Published April 1995 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd The Cardinal's Twin Significance
The Cardinal holds special significance for West Virginians.
Since 1949, the brilliant scarlet male and his beautifully subtle mate have served as West Virginia's state bird. Often the only spot of brightness during gray winter months, the Cardinal is a promise of springtime and a sign of each year's renewal.
The "Cardinal" is also the Amtrak passenger train that three days a week stops in southern West Virginia on its runs between New York and Chicago.
For more than a decade, I have worked with Amtrak officials to keep the Cardinal operating through West Virginia, touting its importance to our state's blossoming tourism industry and promoting it as an important link between West Virginia and points beyond.
Earlier this year, Amtrak announced nationwide restructuring of its train routes, citing budget cutbacks as the impetus for its decision to streamline its passenger service. The Cardinal, which has been one of Amtrak's poorest financial performers, faced possible elimination absent the restructuring plan.
During a recent meeting in my office with Amtrak President Thomas M. Downs, I was advised that in September, the Cardinal will stop in West Virginia every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, instead of its present Sunday-Wednesday- Friday timetable.
In addition, the train will make its eight West Virginia stops — in White Sulphur Springs, Alderson, Hinton, Prince, Thurmond, Montgomery, Charleston, and Huntington ~ during daylight hours, an improvement in the current schedule of nighttime stops in West Virginia during the New York-to-Chicago leg of the round-trip journey.
Amtrak has also decided to use its more reliable, modern "superliner" cars on the Cardinal route.
This new, daytime schedule, coupled with the fact that full-time weekend service will be offered, should boost ridership and tourism in scenic southern West Virginia.
The endpoints of the Cardinal route will be changed, terminating in Washington, D.C., to the east and Cincinnati to the west.
I am encouraged by Amtrak's plan to make the Cardinal and its entire system more efficient, competitive, and customer-oriented, and, like its avian namesake, I hope that the Cardinal passenger train will provide West Virginia a glimmer of economic springtime in the years to come.
April 26, 1995