Carolinian (train)

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Carolinian High Point.jpg
Northbound Carolinian pulling in to High Point.
Service typeInter-city rail
LocaleNortheastern United States/Southern United States
First serviceMay 12, 1990
Current operator(s)Amtrak in partnership with the
North Carolina Department of Transportation
Ridership870 (FY13 daily avg.)
Annual ridership317,550 (FY13)[1]
StartPenn Station, New York City
EndCharlotte station, Charlotte, North Carolina
Distance travelled704 miles (1,133 km)
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)79/80
On-board services
Class(es)Coach and business class
Seating arrangementsReserved Coach Seat
Catering facilitiesCafe car
Baggage facilitiesChecked baggage available at
selected stations
Rolling stockAmfleet cars
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 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. Intermediate stops in North Carolina include Rocky Mount, Wilson, Selma, Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, and Kannapolis.

During fiscal year 2013, the Carolinian carried over 317,550 passengers, a 3.6% increase over FY2012 (306,419 passengers)[1] and a 3.4% increase over FY2011 (307,213 passengers).[2] The line had a total revenue of $19,841,847 during FY2013, an increase of 6.4% over FY2012.[1]

This route (in addition to its sister train, the Piedmont) is notable because it allows walk-up checked bicycle transportation at its station stops in North Carolina.[3]


The Carolinian departing Raleigh Amtrak station

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.

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. North Carolina supported the Carolinian with a $436,000 yearly subsidy from Charlotte to the Virginia line. [4][5] 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.[6][7]

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.[8] This incarnation proved successful enough that in April 1991, Amtrak made the Carolinian a full-fledged day train running from Charlotte to New York.[9] 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.[10][11]

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.[12]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On March 9, 2015, a north bound Carolinian collided with a tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in Halifax County, North Carolina, with 55 people injured.[13][14]

Route details[edit]

The Carolinian operates over Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, and North Carolina Railroad trackage:[citation needed]

Two Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach routes connect large swaths of eastern North Carolina to the Wilson station.[15] One route serves Greenville, New Bern, Havelock, and Morehead City; another serves Goldsboro, Kinston, Jacksonville, and Wilmington.

The northbound Carolinian, like most medium- and long-distance trains operating in the Northeast, does not allow passengers to travel only between stations on the Northeast Corridor. It only stops to discharge passengers from Washington northward. This policy is intended to keep seats available for passengers making longer trips. However, the southbound Carolinian does allow local travel on the Northeast Corridor.


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.[16]


  1. ^ a b c "Amtrak Sets Ridership Record And Moves The Nation's Economy Forward - America's Railroad helps communities grow and prosper" (PDF) (Press release). Amtrak. October 14, 2013. Retrieved 2014-09-03.
  2. ^ "Amtrak Ridership Rolls Up Best-Ever Records" (PDF). Amtrak. October 13, 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  3. ^ "Walk-Up Checked Bike Service on the Carolinian Train | Amtrak". Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  4. ^ Foreman, Jr., Tom (October 27, 1984). "'Carolinian' makes trial run". Times-News. Retrieved 2011-07-04.
  5. ^ "Raleigh-Charlotte run shouldn't businessmen". The Robesonian. October 9, 1984. Retrieved 2011-07-04.
  6. ^ Waggoner, Martha (September 3, 1985). "The 'Carolinian' Makes Its Last Run". The Dispatch. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
  7. ^ Flesher, John (August 13, 1985). "Amtrak talks about scraping Charlotte-to-Raleigh service". Times-News. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
  8. ^ "Charlotte-Rocky Mount train back on track". Morning Star. May 12, 1990. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
  9. ^ "Change to cut Carolinian's run by 40 minutes". The Charlotte Observer. March 15, 1991. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
  10. ^ "More delays put second Tar Heel passenger train service off track". Times-News. March 11, 1993. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  11. ^ "New train won't start on schedule". Morning Star. November 28, 1994. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  12. ^ "Rail Division" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. March 22, 2017. p. 9.
  13. ^ Cho, Diane (March 9, 2015). "Amtrak train en route to D.C. slams into truck in North Carolina; 40 hurt". WJLA-TV ABC7. Sinclair Broadcast Group. Associated Press. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  14. ^ "Dozens of Amtrak passengers injured as train smashes into truck that had stalled on North Carolina tracks and flips over". Daily Mail. Associated Press. March 9, 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  15. ^ Fitzgerald, Eddie (October 2, 2012). "Amtrak shuttle service debuts in the East". New Bern Sun Journal. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  16. ^ "National Railroad Passenger Corporation and the State of North Carolina: Agreement for the Provision of Carolinian and Piedmont Rail Passenger Services" (PDF). October 1, 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2013-07-07.

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