St. Louis Union Station

Discussion in 'General' started by friscochoctaw, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. friscochoctaw

    friscochoctaw Member

    I will be visiting St. Louis here in the near future and Union Station will be a visit. I know there's a mall in most of it now and it has a section dedicated to the history of the building, but I want to know if any trains still service it.
  2. pbender

    pbender Member Supporter

    There aren't any active passenger trains going in and out of the station, but there are 3 or 4 tracks on the westernmost side of the building. These are used primarily by St. Louis Car Company as storage tracks.

    Amtrak started using the Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center, which is located on 15th street (about 1 block east of Union Station), in November 2008. Amtrak had been using an Amshack since they stopped using Union Station in 1978.

  3. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    The "Amshack" (a twin double-wide!) was a complete disgrace to this city!

    The new Gateway Center looks kind of nice - it sits a block east of where the "shack" was, as Paul noted. Hopefully, they have paved the old "shack" site over now for parking. When the "shack" was in use, they didn't even have much parking space there. What kind of railroad station was that?

    St Louis Union Station is well worth a visit - you can easily get a feeling for what a unique station it once was. The last time I was there, some of the mall was starting to look a little tired. Marriott just took over the hotel from Hyatt, so perhaps that will stimulate a renewal. Lots of neat displays in the station areas. Don't miss the grand hall. Spectacular!

  4. mark

    mark Member

    When you visit the Union Station be sure to visit the many history plaques spread throughout the various levels in the head house and train shed. Although the tour is self guided, at times there have been guided tours available. You might try the hotel desk or the mall office to see if there is a published guide to the plaques.

    Also, just off the Grand Hall to the north, down the stairs to the main front entrance on Market Street you will want to test out the Whispering Arch.

    If there are still bookstores in the station, there are several books available on the history of the depot. As indicated earlier, the composition of the mall area has changed over the years. As of my last visit in early November 2008 it appeared the newness of the attraction had faded and economic changes had resulted in a different composition of shops and several store vacancies.

    Other related sites to see while at the station include Tower 1 (to the south of the train shed and parking lot), the Power house (southeast corner of parking lot), the YMCA Hotel (across 20th Street to the west) and the Meeting of the Waters fountain (to the north at Aloe Plaza in the Market Street median). Tower 1 is in poor shape now but at one time controlled the station's approaches. The former YMCA has been nicely restored as a hotel.

    The Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) Historical Society has published articles and special editions on the station and towers. Recommend visiting their web site for back issues, maps, etc.

    Unfortunately, the 2001 special edition on the station is currently "sold out". You may be able to find a copy at one of the dealers listed on their web page or try contacting one of the officers listed to see if you could obtain a photocopy.

    Not far from the station, just 3 blocks north and 9 blocks east, is the Frisco Building at 906 Olive Street. This was the company corporate headquarters. It has been restored as condominiums, offices and retail.

    I also recommend a ride on the Metro light rail system while you are downtown. From their Union Station depot head east and travel under the city through the former TRRA tunnel approach to and over the Eads Bridge. This will take you across the Mississippi River just north of the Gateway Arch, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and museum (another site to visit) on into Illinois.

    The tunnel has a right angle "L" shape running north under 8th Street then east under Washington Street and immediately onto the lower "railroad' level of the bridge. Automobile traffic is on the top level.

    Metro stations along this piece of the route include Union Station, Civic Center, Stadium (just south of the tunnel), 8th & Pine, Convention Center (both in the tunnel), Arch - Leclede's Landing (east end of tunnel / Eads Bridge west end) and East Riverfront (Eads Bridge east end). The one way trip takes about 10 minutes. You could then get off and return on the next train. The entire system ride is also fun and reasonably inexpensive. Check out information at

    St. Louis Union Station is truly a great structure filled with history and worth visiting. The other attractions near by just add to the history and fun of the trip. Hope you have a great time!


    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2009
  5. railroadguy65

    railroadguy65 Member

    If you would like to compare and contrast how bad of shape the station once was compared to now, you should watch Escape from New York (1981) with Kurt Russell.

    Most of it was filmed in and around St. Louis in early 1980. Downtown was in rough shape then. The station was used as an HQ for the criminals. And the Grand Hall was their fight arena. Pay close attention to look past the actors to see the shape of the building.

    Unfortunately now, the attraction of station has been somewhat diminished as many of the brand name shops have left, due high theft in their stores. The metro link is great to see St. Louis, but it also brought a bad element to the station. Which in turn ran off some stores and restaurants. I have heard this story time and time again, from business that were closing there.

    I wish you could have seen this place in the mid-late Eighty's in her rebirth. It was the place to go, and there was a lot more railroad activity. For some time Frisco #1522 was there as well as others. Anyway I can go on and on about Union station, go and enjoy of the most beautiful stations in the country.
  6. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    I still remember StL Union Station as a kid. Man, was it a neat place to watch trains! My dad liked to trainwatch also, and many times on weekends we would go down to the station and walk out on one of the north-south viaducts over the tracks and watch the parade pass by. Plus, the TRRA was always buzzing around like bees.

    He was a Wabash fan, having grown up in University City. We would go to Delmar Station to gaze at the Wabash often as well.

    I hate to admit it, but back then Wabash and GM&O were my favorite roads, though we vacationed in the Ozarks a lot, and watched some Frisco as we ventured down US 66 - I remember stopping at Sullivan, Bourbon and Cuba for example. It took my college days at MSM in Rolla to lock the Frisco into my mind forever as #1. The campus was not real close to the tracks, but where I lived, and the "eating" club (yuk!) where I ate, both were.

  7. friscochoctaw

    friscochoctaw Member

    Thanks for the insite. I plan to enjoy myself, though I'm going with a group. I intend on updating the status of the station upon my return.
  8. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

  9. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Neat memory, Ken. My grandfather still tells stories of going in/out of Union Station as an Army Air Corp enlisted man during the War. He's a tiny man (nickname is "Shorty") but said the midway was always so crowded, it'd take him a long time to get to his connecting track!

    I only wish he'd been carrying a camera.

    Best Regards,
  10. tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018)

    tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018) Passed Away February 11, 2018

  11. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Agree that MetroLink is well worth a ride. Also pay attention to the old TRRA tunnel under St Louis, which MetroLink runs through, and to Eads Bridge across the Mississippi.

    My dad, who passed away in 1997, was a commercial real estate appraiser. He did a lot of work for the Wabash/IT/N&W. But, his favorites were his appraisals of the TRRA tunnel (from west Eads to just east of Union Station), and of Eads Bridge itself (he did the bridge twice). They needed to set a value for the tunnel and for the bridge so that MetroLink (BiState) could set the economic cost for moving them onto their books from the TRRA books when MetroLink was created. I still have those appraisals.

  12. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Sorry to take the thread a bit astray, but the Metro-Link Cross-County extension to Shrewsbury is worth a ride, too! It is a contrast to the "Interurban" style of the St. Clair (Scott AFB) extension or the Lambert line because it is mostly elevated or underground. It is a pretty amazing engineering feat.

    Take a Shrewsbury train from Union Station ("on topic" :)) to get a great view of the Lindenwood Yard as the light rail passes over the UP, Deer Creek, and both the Cuba Sub and the Memphis line (it is almost like flying). The Memphis line goes past the Shrewsbury parking lot, so you could see a train and imagine a coonskin logo somewhere on it!
  13. mark

    mark Member

    If traveling to the Shrewsbury station on the Metro (end of track on the south branch) be sure to check out the Frisco overpass over the 7200 block of Lansdowne Avenue. The overpass is on the southwest corner of the station parking area.

    The overpass is worthy of photography for the lettering "Get It Going Frisco". The bridge is sliver with black lettering, with the Frisco in a coonskin. Unfortunately it is needing repainting and I suspect once it is done, we will loose another Frisco landmark. Please do not wait too long to get there.

    Look closely and you can see the old lettering showing under the new. The old lettering advertised "Shortest Line to Memphis - Birmingham - Pensacola" flanked by 2 "Frisco Lines" coonskins. At the time the bridge was black with white lettering. A photograph of this bridge with the old lettering is in Trackside Around St. Louis 1952-1959 with Jim Ozment, by James Sandrin, Morning Sun Books, 2000, page 92.

    The 4550 block of Murdock Cutoff is just to the west and the 4500 block of Railspur Lane is just to the east of the bridge. For a current satellite overhead image of the area including the Metro station check out

    Also, on the St. Louis Subdivision within a mile just to the south is the famous overpass with lettering "Ship It On The Frisco!" This paint and lettering on this bridge is in much better shape. However, I worry it too will someday be gone. This overpass spans 7380 Watson Road (Highway 366 - Old Route 66).

    While in the area check out another St. Louis landmark - Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. Just the cool treat a hungry railfan needs while checking out The Frisco. They have been in St. Louis since 1931 and this location since 1941. The address is 6726 Chippewa Street (south side). They even have a concrete called "Frisco".

    From the "Ship It On the Frisco" bridge go east (street runs northeast) on Watson Road. As it nears its crossing of the River Des Peres the same street becomes Chippewa Street. It is a short trip of about a mile and Ted's is on the right side.

    From the "Get It Going Frisco" bridge go east on Lansdowne Avenue to the intersection with Chippewa Street. Turn right (southwest) 2 blocks and Ted's is on the left.

    All of this is close to and within approximately 2 miles of Lindenwood Yard and Southwest Junction, south of I-44. The closest exits in the area off of I-44 are Jamieson Avenue (east bound) and Arsenal Street (west bound). Arsenal Street crosses Lindenwood yard. Jamison Avenue connects to Arsenal (to the north) and Lansdowne Street, Chippewa Street / Watson Road / 366 (Old 66) (to the south).
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2009
  14. mark

    mark Member

    Discovered a new tool with modeling applications on Google Maps.

    See the links below for the bridges mentioned in the links above. While playing with the satelite maps, they show addresses as you zoom in, I entered the street addresses, went to the "street view" image and changed (played with) the direction of the view. You can even move up and down the street.

    Please wait a few seconds for the images to fully download. It will tale a few seconds, first you will see the overhead satellite map, then the "street view".

    Once the download is complete you can change the view. See a full screen image by selecting the "<<" button just above the left corner of the image. Return to the original view with the ">>" button.

    Navigate or move up and down the street with the arrows on the yellow street line (hover over the image). In the upper left are left and right arrows to rotate the horizontal axis of the image and arrows to shift to "look" up and down. You can also use the outer ring to rotate the "N" (north) direction view. The "+" and "-" permit some zoom capability. However, it has limited capability and quickly deteriorates the image quality.

    This will not replace well lighted, good quality photographs but will work in a pinch if the mapping unit has been in the area and the structures still stand.

    "Get It Going Frisco" bridge
    7235 Lansdowne Avenue, Shrewsbury, MO,278.6009838228777,,0,5

    "Ship It On The Frisco" bridge
    7390 Watson Road, Shrewsbury, MO,0.016565&z=16&iwloc=addr

    Need some under bridge detail, just look up (using arrows) and rotate as needed.,36.477022583409735,,0,-45

    This is so cool!


  15. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Mark - You are a true St Louis and Frisco ambassador ..... Don't forget to send them to The Hill for dinner!

  16. pbender

    pbender Member Supporter

    There was some equipment there when I last visited in December 2007.

    The collection wasn't quite as extensive as it was when I was there in the late 1980s, or even when I was there for the NMRA National Convention in 2001, but it was still there.

  17. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    One more St Louis Union Station story - then I'll shut up.

    We were down there on the old 18th Street viaduct one Sunday after church, still dressed up in our "go to meeting" duds. We stopped off on the way downtown before a Sunday dinner with my grandparents at the Forum on 7th Street (anybody from StL remember that place?). My dad, mom, sister and I were on the west side of the viaduct looking down at the action - 18th St runs north-south just east of the Union Station train shed, and there was a walkway on the west side. There was a lot of activity going on, as the TRRA was shuttling around some mail and express cars, adding them to a train consist sitting under the shed. At least three TRRA switchers were working as I recall. Along comes a TRRA BLW VO of some type, cab first, in TRRA gray, pulling a couple of cars. He pulls up to a position just under the viaduct where we are standing, and waits while they switch him on to another track behind him. I remember the smell of his exhaust, almost right below us. Once he gets the word to "go", he revs her up and belches out a mass of blue/gray, sooty, foul smelling VO smoke that engulfs us as he backs away and around into the shed. Fortunately, the wind blows it away quickly, but my mom and sister are not real happy. We are still early for our dinner, so we stay a bit longer, until several minutes later when we see the same TRRA VO coming back out of the shed and heading back on the same track he was on before. Dad moves us upwind of him a bit. The VO pulls up to a spot not quite below the viaduct and stops. The engineer gets out of the cab and steps off the end platform to the ground and yells up an apology to us. Courtesy was not dead on the TRRA that Sunday!

    Maybe that's one reason why I like Baldwin VO's, and TRRA locomotives in gray.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2009
  18. JimB

    JimB Member

    My favorite part of Union station is (last time i looked) still standing out in the yard exactly where it, or its predecessors have been for over a hundred years (although this particular building was built sometime between the wars). Of course, I'm talking about tower #1. I have been trying to upload a picture I took of it about a year ago, but I don't know whether it will upload with this post or not.

    Watching old video's, or old pictures of this building, and then seeing it in person somehow gives me a greater feeling of nostalgia than seeing the station itself. A trip to union station without seeing what's left of Control Tower #1 would be missing an enormous piece of history. The number of inbound and outbound trains controlled from this building was just phenomenal.


    Oops...I realize Mark mentioned this in an earlier post on this thread
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 16, 2009
  19. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Supporter Supporter

    RE: "One more St Louis Union Station story - then I'll shut up."

    Ken, If you have more stories like this lurking round - DON'T U DARE SHUT UP. :) GREAT STORY.
  20. friscochoctaw

    friscochoctaw Member

    It was a good story at that. I never will have an experience like that.

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