Railroad to the Past

union station Couple of weekends ago I was sitting at the Harvey House Diner inside the almost empty Union Station, drinking a strawberry milkshake and reminiscing. Not that long ago this place was crowded with thousands of people as the second largest train station in the country, filled with sounds, voices and emotions. Today it spends it’s days quietly, ironically populated by the dead. I am not old enough to remember the glory days of the Union Station but in another place and another life I rode my share of rails. There is something special about traveling by train. It’s an experience rather than just a means of transportation. On a long train ride you have time to relax, to think, to read, to sleep, to talk, to eat, play cards, meet people, sleep some more, and, most importantly, to look outside the window. You actually travel to your destination; you see changing landscapes; unknown places slowly pass before you; you wake up in the middle of the night at some station you’d never heard off, its sleepy inhabitants getting on the train and you can hear them walking through the rail car; you see a sunrise and then a sunset hundreds of miles later and the train keeps chugging along making that rhythmical sound that only a train can make and gently swaying from side to side. Finally you arrive, your train is greeted at the station by the sounds of a brass band and waving crowds trying to see a familiar face through the dusty window. You are tired and continue swaying even on the solid ground. A happy reunion or a new adventure awaits.

Many of my trips started at this train station:fun trips, work trips, tripsunion station that I loved and some that I didn’t, like the one to the army, or a trip to the unknown country when I left one last time, not knowing if I am ever coming back. Many times my parents or friends were there to wave good-bye or to meet me when I was coming back. I may not remember every time but I do remember the feeling, feeling of someone waiting for you. I think at least once in a lifetime everyone should travel by train, even for no other reason than to experience it.

In the meantime, you can always spend a slow lunch hour at the Union Station and imagine all the hustle and bustle of the past, the tears of joy or sadness, emotionless voice of the announcer, the constant hum of the crowd, whistles of the conductors, in other words life that used to be there and and now is not.

Union Station,
Old walls still remember
Sounds of life.

union station union station union station

  • midtown miscreant

    Nice post. You are right, train travel should be experienced by everyone.

  • One of the greatest trips I ever took was a trip from Union Station to Hermann, MO. I agree with MM, if you’ve never taken a train trip you should! It’s a totally different experience than riding in a car or flying.

  • travel

    My dad was from Wisconsin and once on a visit here in the last years of his life he had me take him down to Union Station so he could look around. He had spent a couple of days there while being shipped off to fight in the Philippines during WWII. His memories were so vivid and he marveled at the place, even though it had changed so much. It was really quite a moving experience.

  • May

    I wish train systems were better here! I’d love to take train trips all around the country 🙂

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

  • I hear a lot of people extol the virtues of train travel. I have traveled many ways, but never by train. Hell I have traveled by submarine yet I have never taken a train.

    I would certainly be up for the experience. But think I’d like to start with a short trip!

  • Wiley loves traveling by train. If it’s a decent train, I like it as well…but the Sarajevo train leaves a bit to be desired. Like maybe it shouldn’t be used as a schoolbus. But it is a great way to see the landscape. The train from Zagreb to Austria was spectacular. Going through mountains on one of the oldest, if not the oldest, train track system produced some pictures you’d never get if you didn’t go on the train.

    I’m also up for a submarine ride.

  • DLC

    Just got back from a weekend jaunt in chicago, and took the good old southwest chief there and back. Definitely the most relaxing way to travel, particularly if you don;t have to switch trains at any point. Someday I want to take a really long ride and get a sleeper car.