Washington Union Station

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Washington Union Station
Union Station from Columbus Circle, Washington, DC 2011.jpg
Union Station main entrance
Design Terminus
Platform tracks 22 plus 2 on the Washington Metro
abbreviation WHAT
opening 1907
Website URL http://www.unionstationdc.com/
City / municipality Washington, DC
Federal District District of Columbia
Country United States
Coordinates 38 ° 53 '50 "  N , 77 ° 0' 23"  W Coordinates: 38 ° 53 '50 "  N , 77 ° 0' 23"  W.
List of train stations in the United States
i16 i16 i18

The Washington Union Station is the central station of the capital of the United States , Washington, DC

Geographical location

Aerial view of the station's location on the Washington, DC road network

The station is located in the center of Washington, DC and is mainly designed as a terminus station . Urban planning that's reception building with its main facade of the Capitol aligned, which is just five blocks away. The square in front of the main entrance, Columbus Circle , is decorated with a fountain. Three street axes run fan-shaped towards him and the station building. Another street axis runs between Columbus Circle and the reception building. Its surroundings are partly designed as a green area, which makes the building look even more monumental.


Union Station 1925
Main hall
Entrance area
Thales (electricity) from Louis St. Gaudens above the main entrance
“Food court” in the train station
Arcade at the exit of the metro

The station was jointly built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad . Until then, Washington, DC only owned stations for individual rail companies. Their access tracks also ran in parts in the public street space, which was hardly justifiable at the turn of the 20th century. The new train station also solved this problem.


The entrance building was designed in a neoclassical style by the architect Daniel Burnham . The main facade is designed in the style of the Arch of Constantine and is more than 200 meters long. It is divided into the middle part, which is modeled on a Roman triumphal arch and is connected to two final side pavilions by arcades . The main hall is modeled on the Baths of Diocletian and is more than 30 meters high.

The equipment is magnificent. Figurative decoration in the style of the Beaux-Arts , particularly by Augustus Saint-Gaudens , gold leaf and marble were used in abundance. The allegorical group of figures in the center of the facade belongs to the figure program . It depicts the “progress of the railway system”: Prometheus (fire), Thales (electricity), Themis (freedom and justice), Apollon (imagination and ingenuity), Archimedes (mechanics) and Ceres (agriculture). That agriculture and not trade is represented here was enforced by the relevant lobby . Saint-Gaudens also created the figures of 26 centurions that decorate the main hall.

The station was equipped with all the facilities of a central metropolitan station - even a morgue and a suite for the president was not missing.


Washington Union Station opened on October 27, 1907. In addition to the two railway companies that had built the station, trains from the Southern Railway and the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad also ran to the station. The high point of operations took place here during the Second World War . At that time, the station was used by more than 200,000 travelers a day. On January 15, 1953, a spectacular railway accident occurred in the station when a train coming from Boston ran over the buffer stop due to a brake failure and the locomotive only came to a stop in the main hall, where it broke into the basement due to its heavy weight. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured in the incident.

With the decline of the railroad in the United States in the 1950s, the station quickly lost its importance. The station building was completely oversized for the remaining traffic. Structurally it fell into disrepair. It was designed as the central visitor center in the early 1970s for the celebrations of the US 200th anniversary in 1976. Its acceptance was limited, however, and so the visitor center was closed again in 1978 when the structural defects of the building became so threatening that parts were in danger of collapsing.

The station was completely renovated from 1981 to 1989. In the process, areas that were no longer required due to changes in railway operations were given other uses. So was z. B. A food court was set up in the premises of the former baggage handling facility. The roof was fundamentally renewed and also changed so that the skylights no longer let in daylight. This was replaced by artificial lighting. In the version in which the station was reopened in 1989, it still presents itself today. The station building is classified as a cultural monument of national importance.

Todays use

The Union Station reception building is owned by a not-for-profit , Union Station Redevelopment Corporation , which has leased it to Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation under a long-term contract . The building is supervised by Jones Lang LaSalle .

Washington Union Station has 18 platforms with 22 tracks on two levels . Their numbering is a bit bizarre: the tracks on the upper level are numbered 7 to 20, those on the lower level are numbered 22-29. The trains leave the station from the lower level through a tunnel. Only here there are some through tracks. All other tracks in the underground station and all tracks on the upper level end here.

For Park and Ride passengers there are 2,448 parking spaces for cars and 180 for bicycles . The station is the southern terminus of the Northeast Corridor . It is also the headquarters of Amtrak , which offers regional and long-distance transport, including the Acela Express trains . These start from here in the north and the long-distance trains Capitol Limited , Crescent , Palmetto and Silver Service . Regional and suburban trains from MARC Train and Virginia Railway Express also operate here . In addition, under the west wing of Washington Union Station is a stop of the same name on the "Red Line" of the Washington, DC subway , the Washington Metro . It is their busiest train station. Washington Union Station is also served by various urban bus routes and has also been home to a long-distance bus station since 2011. North of the station on the H Street bridge is also one of the two terminus of the city's only tram line .

In addition, the huge complex of the reception building contains numerous leisure facilities, especially shops and restaurants. All in all - including travelers - the station now has 32 million visitors a year.

Just north of the station and is a depot of AMTRAK for the maintenance of the Acela trains, where maintenance work for other railway companies are carried out.

More worth knowing

The impressive architecture of the station has been used as a backdrop in a number of films . These include:

The station was also mentioned in literary terms:


  • Carol Highsmith and Ted Landphair: A Decorative History of Washington's Grand Terminal . 1988. ISBN 978-0-9620877-0-7 .

Web links

Commons : Union Station (Washington, DC)  - Collection of pictures, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ " Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2008 District of Columbia .