Today's Saint Louis Union Station, once one of the busiest train stations in the world, no longer serves dozens of inbound and outbound passenger trains heading east and west (during the station's heyday you could find premier trains from railroads like the Baltimore & Ohio, Louisville & Nashville, and New York Central calling there). However, the station is one of our country's largest and in terms of beauty and passengers served it competes with the likes of New York City's Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station. Fortunately, it has been beautifully restored and now serves more for entertainment and shopping with museums (including an operating model railroad), plays, restaurants, and tours available as just a few of things available for you (there is even a hotel now on the grounds).
The station was completed in 1894 and served in its original role until 1978 when the final long-distance passenger train left its magnificent train shed (at one time the station also saw over 100,000 daily passengers pass through its doors). Unlike many railroad stations and depots it was not long, however, until Saint Louis Union Station found a new life as an entertainment venue when in August 1985 it was completely restored at a staggering cost of over $150 million and today is a National Historic Landmark.
When the Saint Louis Union Station was constructed in the late 19th century it was built and owned by the Missouri Pacific; St. Louis, Iron Mountain, & Southern Railway (a Missouri Pacific subsidiary); Wabash Railroad; Ohio & Mississippi Railroad; Louisville & Nashville Railroad; and Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & Saint Louis Railway (later owned by the New York Central). In 1899, these duties were transferred to the by the Terminal Railroad Association of Saint Louis, owned by these railroads. Due to the systems owning the TRRA and using the station it saw some of their best trains using its platforms including the B&O's National Limited and Diplomat; the NYC's Knickerbocker and Southwestern Limited; the Missouri Pacific's Missouri River Eagle, Missourian, Ozarker, Southerner, Sunflower, Sunshine Special, and Texan; the L&N's Humming Bird; and about all of the Wabash's named trains like the Bluebird and the Wabash Cannon Ball (there were many more).
Today this railroad is still in operation and owned by BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Canadian National Railway, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific to ferry traffic around the St. Louis area. However, at the time the railroad's ownership of the station allowed all of its owners to use the building (which was the purpose) and dozens and dozens of trains called there daily.
The station's architect was Theodore C. Link and the building's exterior was of the French Romanesque style with cut stone and towers featured on the exterior with a grand 280-foot clock tower as the centerpiece. The station's interior featured a 65-foot vaulted ceiling in the Grand Hall and stained-glass windows. The building was split into three main sections; the Headhouse (where the Grand Hall was located featuring mosiacs, gold leaf details and scagliola surfaces); the Midway (which was the main concourse measuring at 610 feet long by 70 feet wide); and finally the Trainshed which featured 32 tracks on nearly 12 acres of ground for the dozens of trains calling there.
Today, Saint Louis Union Station is perhaps in better condition than it ever was under railroad ownership. The interior's lavish decorations and restored rooms has made the building one of the city's preeminent destinations. You can find more than two dozen places to dine inside as well as numerous shops and specialty stores. In 2011 the station finished a major restoration and upgrade by Marriott Hotel in the building's main terminal, moving several stores to the next door train shed. This has allowed the station to provide even more luxurious accommodations for travelers and visitors.
While it has been discussed recently to remove the four remaining tracks that actually still serve the station, today train service continues to be available via Metro Link. Similarly it would be rather sad to see the station no longer carry any railroad tracks because of the significant and historical relation they carry to the building. In all, it is very heartening to see the station still standing and beautifully restored in its original splendor. For more information regarding Saint Louis Union Station please click here to visit their website, which includes all of the activities, accommodations, and venues found on the premises.