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trainman74

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7. Minute Maid Park (HB&T Union Station )

This ball park at first was named Enron Field due to the scandal and as a result the name was changed to Minute Maid Park . It was constructed from Union Station which sat dormant and no tracks no longer serve it . The stadium was constructed as a monument to the station which has a locomotive and tender working on the roof during Astros games . It does have a retractable roof . The stadium is located in downtown in the northeast corner east of the city jail and the justice center. It is home to the Houston Astros .
My photo from when I was here for a game in 2010:



I assume the locomotive looks a bit different now, since the Astros have changed their logo since 2010.

(I stayed at the Hilton Americas hotel on that trip -- it was very nice.)
 

cirdan

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7. Minute Maid Park (HB&T Union Station )

This ball park at first was named Enron Field due to the scandal and as a result the name was changed to Minute Maid Park . It was constructed from Union Station which sat dormant and no tracks no longer serve it . The stadium was constructed as a monument to the station which has a locomotive and tender working on the roof during Astros games . It does have a retractable roof . The stadium is located in downtown in the northeast corner east of the city jail and the justice center. It is home to the Houston Astros .
I don't know if there are official visitor tours of this building, but I managed to talk the security guy into turning a blind eye to me slipping inside and taking a few photos some years ago. He didn't seem totally comfortable about that though so I didn't push my luck too far.

I also visited the stadium some years previously as part of a corporate event in the nearby Convention Center, but they didn't provide very much information about the history, which is why I decided to come back and see more for myself.

10. Hilton Americas Hotel

This Hotel is exquisite for those who do luxury travel . Located near the above mention venues , It will give you your moniesworth if you're looking for a hotel that has class and taste . Located in downtown near the park shops mall which is now a business center and food court .

There is more to come .
I did stay here once, when I was on the previously mentioned corporate event. I was too busy to explore any of the amenities though, so maybe it was wasted on me. Some years later I stayed at the Four Seasons, which I actually found more pleasant.

Also worthy of mention is the park between the hotels and the Convention Center. There is a pretty pond and some nice coffee houses where you can recharge your batteries during busy conventions. The area is very pleasant during daytime but at night vagrants and panhandlers do move in, although the ones I met were neither dangerous nor threatening.

Another nearby place worth exploring is Christchurch Cathedral. This is close to the Minute maid Stadium and I got a very fascinating guided tour.
 

trainman74

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I don't know if there are official visitor tours of this building, but I managed to talk the security guy into turning a blind eye to me slipping inside and taking a few photos some years ago. He didn't seem totally comfortable about that though so I didn't push my luck too far.]
Looks like they do offer official Minute Maid Park tours: information here.
 

cirdan

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I don't know if there are official visitor tours of this building, but I managed to talk the security guy into turning a blind eye to me slipping inside and taking a few photos some years ago. He didn't seem totally comfortable about that though so I didn't push my luck too far.]
Looks like they do offer official Minute Maid Park tours: information here.
hmmm- How odd the security guard didn't direct me to that. I would have preferred an official tour to inconveniencing him the way I did.
 

cirdan

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I don't know if I have posted these before (apologies if I have), but these were taken inside the Minute Maid stadium when I was there on a corporate event in 2008. Unfortunately at the time I wasn't aware of the historical significance of the place, otherwise I would have taken more pictures. The first picture shows the train in the background on top of the wall. This actually moves and makes train noises. Behind it the head house of the old station can be seen.



a close-up of the train



a show, as you can see, most people weren't paying much attention



and the locomotive outside

 

trainman74

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hmmm- How odd the security guard didn't direct me to that. I would have preferred an official tour to inconveniencing him the way I did.
Maybe they weren't doing the tours that day, or else he didn't have the information at hand? Looks like the schedule can be variable, to account for games and other events that are taking place.
 

cirdan

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Some random pictures that might be of interest. All taken pin my last visit in April 2012. The first is a building near UH Downtown with the logo of the Southern Pacific on it. Not sure what the story of this is ...



Metro tracks being put in



Inside the Astros / Minute Maid Park / Headhouse of old railroad station

(I'm not sure if photography was allowed here as the guard looked very uncomfortable when I took it, meanwhile the lady at the desk was doing her best to pretend she hadn't noticed)

 

cirdan

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continued ...

Oak lined walkway



going to the convention center



and some architectural gems



 

ehbowen

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Just thought I would add a couple of recommendations for restaurants near the Amtrak station. Just the other side of the freeway is the Downtown Aquarium, part of Tilman Fertitta's Landry's empire. It is worth a visit, and there is a Ferris Wheel and a carousel on property for amusement. I've had the food and it is quite good, although pricy pricy pricy.

Where I'm much more likely to head for a casual lunch or dinner is the Spaghetti Warehouse at 901 Commerce, just a little over a half mile (Google calls it 0.6 and 12 minutes walk) from the Amtrak station down Franklin Street (then jog a block to the left at Travis...if you cross the light rail tracks at Main, you've gone a block too far). Prices are reasonable and the portions are generous and good quality. Just be advised that this is a very popular place; if you arrive at the dinner hour on a theater night or just about any Saturday, don't be surprised if you see a line out the door.

One other place that I sometimes frequent downtown is Birraporetti's at 500 Louiisiana St., sandwiched between the Alley Theater and the Wortham Theater. It's a half-mile 10 minute walk from the Amtrak station as long as you don't take a wrong turn. As you might expect they cater to the late-night crowd and prices are on the high side but the menu has a good selection and it has a more upscale atmosphere than the Spaghetti Warehouse.
 
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cirdan

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I just wanted to ask your opinions on the Space Center in Houston.

Looking at the website: http://spacecenter.org/ there seems to be lots of kiddy and family stuff.

I was wondering if it is also sufficiently interesting for a mid 40s grumpy bloke like myself who will probably be going alone.

Is it just noisy kids running around and pressing buttons, or is there something there for people who want to see more nitty gritty technical details?
 

Bob Dylan

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Visiting the Space Center in Florida is MUCH Better IMHO! But if you're in the Clear Lake Area its OK! It is Historic, worth a few hours of time and overall interesting for adults and kids!

There's plenty to see and do in the Houston Area, I'd recommend going on down the Gulf Freeway to Galveston,out to Baytown on I-10 to see the San Jacinto Monument and the Battleship USS Texas over the Johnson Space Center!

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of the sprawl of Greater Houston and it's horrible traffic, but between about 930am and 200pm and after 1100pm till 500am you can get around on the Freeways if you have a car!
 
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ehbowen

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If you have an interest in space it's worth a one-day visit.

They do have several historic artifacts on display, including the command module from Apollo 17. It's behind plastic, but you can walk right up and look (through the plastic) inside of it. There are also some lunar samples on display; again behind glass but up close.

There is also a group tour of the Mission Control Center and some of the training facilities. ETA: As well as Rocket Park, where a Saturn 5 and some other spacecraft are on display.

Disclaimer: The last time I was there was several years ago during the space shuttle era. I'm not up on any recent changes.
 
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Swadian Hardcore

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I'll be in Houston for three days and I was wondering if I should visit the Museum of Natural Science on the first day or the Holocaust Museum. Whatever I don't visit on the first day would be on the third day.

Also, is there any way to get to the USS Texas without a car?
 

Bob Dylan

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The USS Texas is docked on Buffalo Bayou ( now the Houston Ship Channel)next to the San Jacinto Monument in San Jacinto Park between Pasadena/Deer Park, Channelview and Baytown! There is no way to get there without a car unless you're with a tour group and make arrangements in advance! Its a good 20 miles from downtown!

A cab would be impractical and hugely expensive!

Sorry can't advise on the Museums, but downtown Houston has a lot going on including the Light Rail Lineon Main Street, and the 1st Place Houston Astros that play in Beautiful Minute Maid Park downtown that is built on the site of the old Union Station on Texas Avenue and Crawford St.! The front entrance is the old Head House for the Station!Worth a tour even if the Astros aren't playing!
 
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Swadian Hardcore

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Sorry, the link doesn't work. I probably won't get to visit the USS Texas, even though I'm a battleship enthusiast.
 

printman2000

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Sorry, the link doesn't work. I probably won't get to visit the USS Texas, even though I'm a battleship enthusiast.
Hmm. Link works perfectly for me. You could just Google USS Texas hard hat tours.

Too bad you can't go. I have been there many times and it is a very cool and historic ship.
 

drdumont

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Unabashed commercial plug for a 90+ year old Houston institution...worth a visit if you can find an open location (they seem to be struggling lately):

Hate to hear that. I'm a Bellaire grad (64), my late Mom loved the original place, and it was always a stop at least once a trip to Houston. Only place I know to get Delaware punch with a meal. Sorry to hear they are having issues. I'll have to make a pilgrimage soon. Hope it isn't too late. Haven't been in Houston in maybe 5 years.

James Coney Island
 

ehbowen

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Hate to hear that. I'm a Bellaire grad (64), my late Mom loved the original place, and it was always a stop at least once a trip to Houston. Only place I know to get Delaware punch with a meal. Sorry to hear they are having issues. I'll have to make a pilgrimage soon. Hope it isn't too late. Haven't been in Houston in maybe 5 years.
Yes, in recent months the three locations which I most often use...Downtown (Dallas @ Travis...the Walker Street original closed decades ago), Gulfgate, and Edgebrook have all closed. Can't be a good sign.
 

dogbert617

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Yes, in recent months the three locations which I most often use...Downtown (Dallas @ Travis...the Walker Street original closed decades ago), Gulfgate, and Edgebrook have all closed. Can't be a good sign.
At least I'd take heart that there still are a good bit of locations remaining, per this page(though the southeast Houston part of the metro now seems to have few left, unfortunately): http://www.jamesconeyisland.com/locs

I'll consider doing a visit to James Coney Island, if I visit Houston someday.

Some random pictures that might be of interest. All taken pin my last visit in April 2012. The first is a building near UH Downtown with the logo of the Southern Pacific on it. Not sure what the story of this is ...



Metro tracks being put in



Inside the Astros / Minute Maid Park / Headhouse of old railroad station

(I'm not sure if photography was allowed here as the guard looked very uncomfortable when I took it, meanwhile the lady at the desk was doing her best to pretend she hadn't noticed)

Great job, in doing all those pictures! That is weird the guard inside the former downtown Houston Southern Pacific station now being used for Astros offices, was a little uncomfortable in you taking pics. Good for you to get such a pic, though. Since it's a nice bit of former passenger rail history, still standing in downtown Houston thankfully!
 

ehbowen

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At least I'd take heart that there still are a good bit of locations remaining, per this page(though the southeast Houston part of the metro now seems to have few left, unfortunately): http://www.jamesconeyisland.com/locs

I'll consider doing a visit to James Coney Island, if I visit Houston someday.



Great job, in doing all those pictures! That is weird the guard inside the former downtown Houston Southern Pacific station now being used for Astros offices, was a little uncomfortable in you taking pics. Good for you to get such a pic, though. Since it's a nice bit of former passenger rail history, still standing in downtown Houston thankfully!
[pedant]

We're talking two separate locations. The building with the SP logo used to be the headquarters of (IIRC) T&NO, Southern Pacific's Texas operating company. (Up through the mid-1960s, Texas law required railroads which operated in Texas to have their headquarters in Texas; the Class Ones "complied" with this by having a having a headquarters in-state...but, for some reason, the President and other key officers and directors were all stationed out of Chicago, New York, or San Francisco.... In addition to SP's office in Houston, Santa Fe's G. C. & S. F. had its headquarters in Galveston and their Panhandle & Santa Fe subsidiary was headquartered out of Amarillo.) It was still a working railroad office when I was in my teenage "exploring" (aka 'trespassing') years. Southern Pacific's Grand Central Station was a couple of blocks away, on land which was sold to build the Main Post Office which served Houston until just a few years ago and on the tracks which the present-day Houston Amtrak station still uses.

The other (big) station in town was Union Station, home to Santa Fe, Missouri Pacific, and the Joint Texas Division railroads (Rock Island & Burlington). (The Missouri-Kansas-Texas had its own small station on land which now belongs to U of H Downtown at the foot of Main Street; nothing is left of it except perhaps part of the platform.) Union Station's head house survived and was incorporated into the design of Minute Maid Park (formerly Ten-Run, er, Enron Field, but no one likes to talk about those days), but the former concourse and tracks have been completely replaced by the baseball stadium. There was still a live track into the station when I was in my high school trespassing years; it housed the MoPac division superintendent's business car...one day the porter saw me poking around and invited me inside for a tour. Very nice. I also went all through the station back before anyone ever got serious about "access control"; MoPac had their offices on most of the fourth floor and I became friendly with their janitor who told me a lot of stories about the old days. There was also a model railroad club on the south half of the second floor which was still opened to the public regularly. After the paranoiacs and lawyers (but I repeat myself...) took over, though, that ended and you couldn't get into the building without a badge.

So, two separate buildings; separate railroad systems. [/pedant]

Edit To Add: The Southern Pacific offices used to have a large neon sign on the roof reading, naturally, "Southern Pacific". It has been replaced by another neon sign in a similar style which reads "Bayou Lofts" (which is what the building was re-purposed to). The original sign was donated to the Houston NRHS chapter, which has plans to display it at their museum (not sure if it's up now or not; I don't get over to that side of town much).
 
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dogbert617

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[pedant]

We're talking two separate locations. The building with the SP logo used to be the headquarters of (IIRC) T&NO, Southern Pacific's Texas operating company. (Up through the mid-1960s, Texas law required railroads which operated in Texas to have their headquarters in Texas; the Class Ones "complied" with this by having a having a headquarters in-state...but, for some reason, the President and other key officers and directors were all stationed out of Chicago, New York, or San Francisco.... In addition to SP's office in Houston, Santa Fe's G. C. & S. F. had its headquarters in Galveston and their Panhandle & Santa Fe subsidiary was headquartered out of Amarillo.) It was still a working railroad office when I was in my teenage "exploring" (aka 'trespassing') years. Southern Pacific's Grand Central Station was a couple of blocks away, on land which was sold to build the Main Post Office which served Houston until just a few years ago and on the tracks which the present-day Houston Amtrak station still uses.

The other (big) station in town was Union Station, home to Santa Fe, Missouri Pacific, and the Joint Texas Division railroads (Rock Island & Burlington). (The Missouri-Kansas-Texas had its own small station on land which now belongs to U of H Downtown at the foot of Main Street; nothing is left of it except perhaps part of the platform.) Union Station's head house survived and was incorporated into the design of Minute Maid Park (formerly Ten-Run, er, Enron Field, but no one likes to talk about those days), but the former concourse and tracks have been completely replaced by the baseball stadium. There was still a live track into the station when I was in my high school trespassing years; it housed the MoPac division superintendent's business car...one day the porter saw me poking around and invited me inside for a tour. Very nice. I also went all through the station back before anyone ever got serious about "access control"; MoPac had their offices on most of the fourth floor and I became friendly with their janitor who told me a lot of stories about the old days. There was also a model railroad club on the south half of the second floor which was still opened to the public regularly. After the paranoiacs and lawyers (but I repeat myself...) took over, though, that ended and you couldn't get into the building without a badge.

So, two separate buildings; separate railroad systems. [/pedant]

Edit To Add: The Southern Pacific offices used to have a large neon sign on the roof reading, naturally, "Southern Pacific". It has been replaced by another neon sign in a similar style which reads "Bayou Lofts" (which is what the building was re-purposed to). The original sign was donated to the Houston NRHS chapter, which has plans to display it at their museum (not sure if it's up now or not; I don't get over to that side of town much).
Thanks for mentioning all this info, about both stations! Do you remember the various cities and towns(or at least more major ones) you could take a train from Houston Union Station(now home to the Astros) to, back in the day?

Also, I do wonder if the old Southern Pacific station(and demolished for a former main post office building that was used as that till 2015 per this article, http://houston.culturemap.com/news/real-estate/05-07-15-downtown-post-office-on-franklin-to-close-permanently-on-may-15/ ) at 401 Franklin Street ever served destinations, besides the regular ones on the current Amtrak Sunset Limited route? I do also wonder if the SP station(and nearby Amtrak station on this route) served trains going to/from Dallas and also Fort Worth, back in the day?
 

ehbowen

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Thanks for mentioning all this info, about both stations! Do you remember the various cities and towns(or at least more major ones) you could take a train from Houston Union Station(now home to the Astros) to, back in the day?

Also, I do wonder if the old Southern Pacific station(and demolished for a former main post office building that was used as that till 2015 per this article, http://houston.culturemap.com/news/real-estate/05-07-15-downtown-post-office-on-franklin-to-close-permanently-on-may-15/ ) at 401 Franklin Street ever served destinations, besides the regular ones on the current Amtrak Sunset Limited route? I do also wonder if the SP station(and nearby Amtrak station on this route) served trains going to/from Dallas and also Fort Worth, back in the day?
Oh, yes. Oh, yes! Go here for a comprehensive listing, circa 1952. But for the Reader's Digest condensed version, aside from twice-daily service over the Sunset Route (Sunset Limited and the Argonaut), there were daily (often twice daily) trains to Dallas, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Shreveport. At that, it was a cutback from previous service; earlier issues of the Guide show service to Brownsville, Austin, and others.

As far as where you could go from Houston's Union Station, the Santa Fe would take you north to Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City and Chicago (Texas Chief route, also used by the Ranger) or west to Sweetwater, Lubbock, Clovis and (via through cars) onward to California. The Missouri Pacific would take you to Texarkana, Little Rock and St. Louis...largely along the route of the present-day Texas Eagle, but in those days there was a direct rail connection from Houston to Longview via Palestine. (The rails are still there, but these days they're freight-only.) The Burlington would carry you to Dallas and Fort Worth on the Sam Houston Zephyr, from whence you could make direct connections to the Texas Zephyr for Denver, while the Rock Island's Twin Star Rocket followed the same route from Houston to Fort Worth (well, almost the same route; Burlington used the T&P station in Fort Worth while Rock Island used Santa Fe's station just south of the present Amtrak station), where it diverged and continued almost due north to Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
 
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