A Short History of St. Louis’ Union Station
Today, the St. Louis Union Station (also known as SLUS) no longer serves dozens of east- and westbound passenger trains. It is one of the most important in the country and was built in an era of rapid westward expansion. It was restored beautifully and is now used for entertainment and shopping. There are museums, plays, and restaurants. You can also take tours and even stay at the hotel.
It was constructed in the middle of the 1890s. It was used until 1978 when Amtrak’s last long-distance passenger train left its train shed. MetroLink, the city’s light rail transit service continues to serve the station below the subway tunnel train shed.
The shed was transformed into an outdoor entertainment space with an aquarium, a shopping mall, and an outdoor dining area. It was an amazing transformation. View of St. Louis Union Station, November 1977, just before Amtrak left.
Brief History of St. Louis Union Station
St. Louis was known as “The Gateway To The West” during the last ten years (1920-1921) because it was at the confluence between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The Transcontinental Railroad was built just over 20 years ago. The Frontier is still receiving new lines. Many eastern and western trunk lines, as well as future subsidiaries, terminate in the city.
St. Louis was the fourth-largest metro area in the United States after the Civil War. It is now the fourth-largest, following New York City and Philadelphia. Missouri Pacific’s #11, “Colorado Eagle” train is at Union Station. Gulf, Mobile & Ohio E7A #22102 also has train #4, “The Limited,” that will depart Union Station on April 17, 1963. Its gateway status allowed many westbound settlers through the city. This was a key factor in its growth. St. Louis recognized its importance and desired a station that would connect several terminals throughout the city. It held a worldwide design contest, inviting submissions from architects in the United States and Europe. Link & Cameron was selected as the winner.
Brian Solomon’s Railroad Stations says that Thomas C. Link and Edward B. Cameron proposed a design to reflect the city’s French heritage in the Norman Revival style (also known as the French Romanesque style). Hans and April Halberstadt wrote in their book, The American Train Depot & Roundhouse, that the building evoked a grand chateau on the Loire River. The terminal is made from Missouri granite and has a distinctive appearance. It also stands out from Midwestern cities such as Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Indianapolis, which were built between 1878-1890. The #4 train of Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, the northbound “Limited”, departs St. Louis Union Station, on April 16, 1963, bound to Chicago.
Its 280-foot clock tower with towering Romanesque arches was the most prominent exterior feature. Grand Hall featured a 65-foot vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows, which were made at Davis & Chambers in St. Louis. The interior was divided into 3 sections. The Grand Hall was found in the Headhouse. It was decorated with mosaics/frescoes by Healy & Millet, also of St. Louis, as well as gold leaf details and a scagliola floor. At 610 feet by 70ft, the Midway was the main concourse, measuring 610 feet long and 70ft wide. George H. Pegram designed the 600-foot-wide Trainshed. It featured 32 tracks and covered nearly 12 acres. In 1889, the original tenants, MP and StLIM&S, along with Wabash, O&M, and L&N, created the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. Construction and design plans were combined. Named after Mrs. Louis P. Aloe, the Aloe Plaza was built in 1940 and cost $100,000. Bronze statues depict the Mississippi River and Missouri Rivers meet. These bronze statues were designed by Carl Milles, a Swedish artist. At its peak, the station served 31 railroad lines and 22 railroads (some of which later joined the association). The TRRA’s rails have seen many of the most spectacular trains ever in service, including:
B&O’s National Limited Diplomat and Diplomat.
Knickerbocker NYC and Southwestern Limited;
Missouri Pacific’s Missouri River Eagle. Missourian, Ozarker. Southerner. Sunflower. Sunshine Special
Abraham Lincoln, in the Gulf and Mobile
L&N’s Humming Bird
Pennsylvania’s Spirit Of St. Louis (joint venture with MP)
All Wabash’s named trains, including the Bluebird and the Wabash Cannon Ball
Built-in 1926, the TRRA railroad is still being used by BNSF Railways and CSX Transportation as a freight carrier.
Missouri Pacific PA-2 #8033 departs St. Louis Union Station via the “Texas Eagle”. (St. Louis, Texas).
On September 1, 1894, the St. Louis Union Station opened to the public. It cost $6.5 million and was greeted with much fanfare. The mall was the first in the country and featured shops that lined the arcade behind Grand Hall. It is light and airy, with an open atmosphere. After only 10 years of service, it was finally retired. It was renovated to accommodate the needs of many visitors to the city during the 1904 World’s Fair. It was last renovated in the 1940s. The main focus was on the interior. It slowly declined in the 1950s and 1960s as more people moved to highways and other airlines.
Amtrak took over most intercity rail services in the country starting May 1, 1971. Union Station was left without three trains in its trainshed. On October 31, 1978, the last train to leave Union Station was finally the Inter-American (Chicago-Laredo in Texas). Oppenheimer Properties purchased the building for $5.5million, which was quite a difference from its predecessors. The structure was immediately renovated by the new owners. The owners envisioned the building as a popular entertainment venue even though there was no long-distance train service. It was reopened to the public in August 1985 after a $150 million restoration. Saint Louis Union Station is now in better condition than when it was under railroad ownership. The station’s lavish interior and newly renovated rooms have made it a city landmark. You can find more than 20 restaurants inside the station, along with specialty shops and shops. In 2011, the station was subject to a major renovation. The station was renovated and upgraded in 2011. Visitors and tourists have been offered more luxurious accommodation. Metro Link still provides service, even though four tracks used to serve the station were recently removed.