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(rshsdepot) Train Depots Glimpse Golden Age of rail travel at restored stations

From the AAA Magazine=85

Train Depots Glimpse Golden Age of rail travel at restored stations=20
Published: Mar/Apr 2003

Perhaps no other building has risen as quickly in importance and grandeur
and fallen as abruptly into disrepair and neglect as the railway station=2E=

In their heyday, train stations were vital urban structures, and builders
made each one more ornate than the last=2E But the advent of the automobil=
and airplane signaled their demise, with thousands of them closing in the
1950s and 60s=2E

Yet in the past two decades, a new appreciation for these magnificent
buildings has helped guarantee their survival=2E Some have new life as
shopping and entertainment centers=2E The three largest in the area that h=
been restored showcase the magnificent architecture and inspiring spaces
that once housed the great Iron Horses of rail travel=92s Golden Age=2E

The first station

The present Union Station in Indianapolis stands on the site of the first
Union Station in the United States=2E Celebrating its 150th anniversary th=
year, the depot first opened in 1853 when four railroad companies that had=

been serving passengers with individual terminals opened the first =93unio=
station=2E It was demolished in 1886 to make way for the present
brick-and-granite Romanesque Revival masterpiece=2E

At its apex, 500,000 passengers traveled through the depot monthly, making=

it one of the nation=92s busiest passenger transfer points=2E Nearly 200 t=
rumbled through it daily=2E

Though the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places=

in 1974, it was just a ghost of its former self=2E So when it was threaten=
with demolition, preservationists pushed for its restoration 20 years ago=2E=

The old train shed became the Crowne Plaza at Union Station, which feature=
a number of Pullman rail cars converted into hotel suites=2E

The palatial Grand Hall is still a landmark facility, with two identical
20-foot-diameter, hand-crafted stained glass wheel windows=2E Romanesque
arches, Revival-style columns and large corridors are grand reminders of
the beauty that once welcomed rail travelers=2E

For more details, call the Crowne Plaza at (317) 631-2221=2E

St=2E Louis treasure

As more rail lines began heading west, St=2E Louis became a natural locati=
for a major depot=2E In 1889, the Terminal Railroad Association was formed=
consolidate the many railway entries and exits in the St=2E Louis area=2E =
Louis architect Theodore C=2E Link modeled St=2E Louis Union Station after=

Carcassone, a walled medieval city in France=2E

When it opened in 1894, the centerpiece was the enormous Grand Hall, which=

featured a 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows and
Romanesque arches=2E It was a striking waiting area for passengers, of whi=
there were many=2E Through the 1940s, it was one of the world=92s busiest =
stations, teeming with more than 100,000 people a day=2E However, usage
declined, and the last train departed in 1978=2E

But the National Historic Landmark did not remain dormant long=2E After an=

extensive restoration process, it was re-opened in 1985=2E Today it featur=
more than 90 shops, restaurants, a lake, a movie theater and the Hyatt
Regency Hotel, which uses the spectacular Grand Hall as its lobby=2E

The station has evolved into one of the city=92s most popular attractions=2E=

People gather to ride paddleboats in the lake, enjoy free concerts and din=
outdoors under the massive train shed=2E Call (314) 421-6655 for details, =
visit the Web site www=2Estlouisunionstation=2Ecom=2E

Kansas City conversion

The latest station to find new life was Union Station in Kansas City=2E It=

re-opened about three years ago after a massive $250 million renovation
that restored its former grandeur, which was first unveiled in 1914=2E Dur=
its first life, thousands of trains pulled through the station, with
traffic peaking in 1917 when nearly 80,000 trains passed through the depot=
Half of all the personnel deployed in World War II rode trains through the=


With the decline of rail travel, the station lapsed into decades of
deterioration, and in 1985, the last train departed=2E To save the gem,
voters approved an historic sales tax in 1996 that included counties in
Kansas and Missouri=2E

After about two years of painstaking work, the station shined again when
the restoration was completed in late 1999=2E The station=92s cavernous Gr=
Hall now gleams elegantly=2E Its 95-foot ceilings are adorned with acorn
rosettes and three 3,000-pound chandeliers=2E

Within the station are several restaurants and three theaters=2E But the
highlight is Science City, a hands-on science center that immerses visitor=
in fun and interesting activities=2E There=92s a crime lab, astronaut trai=
center, television station and more=2E For details, call (816) 460-2020, o=
visit the Web site www=2Eunionstation=2Eorg=2E

These romantic and remarkable architectural wonders not only provide a lin=
to the glorious history of American rail travel, but they are serving new
purposes for a new age=2E

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The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org