durham Amtrak: Carolinian
GoDurham: all routes except 20
GoTriangle: 400, 405, 700, DRX, ODX
Greyhound Buses


Burlington Burlington Amtrak: Carolinian
Elon BioBus: Downtown/East Burlington Loop
Alamance County Transportation
on demand
Greensboro Greensboro Amtrak: Crescent, Carolinian
GTA: all routes except 12A
PART: 2, 4, 9, 10
Greyhound Buses
High Point High Point Amtrak: Crescent, Carolinian, Thruway Motorcoach.[i]
Hi tran: all routes
PART: 3, 5[i]
Salisbury Salisbury Amtrak: Crescent, Carolinian
Salisbury Transit: all routes
Rowan Transit: Rowan Express
Kannapolis Kannapolis Amtrak: Carolinian
CK Rider: Blue, Brown
Rowan Transit: Rowan Express
Charlotte Charlotte Amtrak: Crescent, Carolinian
CATS: 11
  1. ^ a b Amtrak contracts with PART to provide Thruway service to Winston-Salem. Passage is available via through-ticketing or as a separate fare. Both methods are co-branded as NC Amtrak Connector.

An additional station in Lexington operates during the Lexington Barbecue Festival in October.

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.


  1. ^ "Amtrak Ridership FY18" (PDF download). Amtrak. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Kevin McKinney (November 28, 2018). "North Carolina's Successful Alternative Approach to Rail". Passenger Train Journal.
  3. ^ "DOT approves funds for Raleigh-Charlotte train". Morning Star. November 9, 1990. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  4. ^ "More delays put second Tar Heel passenger train service off track". Times-News. March 11, 1993. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  5. ^ "New train won't start on schedule". Morning Star. November 28, 1994. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  6. ^ McDowell, Edwin (June 7, 1995). "Business Travel; There have been 10 billion passengers since that first commercial flight across Tampa Bay in 1914". New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Bob Johnston (May 2010). "North Carolina debuts Piedmont Service". Trains Magazine. Kalmbach Publishing.
  8. ^ "NCDOT Announces Two Additional Mid-Day Passenger Trains Between Raleigh and Charlotte to Begin June 5". North Carolina Department of Transportation. March 31, 2010. Retrieved April 11, 2010.
  9. ^ "New mid-day train boosts North Carolina's Amtrak ridership". Progressive Railroading. August 3, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  10. ^ a b "North Carolina reaches fast-train deal". Trains Magazine. March 22, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  11. ^ Finley, William Needham (May 1, 2018). "Development Beat: A More Perfect Union Station - ITB Insider™". ITB Insider™. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Ferrell, Bruce. "Rail Service Being Adding Across NC". ncnn.com. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  13. ^ North Carolina Department of Transportation (May 1, 2018). "NC By Train Offering Additional, Daily Round Trip Starting June 4". ncbytrain.org. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  14. ^ "Following Tillis' Push, Department of Commerce Awards $80 Million Grant to North Carolina DOT" (Press release). Thom Thillis. May 22, 2020.
  15. ^ "Service Adjustments Due to Coronavirus" (Press release). North Carolina Department of Transportation. April 3, 2020. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  16. ^ "Piedmont Passenger Rail Service Suspended". North Carolina Department of Transportation. May 13, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Richard Stradling (May 14, 2020). "NCDOT suspends Piedmont train service between Raleigh and Charlotte to save money". The Charlotte Observer. The News & Observer.
  18. ^ "State's Piedmont Passenger Rail Service Resumes Operations".
  19. ^ Richard Stradling (March 11, 2021). "Full passenger train service to resume in NC for the first time since COVID-19 pandemic". The News & Observer.
  20. ^ Minnick, Beau; Smith, Ken; Davis, Stacy (May 14, 2010). Hinchcliffe, Kelly; Johnson, Anne; Glusco, Jodi Leese; Hanrahan, Kathy (eds.). "Trains running again in Mebane after crash; road still blocked". WRAL.com. WRAL-TV. Retrieved October 21, 2015. [A]n Amtrak train slammed into a tractor-trailer, injuring 13 people and leaving massive amounts of wreckage.
  21. ^ "List of Piedmont equipment owned by NCDOT" (PDF). 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 6, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  22. ^ Amtrak Piedmont 75 arrives into Durham NC (YouTube video)
  23. ^ "VRE GP40-H2 No. V24". Trainweb.org. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  24. ^ "All Aboard in the Carolinas, Volume 23, Issue 3" (PDF). Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains. May–June 2017.
  25. ^ "U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces $272 Million in 'State of Good Repair' Program Grants" (Press release). Federal Railroad Administration. August 21, 2019.
  26. ^ "Following Tillis' Push, Department of Commerce Awards $80 Million Grant to North Carolina DOT" (Press release). Thom Thillis. May 22, 2020.
  27. ^ Carrington, Don (February 24, 2020). "NCDOT circus train sits alone in Nash County". Carolina Journal.
  28. ^ Stradling, Richard (December 21, 2020). "Own a (big) piece of history: NCDOT puts Ringling Bros. circus train cars up for sale". The News & Observer.
  29. ^ a b "Amtrak® FY16 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF). National Railroad Passenger Corporation. November 17, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  30. ^ a b "Amtrak Sets New Ridership Record, Thanks Passengers for Taking the Train" (PDF download). Amtrak. October 11, 2010. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  31. ^ "Amtrak Ridership Rolls up Best-ever Records" (PDF download). Amtrak. October 13, 2011. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  32. ^ "Amtrak-Sets-New-Ridership-Record-FY2012" (PDF). Amtrak. October 10, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
  33. ^ a b "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2014 Ridership and Revenue (10/01/13-9/30/14)" (PDF). nationalcorridors.org. October 27, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  34. ^ "AMTRAK SETS RIDERSHIP RECORD AND MOVES THE NATION'S ECONOMY FORWARD" (PDF download). Amtrak. October 14, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  35. ^ "Amtrak® FY15 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF). National Railroad Passenger Corporation. November 5, 2015. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  36. ^ https://www.railpassengers.org/site/assets/files/3455/67.pdf
  37. ^ https://www.railpassengers.org/site/assets/files/3455/67.pdf
  38. ^ a b Luczak, Marybeth (November 23, 2020). "Amtrak Releases FY 2020 Data". Railway Age. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Inc. Retrieved February 18, 2020.

External links[edit]

Route map:

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