Thousands of passengers rush through train stations, usually to do one of two things: depart or arrive, but next time you’re traveling, consider looking up or around you at the grandeur of these beautiful train stations. Each façade and main concourse has its own style, history and secrets. Post-war, many of these grand stations were in disrepair and almost lost until they were declared historic landmarks and restored. We wouldn’t mind being delayed in these beautiful train stations in the USA! Thank you Amtrak for sponsoring this post, but as always all opinions are my own.
1. NYC Grand Central Terminal: During NYC’s main Penn Station renovations, some Amtrak trains are traveling to Grand Central for the first time in 26 years! Grand Central Terminal, built in 1913, is a historic landmark building. From the opal faced Tiffany Glass clock in the center of the main concourse to the Vanderbilt acorns to the Whispering Gallery where visitors can whisper and be heard on the opposite corners, this place makes time travel seem possible! Eat and drink in style at the Oyster Bar with the grand vaulted ceilings or the swanky Campbell Apartment bar. The most notable feature of this beautiful white marble building has to be the famous ceiling, which was recently restored to its former glory! The green ceiling of constellations was actually painted on backwards, which some say was done purposely to show God’s view of the stars. Almost one million people pass through its doors annually, second only to Times Square as the most popular NYC attraction.
2. Washington, D.C. Union Station: One of the oldest train stations, Union Station opened in 1907. The neoclassical architecture with vaulted ceilings and gold leaf details shine in the main concourse, which was recently restored from great disrepair, having been almost shut down in the 1980s. The train station is now larger than the Capitol and is the most visited location for locals and tourists. Read more about the forgotten historic rooms here.
3. Los Angeles Union Station: Considered “the last of the great train stations,” Los Angeles Union Station was built in 1939. It is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States and is designed in the Mission Moderne style which blends Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival and Art Deco architectural styles. Enjoy a scenic layover on the large patios under palm trees among mission tiles and local artworks.
4. Denver Union Station: The original Denver Union Station built in 1881 was the largest building in Denver at the time before it burned down in a fire in 1894. The current Beaux Arts Classicism meets Italian Romanesque station was built in 1914. There are thousands of rosettes of the Colorado state flower, the Columbine, decorating the walls of the Great Hall. One fun fact is that in 1902 the station police enforced a “no kissing” rule on platforms as it was slowing train traffic. Some even believe that the historic station was haunted. Recent remodeling has added a large roof, more retail stores and a 5-star luxury hotel.
5. Chicago Union Station: Finished in 1925, Chicago’s Union Station is the only “double-stub” station where 24 tracks come towards the station mostly without connection from two different directions. The most impressive architectural piece of the station is the Great Hall’s barrel-vaulted skylight, which is over 200 feet long and was blacked-out during World War II to protect it from enemy aircraft. It has played a role in films such as The Untouchables and My Best Friend’s Wedding.
6. Cincinnati Union Terminal: Opened in 1933, the Cincinnati Union Terminal is best known for its gorgeous Art Deco architecture. Enter through what was the largest half-dome in the Western Hemisphere when it was constructed. From the magical whispering fountains to the old school ice cream parlor there is so much to see. The illuminated fountain with cascading art deco pools steals the show on the outside plaza.
7. Philadelphia 30th Street Station: Amtrak’s third busiest hub in the nation was built in 1933 with a neoclassical design and Art Deco interior. The main concourse has impressive 95-foot tall ceilings. Philadelphia’s train station is one of the few stations in the USA that sees trains arrive and depart from all four directions: from Boston, Florida, Atlantic City and Chicago.
8. Boston South Station: Boston’s historic South Station opened on New Year’s Day 1899 and at the time it was the largest station in the world and the busiest terminal in the country! The architecture is Neoclassical Revival-style with a curved façade and impressive clock at the main entrance which is still wound by hand. It is now flanked by glass pyramid entrances, reminiscent of the Louvre in Paris, where riders can easily access the “T” subway station beneath the train station.
9. Richmond Main Street Station: Opened in 1901, Richmond’s Main Street Station in Virginia was erected in the Beaux Arts, a.k.a. Renaissance Revival, style in red brick with an ornate domed clock tower. The platform is still supported by the largest intact train trestle system in the USA.
10. San Antonio: San Antonio’s original Sunset Station was built in 1902 in the Spanish Mission Revival style. The building was constructed with pink stucco walls and clay tile roofs. It was known as “the Crown Jewel” when it was decorated with hundreds of electric lights. The Sunset Station name inspired the “Sunset Limited” Amtrak route to California which still operates today. In 1998, after Sunset Station was in disrepair, Amtrak relocated next door in a smaller depot.
11. San Diego Union Station: San Diego’s train station was originally called the “Santa Fe Depot” and opened in 1915. One of the most popular Amtrak routes, the “Pacific Surfliner” runs through the lines of palm trees at San Diego’s station. The building of the Panama Canal and the 1915 Panama-California Exposition saw increased visitors through the station doors. Union Station’s façade is framed with two towers covered in zigzagging tile patterns.
Have you been to any of these train stations? Which station is your favorite? Comment below!