Month of Amtrak: National Limited

Welcome back to the Month of Amtrak. Today’s train was more or less, a successor to a pre-Amtrak train. It also began on Amtrak’s first day, May 1st, 1971. This was the National Limited.



Amtrak GG1 911 (ex-Pennsylvania Railroad 4911) at Elizabethtown, PA on the point of the National Limited.


Debuting on May 1st, 1971, the National Limited was an Amtrak train from New York to Kansas City. The train is more or less a successor, to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passenger train of the same name. Unlike the Baltimore and Ohio train of the same name, Amtrak’s National Limited originated at New York’s Penn Station, whilst the B&O train originated at Union Station at Washington. Also, the train used the former Pennsylvania Railroad track, as opposed to the Baltimore and Ohio track. While the train did begin at New York, the Amtrak National Limited, did serve Washington, with a set out at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania until 1978. The Washington section until October 1978, would travel down the ex-Pennsylvania Railroad’s Columbia and Port Deposit Branch (now Norfolk Southern’s Port Road Branch) to Perryville, Maryland then down the Northeast Corridor to Washington. After October 1978, the Washington section was split off at Philadelphia. Despite being in a dense population corridor, the National Limited was plagued with issues. From poor track in the Midwest on the former Pennsylvania Railroad, to older and obsolete equipment, the train was a problem. And it only got worse. In 1979, the Carter Administration planned to cut Amtrak’s budget (an ongoing issue still to this day, which I’ll highlight in a future Open Opinion on Amtrak for April’s Month of Amtrak, before I do a look at Passenger Cars of Amtrak.), applied a cost and farebox ratio for every single Amtrak train. Due to the bad track, the National Limited lost riders constantly, and despite protests by local politicians, the National Limited last ran in October 1979. While the National Limited is gone, some parts of its route are still used by passenger trains. New York – Pittsburgh is covered by Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian. The Kansas City to St. Louis leg is served by the Missouri River Runner.



Amtrak P42DC 145, the Phase III 40th Anniversary Heritage Unit at Kirkwood, MO with the Missouri River Runner, along a portion of the former route of the National Limited.



Here is a copy of the National Limited‘s timetable in 1975. Los Angeles times refers to a connection with the Southwest Chief, in which the passengers could reach LA by continuing on.


Well, that concludes this installment in the Month of Amtrak, until next time, this is Jessica, out.


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