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Union Station

by Jack Corbett

 

It took ten of the country's finest architects to conceive the masterpiece that became Union Station during the 1890's. At the time St Louis was the fourth largest city in the country. Designed to be the largest train station in the world, Union Station would ultimately have over two hundred trains come through its track yards a day while serving 27 railroad companies, more than any other city in the World.

But it didn't start out that easy for the City of St Louis. Although it was smack in the middle of the settlement of the Western Frontier, trains did not cross the Mississippi back in those days and cargo and people had to be ferried across. It was not until after 1868 with the construction of the Eads Bridge, which was a monumental engineering accomplishment at the time thought to be impossible, that trains and other traffic were able to cross the river at St Louis. The project was completed in 1874.

Still--problems remained with greed sticking out its ugly head, impeding development of St Louis as the great railroad center it would soon become. East Coast Railroad tycoon and financier, Jay Gould, started to turn his attention West at the same time the Eads Bridge neared completion. Already in control of the Erie Railroad largely because of his unscrupulous financial dealings Gould wrested control of the Santa Fee Railroad. Preferential freight rates to Gould controlled railroads continued to put a halt to the development of transcontinental railroad traffic through St Louis until rival railroads banded together under the leadership of prominent St Louis citizens to put Gould out of business.

Union Station was carefully thought out to be THE superstation destined to be the largest and busiest train station on the American Continent. But with the growing popularity of the airplane in the second half of the twentieth century passenger train travel and Union Station went into a steep decline. Union Station stopped serving the railroad industry and in 1984 it became a large shopping center composed of shops, restaurants, and bars all housed under one roof. Landry's seafood (see picture above), Houlihans, Casa Gallardo, the Hard Rock Cafe, and Hooters are just a few of the restaurants one can sample here.

Still, a sense of the grandeur of the past can be sensed here. The Hyatt Hotel now occupies the Grand Hall where one once picked up his train tickets and often lounged in one of the old train station's restaurants waiting for his departure. Walking through the Grand Hall I remembered how it was in my childhood. The sound of someone playing a piano filled the air as I walked through its hallways. And I remembered how it was like as a child riding the trains and going to stations in New York and Chicago. As a child I felt these stations were bigger and grander simply because the cities were larger. But I was wrong. More than any other, St Louis's Union Station represents the epitome of passenger rail travel in its finest hour.

 

 

Other links to St Louis's Union Station
The St Louis Union Station's official web site

St Louis Union Station Directory of Stores

 

The Looking Glass Magazine

 


 

Alpha Productions World of Adult Entertainment

 

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