Amtrak’s solar eclipse train sells out in 22 hours

Kevin McCoy
People look through eclipse viewing glasses, telescopes or photo cameras an annular solar eclipse.
Richard Bouhet | AFP | Getty Images

Next week's solar eclipse is delivering some welcome financial news to Amtrak.

The national passenger rail system's special round-trip train service to and from the best eclipse viewing area in southern Illinois sold out in less than a day, Amtrak said Sunday.

Early on the morning of Aug. 21, a total of 409 riders boarding at Chicago's Union Station and in Champaign, Illinois, will ride the special train to Carbondale.

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There, the first U.S. solar eclipse. since 1979 — and the first to sweep coast-to-coast across the nation in nearly a century — is forecast to have what Amtrak bills as one of the celestial event's longest durations, roughly 2 minutes, 38 seconds.

However, each rider will receive special eclipse-viewing glasses, compliments of Amtrak and Carbondale Tourism. The train is scheduled to leave Chicago at 3 a.m. CDT and pull out of Champaign at 5:05 a.m. CDT, early enough to get to Carbondale for the afternoon eclipse.

Seats on the special train cost $153 for an adult making the round-trip journey from Chicago and $90 for an adult who boards in Champaign. The eclipse train sell-out is good for the bottom line of Amtrak, which has regularly jousted with Congress and the White House for funding.

President Trump's proposed budget would cut $630 million from Amtrak's long-distance service, nearly half of the rail system's $1.4 billion current spending plan. The proposal, yet to be acted on by Congress, prompted train travel enthusiasts to hold Amtrak support rallies in June.