Riding the Rails

Amtrak's Capitol Limited


The Capitol Limited crosses the Potomac River at the Magnolia Cutoff.

(J P Mueller. Creative Commons license 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)



A truly scenic rail journey is Amtrak's Capitol Limited, which runs between Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC. It takes its history from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Capitol Limited and follows the routes of that train and trains operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, both in the days of privatized passenger rail travel.


The thrice-weekly train comprises two locomotives, currently General Electric Genesis P-42 engines, a baggage car, and several passenger cars, including coaches, diner, and sleepers.


From Chicago, the train follows the route of the Lake Shore Limited as far as Cleveland, Ohio. Then, it turns to the southeast. At Alliance, Ohio, it enters the Allegheny Mountains. From there until it glides into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it passes through small towns in sleepy hollows and parallels narrow streams and wider rivers. It continues on to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where it emerges from the mountains and parallels the Potomac River toward Washington, DC.


After leaving Cleveland and before reaching Harpers Ferry, the Capitol Limited is a slow train that allow passengers time to relax and enjoy the splendid mountain vistas. It is not a train to be taken by those who are in a rush or feeling impatient or fatigued -- all of which I sadly was when I took the trip. I need to travel this route again when I can slow down and enjoy it.

Cap Ltd crosses the Potomac River at the