Northbound Carolinian pulling in to High Point. Click to enlarge.

(Hunterrrr, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Amtrak logo


The Carolinian is a daily Amtrak passenger train that runs between New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina, with major stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Raleigh, Cary, Durham, and Greensboro. The 704-mile (1,133 km) service is the longest state-supported route in the Amtrak system. Northbound trains leave Charlotte at breakfast time and arrive in New York in the early evening, while southbound trains leave New York during the morning rush and arrive in Charlotte in the evening.

The Carolinian began operation in 1990 and is jointly funded and operated by Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Additional corridor service between Charlotte and Raleigh is provided by the Piedmont. The two trains are marketed by NCDOT under the NC By Train brand.

The train operates over the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington, D.C.. The North Carolina portion of the route runs along the North Carolina Railroad, a state-owned railroad which is leased to Norfolk Southern.


The Carolinian departing Raleigh Amtrak station. Click to enlarge.

(James Willamor (User:Bz3rk), CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



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. The Piedmont from Greensboro to Charlotte continued to be served by Southern Railway for much of the 1970s; Southern had been one of the few large railroads to opt out of Amtrak in 1971. However, Southern drastically reduced its remaining service in 1976, including its remaining medium-haul trains going through the state, before handing its remaining service to Amtrak in 1979.

First iteration

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. The southbound train operated in the reverse direction, splitting from the Palmetto in Richmond while the Palmetto continued to Savannah. North Carolina supported the Carolinian with a $436,000 yearly subsidy from Charlotte to the Virginia line. 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.

Second iteration

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

In 2004, the Carolinian began bypassing BWI Rail Station.

On March 9, 2015, a northbound Carolinian collided with a tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in Halifax County, North Carolina. The locomotive landed on its side, while all of the cars remained upright. There were no fatalities, but 55 people were injured.

In April 2020, NCDOT and Amtrak suspended the Carolinian as part of a larger round of service reductions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Carolinian returned on May 18 as a truncated service between Charlotte and Raleigh. Full service to New York was restored on June 1, 2020.


Amtrak Carolinian Train 80 stopped at the Raleigh, NC station on 12 March 2008. Click to enlarge.

(Erich Fabricius, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Proposed expansion

In 2017, NCDOT and the Connecticut Department of Transportation were in talks to extend the Carolinian from New York to New Haven, with additional stops at New Rochelle, Stamford, and Bridgeport. The resultant route would be 779 miles (1,254 km) long. By increasing the length of the route to over 750 miles (1,210 km), the Carolinian would become a long-distance network route rather than state-supported, as defined by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. In effect, this would allow the train to be fully subsidized by the federal government and thus free North Carolina of its state funding obligations.

Long-term plans call for restoring a portion of the former Seaboard main line between Raleigh and Richmond, known as the "S-Line," as part of construction of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor between Charlotte and Washington. The S-Line had been abandoned in 1985, forcing Amtrak to route its trains linking Raleigh and the Northeast through Selma along the NCRR. It is estimated that restoring the S-Line will cut an hour off the Carolinian's running time by enabling a more direct route over the Virginia border.


The northbound Carolinian at Richmond Staples Mill Road station in December 2010. Click to enlarge.

(Mobilus In Mobili, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)




Most Carolinian trains consist of six cars hauled by a locomotive.

The passenger cars are the Amfleet I series passenger cars built by the Budd Company in the mid-to-late 1970s. Most trains include a Business Class car, a Café car (food service/lounge), and four Coach Class cars. Maximum seating in such a configuration is 346, split between business class and reserved coach.

Between Charlotte and Washington, trains are pulled by a GE Genesis diesel locomotive at speeds up to 110 mph (177 km/h). Between New York and Washington, the service operates over the Northeast Corridor which has overhead electric wires and trains are pulled by Siemens ACS-64 electric locomotives at speeds up to 125 mph (201 km/h)

In the coming years all equipment will be replaced with Amtrak Airo trainsets, the railroad's branding of its combination of Siemens Venture passenger cars and a Siemens Charger diesel-electric locomotive. The trainsets for the Carolinian will have six passenger cars, which will include a food service area and a mix of 2x2 Coach Class and 2x1 Business Class seating. The car closest to the locomotive will be a specialized "Auxiliary Power Vehicle" which will include a pantograph to collect power from overhead lines and will feed it to four traction motors in the car, and via a DC link cable, to the four traction motors in the locomotive. The arrangement will offer a near seamless transition between power sources at Washington, a process that currently requires a time-consuming locomotive change.


Passengers prepare to board the just-arrived Amtrak Carolina Train 80 in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2008. Click to enlarge.

(User:Erich Fabricius, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Classes of service

All classes of service include complimentary WiFi, an electric outlet (120 V, 60 Hz AC) at each seat, reading lamps, fold-out tray tables. Reservations are required on all trains, tickets may be purchased online, from an agent at some stations, a ticketing machine at most stations, or, at a higher cost, from the conductor on the train.

Coach Class: 2x2 seating. Passengers self-select seats on a first-come, first-served basis.
Business Class: 2x2 seating with more legroom than coach. Passengers receive complimentary soft drinks. Seats assigned in advance.



The Carolinian operates over Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, and North Carolina Railroad trackage. Since 1871, Norfolk Southern and its predecessors have leased the NCRR from the state.

Amtrak Northeast Corridor, New York to Washington
CSX RF&P Subdivision, Richmond Terminal Subdivision, North End Subdivision, and South End Subdivision, Washington to Selma
NS Raleigh District, Selma to Greensboro (leased from NCRR)
NS Danville District, Greensboro to Linwood (leased from NCRR)
NS Charlotte District, Linwood to Charlotte (leased from NCRR)
Two Amtrak Thruway bus routes connect large swaths of eastern North Carolina to the Wilson station. One route serves Greenville, New Bern, Havelock, and Morehead City; another serves Goldsboro, Kinston, Jacksonville, and Wilmington.

A third Thruway route runs between Winston-Salem and High Point station.


The southbound Carolinian approaching L'Enfant Plaza station, Washington, DC in May 2015. Click to enlarge.

(Jeremy Segrott from Cardiff, Wales, UK, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Station stops

The train has two seasonal stops in October. A station in Lexington is used during the Lexington Barbecue Festival, while an additional station in Raleigh is used for the North Carolina State Fair.

Before 2019, the northbound Carolinian followed the practice of most medium- and long-distance trains operating in the Northeast and did not allow passengers to travel only between stations on the Northeast Corridor. It only stopped to discharge passengers from Washington northward in order to keep seats available for passengers making longer trips. Starting in 2019, the northbound Carolinian began allowing local travel on the Northeast Corridor on Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays. The southbound Carolinian allows local travel in the Northeast at all times from Trenton southward.

State / City / Station

NY / New York City / Penn Station

NJ / Newark Newark / Penn Station

NJ / Trenton / Trenton Transit Center

PA / Philadelphia / 30th Street Station

DE / Wilmington / Wilmington Station

MD / Baltimore / Penn Station

DC / Washington / Washington Union Station

VA / Alexandria / Alexandria Union Station

VA / Quantico / Quantico Station

VA / Fredericksburg / Fredericksburg Station

VA / Richmond / Richmond Staples Mill Road Amtrak Station

VA / Ettrick / Petersburg Station

NC / Rocky Mount / Rocky Mount Station

NC / Wilson / Wilson Amtrak Station

NC / Selma / Selma-Smithfield (Selma Union Depot)

NC / Raleigh / Raleigh Union Station

NC / Cary / Cary Station

NC / Durham / Durham Station

NC / Burlington / Burlington Station

NC / Greensboro / Greensboro Station

NC / High Point / High Point Station

NC / Salisbury / Salisbury Station

NC / Kannapolis / Kannapolis Station

NC / Charlotte / Charlotte Station


Carolinian train 80 at Greensboro.

(The original uploader was Erich Fabricius at English Wikipedia., CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Locale: Northeastern and Southern United States
First service: May 12, 1990
Current operators: Amtrak in partnership with NCDOT
Annual ridership: 270,050 (FY22) Increase 38.7%
Route Termini: New York City / Charlotte, North Carolina
Stops: 24
Distance traveled: 704 miles (1,133 km)
Average journey time: 13 hours, 31 minutes (northbound); 13 hours, 50 minutes (southbound)
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: 79, 80
On-board services
Classes: Coach Class, Business Class
Disabled access: All cars, most stations
Catering facilities: Café car
Baggage facilities: Overhead racks
Rolling stock: Amfleet cars
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification: Overhead line, 12 kV AC at 25 Hz (New York–Washington)
Operating speed: 52 mph (84 km/h) (avg.); 125 mph (201 km/h) (top)
Track owners: Amtrak, CSX, NS/NCRR