Great Train Stations

Great Train Stations

This special edition explores the enduring beauty of big city train stations from railroading’s golden age, including maps, floor plans, and rare color photos.

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines


temples of transportation

Before jet airliners and Interstate highways, trains were the way to travel long distances. Every small town had a depot, and every major city had a magnificent railroad passenger terminal. Many cities had more than one big station. Some were audacious expressions of corporate power; others were outsized embodiments of civic pride; all were temples of transportation — railroad transportation. In this issue, the 25th in Classic Trains’ series of special editions, we present articles on great stations from past issues of Trains and Classic Trains. More than half were first published in the 1940s — the decade in which, thanks to heavy World War II traffic, many stations experienced their busiest years. We start in Chicago, whose collection of six mainline terminals, unrivalled in North America, helped earn the city…

chicago’s stations gates to everywhere

No other city in America has such a fascinating assortment of railroad stations as Chicago, the nation’s “railroad capital.” In its six terminals serving intercity and long-haul trains you’ll find architecture styled when horsecars ran on Clark Street and yet with interiors as modern as tomorrow. Some seem prematurely old, and no two are alike. Four cater to both through and commuter traffic, and two ignore the monthly ticket-holder altogether. To enter some terminals, you walk directly in from the street, but in others it’s a matter of going up or down, and in one case you actually go up and down. No, there is no uniformity to Chicago’s stations, although there is one aspect all have in common: they are served by the “limousines” of the Parmelee Transportation Co. DEARBORN Host…

train time at the great stations • 1

front door to the nation's capital

North meets South at Washington, D.C. New York City has its Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station; London its Waterloo, Paddington, and other terminals; and Boston its North and South stations. In Washington, our nation’s capital, however, there is only one: Union Station. It neither handles the volume of traffic nor the number of trains that any of the aforementioned examples do, yet Washington Union Station is an important point for five American Class I railroads. Long recognized as the logical dividing line between the North and the South, Washington is a transfer point for many coach passengers. Most important trains carry through Pullmans, largely to and from New York, but train travelers not in Pullmans must change trains at this gateway. Washington Union Station is both a through and a stub…

train time at the great stations • 2

los angeles union station

Los Angeles, fifth largest city in the United States, is served by only three Class I railroads: Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, and Union Pacific. This in itself is unusual for a city of 1.8 million inhabitants. Even more unusual is that the shortest run made by any train leaving Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal is 60 miles. All but seven trains from LAUPT go at least 470 miles. Moreover, all four Union Pacific trains serving the city are bound for Chicago. Compared with the average American city of a million or more population, Los Angeles is served by a small number of trains, and their ultimate destinations are limited. Further, departure times, like California grapes, come in bunches. Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, largest such railroad facility on the West Coast, opened…