America's coolest train stations?

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Keith Langston

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Hello train enthusiasts!

I'm a travel reporter doing a post on America's coolest train stations. Being a (somewhat but not really) train nerd, I know of the country's grandest stations:

Grand Central
Portland Union Staton
LA Union
St Louis Union
Nashville Union
Denver Union
Union DC

But I have a question for everyone - have you ever been in any really cool or unique stations in America? For example, back when I was living overseas I'd travel through small town train stations that were gorgeous. They weren't big, but they had character - some had little outdoor cafes built into them, beautiful planters all around, and old ornately carved wooden buildings that made me feel like I was some 1800's prospector. Do you know of any stations like that in America? I'd love to feature some in my article, thanks!
 

Bob Dylan

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Hello train enthusiasts!

I'm a travel reporter doing a post on America's coolest train stations. Being a (somewhat but not really) train nerd, I know of the country's grandest stations:

Grand Central
Portland Union Staton
LA Union
St Louis Union
Nashville Union
Denver Union
Union DC

But I have a question for everyone - have you ever been in any really cool or unique stations in America? For example, back when I was living overseas I'd travel through small town train stations that were gorgeous. They weren't big, but they had character - some had little outdoor cafes built into them, beautiful planters all around, and old ornately carved wooden buildings that made me feel like I was some 1800's prospector. Do you know of any stations like that in America? I'd love to feature some in my article, thanks!
Utica Union Station( NY)
Kansas City Union Station
30th Street Station( Philadelphia)
Davis, CA
Fullerton, CA
King Street Station( Seattle)( Union Station/ not used as a Train Station across the Tracks is Great also!!)
Sunset Station/ The Original ( San Antonio/ not used as a Train Station)
Santa Fe Station/ Temple,TX
El Paso,TX Union
Tucson, AZ Union
Toronto Union Station(Canada/ served by Amtrak's Maple Leaf from NYC)

and Many More!!!
 
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Acela150

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30th Street for sure! But I'm biased. :p

Grand Central Terminal is on the list as well!

Washington, DC Union Station.

If you're looking for places where trains pass frequently, I can suggest Trenton, Princeton Jct, Perryville, BWI Airport Train Station, and a slew of others.
 

dogbert617

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The train station at Niles, MI is quite picturesque (at least from the outside)
And to add for Michigan, that Jackson, MI has a great and historic train station as well. Allegedly, it's the oldest station in Michigan, still in use as a train station. I agree about Niles having a pretty nice station, as well.

If you're in Saint Louis, I'd say going inside the old Union Station hotel (and as of now, it's become a Doubletree) is a MUST. Since the inside is extremely beautiful, and the outside is really nice as well. I know there are a few old trains parked outside this station (this station used to be a big train hub, as you can guess), that you can look at as well.

I remember the inside of the station in Toledo, OH was nice, when I looked inside it during a Lake Shore Limited 20 minute station stop/stretch break layover. Though it made me sad too, how many abandoned platforms and tracks I saw to the side no longer being used. This was obviously another former train station hub, no longer functioning as that.

ETA: I think you'd like some of the historic train stations on the Empire Builder route, such as Whitefish, MT(a former Great Northern Railroad station). Also some of the lodges(and have a Bavarian and wood look to them, i.e. Many Glacier Hotel) within Glacier National Park, plus the hotel in Essex, MT (Isaac Walton Inn, right outside of here is an Amtrak station that's still served by them, but it's location is more isolated vs. the east and west portions of this national park), were all built and financed by Great Northern Railroad. Not railroad stations per se, but if you'd ever got up to northwest Montana, they are worth a look. Also certain other ex-Great Northern stations still have vintage railroad equipment placed outside of a station, such as Havre, MT.

A different long distance line you may like as far as railroad stations designs go, would be stations along the Southwest Chief route. I.e. the former Harvey Houses in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Winslow, Arizona, and Barstow, California, to name examples. Kansas City has a nice historic train station, still in use by Amtrak today. The restored Amtrak station in Saint Paul, Minnesota(Empire Builder route), would also be up your alley to see. Finally down in North Carolina (along I believe the Silver Star route, NC/Carolinas/Virginia locals correct me if I'm wrong), I remember once seeing an online pic of the depot in Hamlet, NC, which I thought had a nice historic design. And on a similar online pic note, Temple, Texas(Texas Eagle route) had a nice looking station. Finally from the few pics I've seen of it online, I suspect Memphis(City of New Orleans) may be historic to some extent inside. Even has a neon sign inside, and is nice to think is still in use to this day.

Now THE very last ETA: Metra (Chicago commuter rail) has some very nice looking historic stations, along its lines. The examples of ones I really like include 99th Street and 111th Street(Rock Island Beverly/Morgan Park branch), Lake Bluff (Union Pacific North), Berwyn (Oak Park Ave, BNSF), and Downers Grove to name a few. For South Shore Line (runs towards both Michigan City and South Bend, in Indiana), Beverly Shores is a really great looking station. Beverly Shores even has its historic neon sign to this day, which still lights up at night!
 
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SarahZ

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Kalamazoo, Michigan:

It was built in 1887 and restored in 2006. The waiting area, ticket counters, restrooms, and fireplace have that "1800s prospector" look you're talking about.

Kalamazoo is located exactly halfway between Detroit and Chicago. I love this sign; it hangs on the side of the building facing the tracks:

451dd1abfadaebcfdc5068cae11d57d8.jpg
 

AmtrakBlue

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30th Street for sure! But I'm biased. :p

Grand Central Terminal is on the list as well!

Washington, DC Union Station.

If you're looking for places where trains pass frequently, I can suggest Trenton, Princeton Jct, Perryville, BWI Airport Train Station, and a slew of others.
*clears throat*. Aren’t you forgetting one? ;)
 

Maverickstation

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Boston South Station, of course.
The busy station is a great mix and the old and new, and like Grand Central the food offerings draw office workers from the nearby area.
The food offerings run the gamut from your typical fast food fare, to more upmarket including Oath Pizza, PRET, and Tavern on The Square.
Barbara's Books is a great indie book seller, and there are enough souvenir vendors to have you dropping your R's in no time.

Ken
 

dlagrua

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Michigan Central station is now undergoing a total restoration. Its a huge stone building that was opened in 1914 and closed in 1988. While passengers trains have not stopped there for decades, there is talk about getting train service there again after the restoration project in finished.
Last year we visited Omaha Union Station that is now a museum but it looks just like it did back in the day. Burlington station across the tracks was rehabbed, retains some of its original design and is now a TV station building. Maybe one day Amtrak will move service from the present day Amshack about 1/4 mile away back to Union Station.
 

Acela150

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Boston South Station, of course.
Tavern on The Square.
I got kicked outta there once for asking the bartender to put Super Bowl 52 on. When I left I chanted E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES! As loud as I could.

Pats fans are nothing but sore losers if they kick someone out for asking about a game being put on. :p
 

dogbert617

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Kalamazoo, Michigan:

It was built in 1887 and restored in 2006. The waiting area, ticket counters, restrooms, and fireplace have that "1800s prospector" look you're talking about.

Kalamazoo is located exactly halfway between Detroit and Chicago. I love this sign; it hangs on the side of the building facing the tracks:

View attachment 14371
Is that the 2nd oldest depot, that remains on this line? I remember liking the design of the depots in Kalamazoo, Niles, and Jackson all a lot, myself. I was highlighting Jackson, since I worried others would forget to say that one.

Boston South Station, of course.
The busy station is a great mix and the old and new, and like Grand Central the food offerings draw office workers from the nearby area.
The food offerings run the gamut from your typical fast food fare, to more upmarket including Oath Pizza, PRET, and Tavern on The Square.
Barbara's Books is a great indie book seller, and there are enough souvenir vendors to have you dropping your R's in no time.

Ken
Is that the same Barbara's Bookstore as in Chicago, or a different one? If it's the one based out of Chicago, I always forget they are in other cities and areas, myself.

I got kicked outta there once for asking the bartender to put Super Bowl 52 on. When I left I chanted E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES! As loud as I could.

Pats fans are nothing but sore losers if they kick someone out for asking about a game being put on. :p
I always never was a fan of Pats fans, myself. Glad it seems like their era of dominating the NFL, seems to very slowly be coming to an end.
 

flitcraft

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Tacoma Washington's Union Station is now the federal courthouse, but it's a stunning building inside and out.
 

MARC Rider

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The Lackawanna Station in Scranton. It's a Raddison hotel now, but still has great mosaics of scenes from the Lackawanna Route in the lobby. And Steamtown National Park is nearby, so there are even trains still going by it, even if they don't stop there.
 

ehbowen

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A very small station which I thought had a lot of character is the Empire Builder's depot in Minot, North Dakota.

At the opposite end of your list you will find my hometown station in Houston!
 

SarahZ

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Is that the 2nd oldest depot, that remains on this line? I remember liking the design of the depots in Kalamazoo, Niles, and Jackson all a lot, myself. I was highlighting Jackson, since I worried others would forget to say that one.
Yes, Kalamazoo is the second oldest and has the second highest ridership after Ann Arbor.

Jackson - 1873
Kalamazoo - 1887
Niles - 1892
Dowagiac - 1903

The Gandy Dancer restaurant, located next to the current Ann Arbor station, was used as a Michigan Central railroad station until 1969. It was built in 1886.
 

Maverickstation

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Is that the 2nd oldest depot, that remains on this line? I remember liking the design of the depots in Kalamazoo, Niles, and Jackson all a lot, myself. I was highlighting Jackson, since I worried others would forget to say that one.



Is that the same Barbara's Bookstore as in Chicago, or a different one? If it's the one based out of Chicago, I always forget they are in other cities and areas, myself.



I always never was a fan of Pats fans, myself. Glad it seems like their era of dominating the NFL, seems to very slowly be coming to an end.
Yes, it’s the same Barbara’s Books from Chicago.

As for Eagles Fans, the only good thing I can say is they make us Pats Fans look like Choir Boys. In particular the incident involving Michael Irvin will always remain a low point.

Ken
 

mlanoue

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I think Joliet Union Station is worth a look, too. The new station is across the viaduct, but they have a great brewery and event space in the original 1912 building.

And, it’s also worth mentioning Chicago Union Station, since they are restoring the Great Hall and, hopefully, some other historic parts of that building.
 

v v

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Surf Beach station, CA... this is pretty unique

Second Kalamazoo station as SarahZ mentions above

San Diego, Santa Fe Depot, feels part of the laid back city around it

LA Union station, can't mistake you are in California and a waiting area to die for

Washington Union station, magnificent

Kansas City Union station, again as mentioned above, grander inside than out

Essex, MT station, improbable but very beautiful place to put a station


Keith, will you advise this thread when you have your post published please?
 

Rasputin

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Essex, MT station, improbable but very beautiful place to put a station
Essex had a nice neat white station across from the hotel and was a flag stop for the Western Star before it was discontinued in 1971. The station was still there and staffed in 1977 when I was there. I think it was probably closed and torn down in the 1980s.
 

dogbert617

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Essex had a nice neat white station across from the hotel and was a flag stop for the Western Star before it was discontinued in 1971. The station was still there and staffed in 1977 when I was there. I think it was probably closed and torn down in the 1980s.
Sadly, you were right about Essex. I looked up the station there( http://www.trainweb.org/usarail/essex.htm ), and sadly it got torn down in 1992. That said, if you go to this station you should check out the nearby Isaac(sp?) Walton Inn and look at that building, since it was originally built and financed by Great Northern Railroad. And I imagine(though never visited yet) that it'd be beautiful, to see.

Yes, Kalamazoo is the second oldest and has the second highest ridership after Ann Arbor.

Jackson - 1873
Kalamazoo - 1887
Niles - 1892
Dowagiac - 1903

The Gandy Dancer restaurant, located next to the current Ann Arbor station, was used as a Michigan Central railroad station until 1969. It was built in 1886.
I wasn't sure about the status of the original station in Ann Arbor. Since as I recall when I visited years ago, they were using an 'Amshack' building sadly to say. Not sure if Amtrak and the city of Ann Arbor ever built a newer station building on that site, or if the Amshack is still used. Good to hear the original depot building is today being used as a restaurant, and was not torn down.

I think Joliet Union Station is worth a look, too. The new station is across the viaduct, but they have a great brewery and event space in the original 1912 building.

And, it’s also worth mentioning Chicago Union Station, since they are restoring the Great Hall and, hopefully, some other historic parts of that building.
I oddly did forget to mention Joliet Union Station when I was mentioning Metra stations in my earlier post, and should've mentioned that. I only didn't mention it, since both Amtrak and Metra stopped using that station, when whatever freight railroad that ran the 2 lines going through that junction ordered Metra and Amtrak to build new platforms, just east and north of that junction. Which they finally did, a few years back. It is good that the old Joliet Union Station building is still used as a brewery, and an event space now.

Speaking of Metra stations, the original Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy station in Brookfield, IL(originally community was called Grossdale), still is used as the Brookfield Historical Society building today. And is across the street, from the current Metra station: https://goo.gl/maps/kmTEfE2oNtgd9usY6
 
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