The River Cities at Centralia station in May 1984. The locomotive is in Phase III paint and the single Amfleet passenger car in Phase II.

(Hikki Nagasaki, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Amtrak classic logo.


The River Cities was a passenger train operated by Amtrak from 1984 to 1993 between Kansas City, Missouri, and New Orleans, Louisiana, via St. Louis, Missouri. It operated as a section of the City of New Orleans and the Mules.

The two trains split in Carbondale, Illinois, with the River Cities continuing 117 miles (188 km) to St. Louis, where it joined with a Kansas City Mule. For southbound trains the procedure was reversed; the River Cities would split from a St. Louis Mule and proceed to Carbondale, where it joined with the City of New Orleans for the journey to New Orleans. Before the Amtrak era, the City of New Orleans and its nighttime companion, the Panama Limited, had operated St. Louis sections that split in Carbondale.

Amtrak ended the service on November 4, 1993, as part of national cost-cutting measures, and instituted Thruway Motorcoach service between St. Louis and Centralia, Illinois (since extended to Carbondale). The only city to permanently lose service was Belleville, Illinois.


River Cities at Centralia station, May 7, 1984.

(Hikki Nagasaki, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Potential restoration

In June 2021, Senator Jon Tester of Montana added an amendment to the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021 which would require the Department of Transportation (not Amtrak itself) to evaluate the restoration of discontinued long-distance routes such as the River Cities. The bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee with bipartisan support, and was later rolled into President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which is still under consideration by Congress.



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Midwestern United States
First service: April 29, 1984
Last service: November 4, 1993
Former operator: Amtrak
Route Termini: Kansas City, Missouri / New Orleans, Louisiana
Stops: 25
Distance traveled: 1,014 miles (1,632 km)
Average journey time: 22 hours
Service frequency: Daily
Train number: 358, 359
On-board services
Classes: Reserved coach
Catering facilities: On-board café (Kansas City—St. Louis); Diner-lounge (Carbondale—New Orleans)
Observation facilities: Dome lounge (Carbondale—New Orleans)
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)