Bye-bye, Staunton: Daytrip quashed by NYC extension

While Roanoke will soon gain a railroad dream in the form of the new O. Winston Link Museum, Charlottesville rail buffs recently experienced a sort of nightmare. In May, train-lovin' families lost one of the best afternoon rail activities Charlottesville had to offer: the round-trip to Staunton.

"It may change," says Charlottesville station master Bob Aycock of the train schedule, "but I don't have any information that it will."

Aycock says the roundtrip to Staunton was "just a coincidental thing that worked out well for us."

Since the mid-1990s, passengers had been able to leave the Charlottesville station at 1:13pm on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, reaching Staunton an hour later. The eastbound train left Staunton at 3:31pm, allowing a one-and-a-quarter-hour window for strolling, snacking, and shopping in the historic Valley town. When the eastbound train, which originated in Chicago, was running late– as it frequently was– the visit could be considerably longer.

If things ran on schedule, day-trippers would be returned to the Charlottesville station at 4:47pm, just in time to head home for dinner. And at just $20-26 per person, this was a day trip that didn't flatten the wallet.

Jen Bryerton, editor of Albemarle Kids Magazine, counts herself among the dejected parents. "I'm very disappointed," she says. "A lot of families do it, and it's always a really special thing."

But although the news isn't good for family day-trippers, rail lovers do have something to rejoice about. The schedule change that killed the Staunton daytrip resulted from Amtrak extending the run of that train, the Cardinal, all the way to New York. Previously, the Cardinal traveled northward only to Washington. So perhaps Charlottesville families can now mollify their disappointment with a trip to the Big Apple.