Amtrak’s City of New Orleans is a relaxing mode of transportation between Chicago, IL, and New Orleans, LA, or one of the intermediate stops. The train provides coach and sleeping car accommodations along with food service.
This train, in total, serves twenty-three communities, including Memphis, TN, and Jackson, MS. Additionally, Amtrak offers connecting bus services for more destinations to expand this train’s reach, such as St Louis, MO.
This article will give you the information you need to plan your next trip aboard Amtrak’s City of New Orleans.
A Brief History Of The City Of New Orleans: From Illinois Central To Amtrak
1911, Illinois Central (IC) created a Chicago to New Orleans passenger train route, The Panama Limited. The overnight train had an extension connecting St Louis, MO, to New Orleans via Carbondale, IL, where the two trains would come together going south or split apart going north.
In 1947, Illinois Central added a day train, The City of New Orleans, later made famous by Steve Goodman’s The City of New Orleans song.
Later, Illinois Central changed the St. Louis train route to a bus connection, as shown by this timetable from 1962.
The Orginal Chicago Station
Illinois Central used the formal Central Station (Terminal), which is gone, but the platform area has been updated a few times. At that time, the Southshore Line also used that station and still does. Today, Metra has taken over IC’s regional service.
Amtrak took over most passenger long-distance rail services in 1971 and eventually moved the City of New Orleans and Panama Limited operations to Chicago Union Station shortly after. This move made it easier for passengers because transfers are now all in one station instead of going across town.
Night-Time Travel Only
After a few years of running both trains, Amtrak eliminated the City of New Orleans, keeping the night train, the Panama Limited.
In the 80s, Amtrak rebranded the route. The Panama Limited was renamed The City of New Orleans because the song made it more recognizable.
Today, the train still runs over, but now over Canadian National tracks.
You can connect with other Amtrak trains, Sunset Limited and Crescent, but it does require an overnight stay. Amtrak is working on extending service east to return to Florida through New Orleans.
Frequency, Equipment, And Accommodations
The City of New Orleans runs daily between Chicago, IL, and New Orleans, LA, with twenty-one intermediate stops.
Amtrak operates its signature Superliner Coach and Sleeper Cars on this train.
City Of New Orleans Route Numbers
All Amtrak trains are named and numbered to help passengers quickly reference what train they need. The route number identifies the direction and schedule for that particular train.
In this case, the Northbound is 58, and the Southbound is 59.
Buying Tickets For The City Of New Orleans
Another option is to visit a staffed station. Remember that not all stations are staffed. Some stations have Quick-Track ticket machines allowing you to make reservations or print tickets.
You may need to call Amtrak or visit a staffed station to reserve accessible rooms or special requests like roomettes across from each other, bedrooms, suits, etc.
City Of New Orleans Schedule And Route Guide
Amtrak published passenger route guides years ago, allowing you to learn about the communities the train passes through. I was able to find those and save them. If interested, you can print them or keep them on a tablet.
Quick Look Schedule
(Read from the bottom up)
(Read from top Down)
|9:14a the next day
|6:40a Next day
|New Orleans, LA
Run Times & Leangth Of The Route
The City of New Orleans route is 934 miles long with a scheduled run time of 19 hours and 42 minutes.
The fastest the train can operate is 79 mph, but the average speed for the route is 47.4 mph due to station stops, crew changes, fueling, track restrictions, and other factors.
Who Owns The Tracks Used By The City of New Orleans?
Amtrak does not own most of the tracks their trains run on, so they use rails owned by other railroads, called the host railroads.
Amtrak owns the rails outside the New Orleans and Chicago stations. Still, the primary host railroad for the journey is CN (Canadian National)/Illinois Central (on paper, the IC still exists).
The City Of New Orleans’s On-Time Reliability
On average, the City of New Orleans arrives at its station 83% on time or early, based on a one-year average. There are delays with freight train interference and slow orders by CN. (Based on the 2021 Amtrak Host Railroad Report.)
Why Causes Amtrak Delays
When a host railroad prioritizes its freight trains over Amtrak’s, it is called freight train interference.
Slow orders are when trains receive orders from the dispatchers to run at speeds less than the maximum authorized speed. Track work, extreme temperatures, or other safety reasons can cause slow orders.
Check out this article for more information about why Amtrak trains get delayed.
Remember that delays happen, and as you learned, often they are not Amtrak’s fault. When planning your trip, plan a little extra time in your schedule, and avoid planning anything time-sensitive activities for when you immediately get off the train.
Trains can compensate for some of the lost time; the delays are often minutes and not hours.
How To Check The Status Of The City of New Orleans
You can check a few ways to see how the train is doing, and one thing worth checking is Amtrak’s Service and Station alert page. This is worth looking at before and after you book and before leaving for the station.
Amtrak’s Site and App
You can use a computer or a smart device to check the status of The City of New Orleans. The Amtrak app or website allows you to check the train by the train’s number and the station you want to leave from, or you can put in station pairs.
Or you can also call 1-800-USA-Rail to get train status.
Get Status Text Or Emails From Amtrak
Amtrak offers the opportunity to receive text messages or emails about the train’s status when purchasing tickets.
You can sign up for text alerts when you book; there is a prompt for this, or you can sign up afterward using the link below. When signing up for emails, use a phone number or email you can access while traveling.
If someone picks you up, they can sign up for text, too!
A few third-party sites offer information about how Amtrak trains are doing, and below is the site I often use. With this site, I can pull up a map showing all running Amtrak trains, train status for a specific station, or a timetable with a schedule and actual times.
Third-party sites obtained their data from Amtrak. The data is mostly “real-time” because it is updated every few minutes but close enough for a guide.
Baggage on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans
Amtrak’s generous carry-on policy allows for two twenty-eight-inch suitcases and two personal items; all bags must weigh fifty pounds or less.
Coach cars have a luggage rack on the lower level to store your items and storage above the seat.
Sleeping accommodations have some but not a lot of storage within your room. They also have a luggage rack on the lower level.
Check bag service is not available for all stops.
To prevent a day of travel surprises, while booking, verify that both stations you are using offer checked bag service.
If only one station offers checked bags, you cannot check bags on this train. Further down in this article is a list of all station stops and the services offered.
If you connect to or from this train, your checked bags, except for bus transfers, will follow you as you travel. When in doubt, ask onboard or station staff.
If you check your bags, you will not have access to them until you reach your final destination. You must check your bags at least forty-five minutes before the departure of the train; the exception is Hammond, LA.
Food & Alcohol On Amtrak’s City of New Orleans
You can bring food and drinks on the train to consume. Amtrak also sells food and beverages with complimentary meals for sleeper car passengers; more on that later.
Due to FDA regulations, you cannot bring food or drink into any Amtrak food cars you did not purchase on the train; food for small children is the exception. Amtrak staff cannot store or warm any food for you.
Bringing alcohol on the train
You may transport adult beverages in coach class but cannot partake from your stash as you travel. If you get out of hand from drinking too much or get caught breaking this rule, you may get kicked off the train and possibly fined.
Sleeping car passengers can bring adult beverages onboard and consume them in their rooms, but they can get thrown off the train for belligerent behavior like coach passengers.
Amtrak’s Café Is Open To All Passengers
Coach and sleeper car passengers can use the cafe to purchase meals, snacks, and beverages, including adult beverages, along their journey.
For this train, the cafe is often part of the dining car. If it is not there, check the lower level of the Sightseer Lounge car if one is on the train.
Meals can come in a cardboard tray to make bringing your meals, snacks, or beverages back to your seat or room more accessible.
The Cafe Car is in the middle of the train. There is some seating in that car for you to consume and enjoy your food.
Sleeper Passenger Meals
Amtrak uses a cross-county cafe car on this train, and the side closest to the sleeping car should be reserved for sleeping car passengers to sit.
The City of New Orleans uses Amtrak’s flex dining.
You or your car attendant can bring meals to your accommodations or eat them in the Cross Country Cafe Car.
Amtrak offers one complimentary adult beverage per eligible sleeper car passenger and more.
Southbound sleeping car passengers receive dinner (only for those leaving from Chicago), breakfast, and lunch. Dinner service often starts before the train leaves Chicago. Northbound travelers receive dinner and breakfast. The article on sleeper car dining shares sample menus and discusses when you may not qualify for meals.
Types Of Amtrak Station On This Route
The City of New Orleans serves various stop types.
There are a few Staffed stations along the route; the largest is the end point of New Orleans, LA, and Chicago, IL.
This route has many flag stops; these are unstaffed stops where the train only stops if someone has a reservation to get on or off the train.
The 23 stops of Amtrak’s City of New Orleans
Below are all of The City of New Orleans’s stops and station codes. Knowing the station codes helps ensure you book a trip to Jackson, MS, and not Jackson, MI.
Each station below is linked to the Amtrak site, which offers information for each station, such as addresses, parking info, and more.
The Amtrak’s City of New Orleans line-up
Most of this section is for sleeping car passengers, but the last paragraph is for coach passengers.
All of Amtrak’s passenger cars display two sets of numbers. One is a blue five-digit number located near the end. That is the car’s identification number, which you can ignore.
The other number you need is a four-digit number found near the door. This number gives you the route and the car’s position in the train’s line-up.
When traveling North, the number should start with 58XX or South 59XX. Occasionally, these numbers are not updated; a Northbound sleeping car might say 5900 instead of 5800. If you get confused, car attendants and conductors will help you. If you have a sleeper, the attendants are looking for you.
After you purchase your sleeping car accommodations, you will receive an email with your eticket pretty quickly, and your ticket will give you the car and room numbers. Coach passengers receive their coach car and possibly seat assignments from the conductors before boarding the train.
|Northbound Car Numbers
|Southbound Car Numbers
Connect To Other Trains And Connecting Services.
If you take the train North, you can connect to all long-distance and most regional trains out of Chicago and Amtrak Connectin Services. You can connect to Greyhound and the CTA to both Chicago Airports with a short walk. You can use the Hiawatha to travel to the Milwaukee Airport.
Any transfers out of New Orleans require an overnight stay; the Crescent runs up to New York, and the tri-weekly Sunset Limited runs to LA through Texas.
The City of New Orleans Car Layouts
The layouts below are older guides; these diagrams could be slightly changed, but nothing crazy. s can help you find your room in your sleeping car. I do not have one for the sleeper car/dining car, or lounge car.
Transdorm car numbers 5809/5909
Rooms 17-22 of the transdorm car are for passengers; the rest is for staff rest.
Sleeping car numbers 5800/5900
Coach Cars 5830-5832/5930-5932
This car may or may not be on this train. If this car is not, there will be a cross-country cafe with retail space in the middle of the car and seating on both sides.
Why Is The Train Backing Up?
When the train leaves or comes into New Orleans or Chicago, it has to make a unique move to get into the station, which is standard for this route.
The train initially did not leave from Chicago Union Station, so to get to the CN mainline, it needed to back out of the station to head onto a connecting track section. For more info, check out the video.
The train may pull in or back into the New Orleans Station.
A New Orleans Trip Planning Resource
Regarding traveling, resources are essential, and I have an excellent one for you.
The Beyond Bourbon Street Podcast is the best resource for planning your next adventure to “The Crescent City.”
The podcast host, Mark, is a New Orleans native passionate about sharing his knowledge and love of this city with his listeners.
The podcast aims to inform travelers that New Orleans.is more than Mardi Gras and Bourbon St.; it has diverse neighborhoods with rich history and offers something for all ages and interests.
He also has a book to help you plan your next trip.
The Cost Of Riding The City of New Orleans
Amtrak uses step or bucket prices, which means they set aside seats or rooms at one cost, and after selling those, the price goes up to the next bucket or steps. So the cost can vary greatly depending on how many cars are on the train and reservations made.
The cost can decrease if people cancel their trip and accommodation becomes available, which is why prices fluctuate as you research.
Discounts like senior, military, or others come off the rail price, not the room price. Click the button below for more information on saving money on Amtrak and how deals work.
Notable Views Of Amtrak’s City Of New Orleans
While most of the trip is at night, there are a few notable—fun parts of the route.
The most memorable and fun part of this route is going over Lake Pontchartrain. If you look straight out from the upper level, it seems like the train is floating in the middle of the lake.
You will see many communities and agricultural areas between Memphis and New Orleans.
Around Chicago, you’ll see some of the southern suburbs and Guaranteed Rate Field, where the White Sox play; you have a better chance to see this on the Northbound train, but the outside stadium lights are on at night.
Fresh Air Stops
Fresh air breaks allow you to stretch your legs, get fresh air, and have a chance to vape or smoke.
Getting off the train for a few moments breaks up the trip. While stretching your legs, a few things happen with the train, such as crew changes, refueling, or the train coming into a station early.
Follow the conductor’s directions if you decide to get off the train during one of these stops. The most important rule is don’t wander too far from the train. Remember that the train can and will leave without you if you do not return on time.
Often, you will hear a few blasts from the train’s horn, indicating it is time to reboard the train.
Walking Around The Train
First-time train riders should know a few tidbits about walking around the train.
It is not hard, but different from other forms of transportation. To go from car to car, you need to be on the upper level of the train. Bathrooms and the exit of the train are on the lower level.
Trains are linear, meaning one car in front of another, so you may have to walk through a few cars to get to the one you desire.
While trains move, they sway as you go down the track—use seatbacks or luggage racks for support. Avoid stepping on the crack where the two plates come together between cars, and use the candy cane-striped handles for support.
The isles of trains are narrow and do not allow people to walk in opposite directions. Sometimes, people may step into “your space” for a second to let another pass.
Be courteous of others as you walk through the train.
Other Heads Up For The City of New Orleans
Smoking and Marijuana
The City of New Orleans prohibits smoking or vaping along with all Amtrak trains.
If caught smoking onboard, you can be removed from the train and fined.
Amtrak is considered federal property, so it is illegal to transport or consume marijuana on Amtrak, even medical and if it is legal in the state you are going through.
Here is more information on smoking and pot on Amtrak trains.
Bathrooms and showers
Coach cars have bathrooms on the lower level, and sleeper cars have one bathroom upstairs and a few below.
Bedrooms and accessible rooms have a restroom in the room.
There are no shower facilities for coach passengers.
Each sleeping car has a shower on the lower level, and each bedroom has one in the small in-room bathroom.
For more info, check out my shower article.
Wi-Fi & Entertainment On Amtrak’s City Of New Orleans
This train does not have WIFI, so keep an eye on data if you do not have an unlimited data account.
Bring Some Entertainment
Something simple like a book, magazine, or deck of cards can go far.
If you have a tablet or smartphone, check with your streaming services to see if they allow you to download videos ahead of time and watch them later without using data.
Electronically, apps that do not need Wi-Fi can help you pass the time; ebooks and podcasts also help. Here is an article on some entertainment on Amtrak ideas. Some streaming apps allow you to download movies and shows that you can watch while traveling without using data or during dead zones.
Don’t forget your headphones!
Wear headphones whenever you want to listen to music, podcasts, movies, play games, etc. Not everyone wants to hear what you are listening to; some people are trying to sleep or listen to their stuff.
Sleeper passengers can go without headphones, provided you keep the volume down, but remember, the walls are thin, and sound can bleed through. When in doubt, use headphones or check to see if you can hear your device in the hallway with the door closed.
Amtrak’s City Of New Orleans Wrap-Up
The City of New Orleans is a safe, relaxing, and fun way to travel to your next adventure.
Chicago Union Station and New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal are in the heart of their cities, making it easy to walk to your stop and take public transportation, taxi, or rideshare to or from your lodging.
If you need to keep your medication chilled and bring a cooler, Amtrak may provide ice to cool your medications.
Sleeping car passengers can use the station lounges in Chicago and New Orleans, which offer priority boarding, complimentary beverages, and possibly more.
Most of all, like with any travel, bring your patience.
I hope this helps you plan and enjoy your next trip aboard Amtrak’s City of New Orleans!