The name ‘Union Station’ is rather misleading. It is actually a ‘Terminal’, not a ‘Station’. Tracks stub into a terminal, requiring trains to exit via the way they entered. This is the case at Union Station St Louis. A station has tracks that run through the depot, entering from one direction and passing on through. By the way. The same goes for Grand Central Station in New York. It too is a ‘terminal’.
Union Station St Louis opened on September 1, 1894, and was owned by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. Designed by Theodore Link, it included three main areas: the Headhouse, the Midway and the 11.5-acre (47,000 m2) Train Shed. The headhouse originally housed a hotel, a restaurant, passenger waiting rooms and railroad ticketing offices. It featured a gold-leafed Grand Hall, Romanesque arches, a 65-foot (20 m) barrel-vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows. The clock tower is 280 feet (85 m) high.
At its height, the station combined the St. Louis passenger services of 22 railroads, the most of any single terminal in the world. At its opening, it was the world’s largest and busiest railroad station and its trainshed was the largest roof span in the world. In 1903, the station was expanded to accommodate visitors to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
In the 1940s, it handled 100,000 passengers a day. The famous photograph of Harry S. Truman holding aloft the erroneous Chicago Tribune headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman“, was shot at the station as Truman headed back to Washington, DC from Independence, Missouri after the 1948 Presidential election.
The 1940s expansion added a new ticket counter designed as a half-circle and a mural by Louis Grell could be found atop the customer waiting area which depicted the history of St. Louis with an old fashion steam engine, two large steamboats and the Eades Bridge in the background.
As airliners became the preferred mode of long-distance travel and railroad passenger services declined in the 1950s and 1960s, the massive station became obsolete and too expensive to maintain for its original purpose. With the takeover of national rail passenger service by Amtrak in 1971, passenger train service to St. Louis was reduced to only three trains a day. Amtrak stopped using Union Station St Louis on October 31, 1978; the six trains daily did not justify such a large facility. The last to leave Union Station was a Chicago-bound Inter-American. Passenger service shifted to an “Amshack” one block east, now the site of the Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center.
There is something special about visiting historical sites while Piloting a Segway Personal Transporter. Come join us for an unforgettable journey back in time at Union Station St Louis for a very futuristic Zero G Touring Segway Tour. We’ll be looking for you!