Train Station

Train Station

Whitefish, MT (WFH)

500 Depot Street
Whitefish, MT 59937

Annual Ticket Revenue (FY 2020): $4,583,344
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2020): 34,919

  • Facility Ownership: Stumptown Historical Society
  • Parking Lot Ownership: BNSF Railway, City of Whitefish
  • Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
  • Track Ownership: BNSF Railway

Rob Eaton
Regional Contact
[email protected]
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please visit or call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

The Great Northern Railway (GN) built the present Whitefish depot in 1928. It was designed in an Alpine style reminiscent of the resort hotels built by the railroad in nearby Glacier National Park during that same era. The building’s first floor is clad in horizontal wood siding while the upper floors exhibit half-timbering. Heavy carved brackets support the roof’s wide overhang. Track side, the cedar-shingled roof features three prominent dormers–the two on the far ends are wide and have clipped gable roofs, while the central one displays delicate stickwork.

In the 1980s, after sixty years of continuous use, the Burlington Northern Railroad decided to vacate the deteriorating structure. The Stumptown Historical Society, established to preserve the history of the town and the Flathead Valley, approached the railroad for a transfer of ownership that was completed in 1990. The railroad also donated money it had allocated for a new building to help fund the depot’s full rehabilitation.

The historical society renovated the upper stories of the depot and then leased that space back to the BNSF Railway (successor to the Burlington Northern). Additional funding provided the means to renovate the remaining areas. The first floor is shared by Amtrak, local vendors and the Stumptown Historical Society the latter maintains a museum adjacent to the waiting room with exhibits tracing local history. The lower level has largely been kept to the GN’s original design with some of the original partitions rearranged. In recognition of its historic significance to Whitefish and the region’s railroading past, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Recent additions include a baggage facility located on the side of the station to better serve the large number of visitors during ski season. In 2011, Amtrak designed and constructed a new 1,200 foot long concrete platform, which includes an electric snow-melting system lighting was installed along the platform edge.

The GN is considered to have been America’s premier northern trans-continental railroad, running from St. Paul, Minn. to Seattle. It was formed in 1889 by James J. Hill, who orchestrated the merger of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad with the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway. Hill holds a special place in railroad history and lore, and is known as the “Empire Builder.” Whereas most transcontinental lines were built with federal assistance in the form of federal land grants, the GN did not utilize this method.

Hill’s business acumen guided the planning and construction of the GN. Much of the upper Midwest and West was sparsely settled, so instead of racing across the continent, the GN developed the regions through which it traveled as it steadily moved toward the Pacific. This action helped settle the land and created a customer base. Hill the businessman actively sought to establish trade links with Asia, and the railroad is credited with putting sleepy Seattle on the map and transforming it into an important and powerful Pacific Ocean port after the railroad reached the West Coast in 1893.

Built in 1939, Los Angeles Union Station is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States and is widely regarded as “the last of the great train stations.” The station’s signature Mission Moderne style makes it one of L.A.’s architectural gems. The station was commissioned in 1933 as a joint venture between the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroads and was intended to consolidate the three local railroad terminals.

It was designed by the father-son architect team of John and Donald Parkinson with an innovative blend of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival and Art Deco architecture now commonly referred to as Mission Moderne. The stunning facility was completed in 1939 for a reported $11 million (estimated in today’s dollars at $1.2 billion) and opened with a lavish, star-studded, three-day celebration attended by a half million Angelenos.

In the 8 decades since its opening, Union Station has captured the spirt and soul of Los Angeles and has emerged as a vital portal to the promise of the California dream. The station was designed as an expression of the California lifestyle with a spacious ticket hall equipped with a 110-foot-long ticket counter crafted from American Black Walnut, a vast waiting room featuring towering 40-foot windows adored with brass, massive art deco chandeliers, inlaid marble floors and hand painted mission tiles, along with expansive shaded patios, towering palm trees and a clock tower looming 100 feet above the city.

Within just a few years of opening, Los Angeles Union Station transformed into a bustling 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation with as many as 100 troop trains carrying tens of thousands of servicemen through the terminal every day during World War II.

By the 1950’s Americans favored cars and planes to the rails and there were fewer passengers through the station but it remained a vital part of LA’s transportation scene for decades.

In 1972, Union Station was designated as a Los Angeles Historic–Cultural Monument and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Lost Train Depots of Los Angeles History

Before the Jet Age brought safe and comfortable air travel to the masses, most newcomers in Los Angeles arrived by rail. Train depots thus provided tourists' and emigrants' first introduction to Los Angeles, helping shape their ideas about the city. The city's grandest passenger terminal, Union Station, survives today. But its historic predecessors, which welcomed millions to the city, have all vanished from the cityscape.

Compared with those that followed, and especially to Union Station, Los Angeles' first passenger depot was a modest affair. In the days before tourism became the lifeblood of the region's economy, after all, there was little point in expending capital on an impressive structure or decorative embellishment.

Serving Phineas Banning's Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad, the city's first station was a tiny wooden structure on the southwest corner of Commercial and Alameda streets. When it opened on October 26, 1869, freight was at least as important as passenger service to the railroad's operations. Accordingly, amenities were sparse. Chronicler Harris Newmark was not impressed:

The Los Angeles & San Pedro's life as an independent railroad was brief in 1873, the Southern Pacific acquired the 21-mile line, and for a brief time the Commercial Street depot served as the terminal for the Southern Pacific's overland route to Los Angeles.

In 1876, the Southern Pacific opened a new depot on the current site of Los Angeles State Historic Park (the Cornfield). Known as the River Station, the two-story depot offered separate "ladies' and gentlemen's reception and waiting rooms," the Los Angeles Star reported, and was "finished on the outside with redwood rustic, all material being used of the very best quality." The railroad later upgraded the facility with many more passenger amenities, including a hotel and restaurants.

Though the River Station welcomed many of those drawn by the land boom of the mid-1880s, its location came to be seen as less than ideal. It was surrounded by the Southern Pacific's freight yards and, as the city's Anglo population shifted south of the historic plaza into the new central city, it was situated far from many passengers' ultimate destinations. Later depots, beginning with the Southern Pacific's Arcade Station, would be located to the south.

In 1888, the Arcade Station opened at Fourth and Alameda. Built on the former site of William Wolfskill's pioneering orange groves, the depot was flanked by gardens and landscaping meant to showcase Southern California's salubrious climate. A fully-grown Washington fan palm, moved from a site nearby, stood outside the station's entrance, symbolically welcoming newcomers to a supposed subtropical paradise.

The depot itself was a massive, wooden Victorian structure reminiscent of European train stations. Five hundred feet long, the depot's rail shed featured skylights and an arched roof that soared 90 feet above the platforms below. Upon its opening, the Los Angeles Times praised the Arcade Station as "second to none on the Pacific Slope."

Less than 25 years later, though, the newspaper was describing the depot as "ancient" and "unsightly and inadequate" as it welcomed the arrival of a new Southern Pacific depot, which came to be known as Central Station. Designed by architects John Parkinson and George Bergstrom, it was located at Fifth and Central, directly next to the Arcade Station. Central Station was the city's most impressive depot to date. The white stuccoed building was an imposing edifice. Steel umbrella-style train sheds replaced the arched roof of the Arcade Station, which tended to trap soot and smoke. Inside, the station offered passengers an elegant waiting room with chandeliers, fine woodwork, and marble wainscoting.

Central Station opened to passengers on December 1, 1914. The Arcade Station, meanwhile, "passed into history unhonored and unsung," the Times noted. There was no public outcry as wreckers dismantled the old wooden building to make way for new outdoor platforms.

Several blocks away, at the corner of Santa Fe Avenue and Second, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad's La Grande Station had been welcoming tourists and overland emigrants since 1893.

The station's exotic design incorporated several architectural styles, but what stood out most was its hulking Moorish dome that, wrote the Times, was "a suggestion of the Orient." Like the Arcade Station, the La Grande station boasted about the region's climate with lush gardens planted with palms and other exotic species. And although, unlike most Santa Fe depots in the Southwest, it did not include a full-service Harvey House restaurant, a Harvey lunch counter did open inside the complex in 1900.

The La Grande depot was also notable for its red-brick construction, selected because it signaled the station's importance and because it followed a rash of fires that had destroyed wooden depots. Unfortunately, the station's engineers failed to consider whether masonry construction was well-suited for earthquake country. When the 1933 Long Beach earthquake shook the region, the depot sustained serious damage. The Moorish dome, damaged beyond repair, was removed.

By then, plans were already well under way for a new, unified passenger terminal. The Union Pacific, having lost its depot on the east bank of the Los Angeles River to fire in 1924, had already moved its passenger operations to the Southern Pacific's Central Station. Now, the Santa Fe would join its two competitors at a grand new station, located on the site of Old Chinatown, where trains could more easily be separated from the city's bustling automobile and streetcar traffic.

By 1939, Chinatown had been razed and its residents displaced, and the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal opened to a huge civic celebration. The two legacy depots, whose histories are richly documented in this thesis by Holly Charmain Kane, meanwhile, faded into obscurity. The La Grande station, which despite the earthquake damage continued to serve passengers until 1939, became a freight terminal. It was torn down in 1946.

Central Station suffered a similar fate. The Young Market Co. acquired the site, and the old depot was demolished to make way for a meat-packing plant. Though the station had welcomed countless newcomers to Los Angeles, the end came with little fanfare. On August 22, 1956, the Times reported the station's demise in a 92-word story on page B-2.

Train Station - History

The village of Best, named for owner of the Western North Carolina Railroad ,William J. Best, was the location of Asheville's first railway station with its initiation October 3, 1880. Railway passengers traveling to Asheville and surrounding areas used the small depot in Best for 15 years, until George W. Vanderbilt purchased the small town as the site for his Biltmore Estate and surrounding village. The small, undistinguished station was replaced with a symmetrical, one-story depot with half-timbered pebbledash walls and a brick foundation, designed by Richard Morris Hunt. A central porte cochere, low-hipped roof, wide overhanging eaves and heavy, chamfered brackets distinguish the exterior. The depot, along with Hunt's other designs in the village, stands in striking contrast to Hunt's more monumental efforts, such as the Biltmore Estate.

Historic view of the Southern Railway Passenger Depot
Photo courtesy of William A. Barnhill Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

The arrangement of the interior is typical of small railway stations of the period. Double waiting rooms, one originally for whites on the right and a smaller one formerly for African Americans on the left, are separated by a center ticket office and vestibule. The depot's placement is directly in the line of sight of All Souls Church, so passengers arriving by train had an impressive view of the church. This central axis was the focus for Biltmore Village. Passenger service on the impressive Southern Railway line continued to arrive in Biltmore Village until August 1975. Today, the building serves visitors as a restaurant and lounge.

Southern Railway Passenger Depot is located on Brook St., across from the Plaza, within the Biltmore Village Multiple Resource Area. The restaurant is open 11:00am to 11:00pm, daily. For more information call 828-277-7651.

Historic Detroit

Michigan Central Station is erected in late 1912 or early 1913.

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

Michigan Central Station about 1920.

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives.

Excavating for Michigan Central Station in 1910. Note the waterboy keeping those shovel-slingers hydrated.

Photo from the Library of Congress

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives.

The stairs that led from the train sheds into Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The interior of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The interior of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

A typical hallway inside the tower of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Where passengers would get on the trains at Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The waiting room of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The waiting room of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Passengers line up to get on the trains inside Michigan Central Station.

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

A waiting room in Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

A soda counter inside Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The waiting room of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

An elevator lobby of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The ticket counter of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The interior of Michigan Central Station

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Looking at Michigan Central Station from Michigan Avenue

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

The depot under construction

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Michigan Central Station, as seen from the air

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Michigan Central Station, as seen from the air

Photo from the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

A family at Michigan Central Station in 1982, six years before the station closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Michigan Central Station in April 1982, six years before it closed.

Photo by Jessica Trevino for

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

The empty-looking depot in December 1982, shortly before the end of the line

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

Customers used to just park right in front of the main entrance back in 1972.

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

The depot's main entrance in April 1985

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

A customer buys a ticket in June 1972

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

One of the benches sits empty in April 1985. Passenger traffic had slowed to a trickle by that point.

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

The main entrance in May 1988, a few months after the station closed

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

Mark Longton Jr., who bought Michigan Central Station in 1989, walks through the depot in 1990 with his dog.

Photo from the Detroit Free Press archives

Former President Herbert Hoover arrives at Michigan Central Station in January 1940 to speak at a fund-raiser at the Masonic Temple.


New york’s Train stations are all about travel, but Grand Central doesn’t just help you reach your destination. It is a destination. Grand Central is a unique urban space: majestic yet approachable, decorative yet functional. For a century, New Yorkers have used Grand Central as their town commons, a beloved gathering place for shared experiences, distinctive displays, and important events—a home for broadcast studios, rallies, art exhibits, and tightrope walkers.


Grand Central Terminal is a work of art. It also became a place to display, inspire, and create other works of art. The terminal was home to the Grand Central Art Galleries from 1922 to 1958, and for a time housed the Grand Central School of Art on the seventh floor. Grand Central also has hosted creative performances, ranging from Philippe Petit’s 1987 high wire walk to art installations including Dan Flavin (1976), Red Grooms (1993), Liza Lou (1999), Takashi Murikami (2001), Rudolf Stingel (2004), Dara Friedman (2008) and in honor of Grand Central’s Centennial in 2013, Improv Everywhere’s Grand Central Lights and Nick Cave’s HEARD-NY .


Want to reach a broad audience? Want to attract attention? Come to Grand Central. CBS Television broadcast live from studios at the terminal in the 1950s, and the network’s master control room was here until 1964. A generation later, StoryCorps—which records oral histories by ordinary people and preserves them at the Library of Congress—was born at a booth in Grand Central.


You expect to hear the chug of locomotives at a train station. But what about the ping of tennis balls? The whirr of jump ropes? The muffled thud of boxing gloves? All have echoed here. People pass through Grand Central heading to work…but also come here to play. The terminal has hosted boxing and Double Dutch tournaments, break dancing, and more. Its tennis club—recently refurbished— first opened in 1965.

“One of the surprises to the management is the…[number] of people who do not use trains but still pass in and out of the terminal.”

Railway Review, February 5, 1921

Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Opened in 1832, this modest station illustrates how the first structures were very small and very simple. Many were converted from houses and other structures. The Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown was the first railroad to provide passenger service in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Railroad (formerly Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore RR) freight station

Built as a freight-only addition to the existing Prime Street depot in 1876, this structure remained in use for a century. The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore was an independent company, headquartered in Philadelphia, that participated with the Pennsylvania and the Baltimore & Ohio railroads in operating a joint service between Washington and New York in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Broad Street Station

The first of the grand Victorian stations, Broad Street Station was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1881 and expanded in 1891-1892. Train service ended in 1952 and it was demolished the next year.

Depot at Twenty-Fourth and Chestnut Street

After the Pennsylvania Railroad acquired the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad in 1881 and began its own train service to Washington, its one-time partner the Baltimore & Ohio built a line from Baltimore to Philadelphia. This structure was designed by the noted architect Frank Furness and opened in 1886. The Baltimore & Ohio discontinued passenger service to Philadelphia in 1958.

Reading Terminal

Built by the Philadelphia & Reading to consolidate its services scattered among three outlying mid-century depots, Reading Terminal opened in 1893. It remained in operation until the commuter tunnel opened in 1984. The station and train shed were integrated into the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 1993.

Thirtieth Street Station under construction

This large station was opened by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1933 to replace Broad Street Station as its main station in Philadelphia. From the outset, the railroad intended to use the “Pennsylvania Station” moniker but after it called the temporary access to the commuter train platforms (which opened before the main building) “Thirtieth Street,” the name stuck. This image shows the complex under construction in 1932.

Broad Street Suburban Station

As part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s plan to replace Broad Street Station (and redevelop the station site and its approaches), Broad Street Suburban Station as an underground terminal for electric commuter trains opened in 1930. In 1984 it was rebuilt as a through station to allow the trains of the former Reading and Pennsylvania railroads to operate as an integrated system by SEPTA.

Delaware Avenue Station, Wilmington

Frank Furness designed a number of stations for the Baltimore & Ohio’s Philadelphia extension including this one at Delaware Avenue in Wilmington, Delaware. The station opened with the line in 1886 and closed when the railroad abandoned passenger service on its Philadelphia route in 1958.

Bustleton Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad

The line to Bustleton was built as a branch of the Philadelphia & Trenton Railroad in 1870 and an old farmhouse was used as the station. Passenger service on the line (then owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad) ended in 1926. This image is from an early twentieth century postcard.

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Railroad Stations

Railroad stations in Greater Philadelphia evolved with the railway industry into a wide variety of forms and functions. For most passengers and casual observers, railroad stations are buildings, but for the railways, these locations are also key operating points for loading and unloading passengers and freight. The vast majority of railroad stations in the Philadelphia region were small and served surrounding local communities, but a few monumental terminals were constructed in Center City Philadelphia and in the downtowns of the region’s secondary cities: Atlantic City, Camden, and Wilmington.

Early train stations in Philadelphia were simple structures, often converted from houses. This example opened in 1832. (Library Company of Philadelphia)

The major passenger stations serving central Philadelphia went through four distinct phases in the city’s history. Initially, during the 1830s and 1840s, small, independent railroads attempted to locate their passenger facilities on the fringes of the built-up portion of the city. Later, in the 1850s, the railways moved their by-then larger depots farther from the business district and began to rely on the new horse-drawn streetcars for final delivery of passengers. The third phase began in 1881, when consolidated railroad systems started to move their much larger passenger facilities back into Center City. Finally, with the opening of Pennsylvania (Thirtieth Street) Station in 1933, a grand station met the operational needs of the railroad and connected multiple forms of transport for the region.

The earliest railroad stations in Center City were very small structures that offered minimal services other than ticketing and baggage facilities. Starting in the 1850s, newer stations became larger and more architecturally elaborate, but for the most part they offered few additional services. The movement away from these mid-century buildings began in 1876 when the Pennsylvania Railroad built a new passenger station at Thirty-Second and Market streets in West Philadelphia and the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore substantially reconstructed its facility at Prime Street (later renamed Washington Avenue) in South Philadelphia to deal with increased traffic because of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. These two depots were important transitional structures, built largely on the scale of the mid-century terminals but with far more complex interiors offering more services (such as restaurants). Both these stations fully separated passenger traffic from freight, which typically had not been the case in earlier structures.

The trends begun in these 1876 stations became fully articulated in the three main depots built by the railways in Center City in the 1880s and 1890s. Broad Street Station, the Baltimore & Ohio facility at Twenty-Fourth and Chestnut streets, and Reading Terminal were exclusively passenger structures with complex, well-defined interiors offering a multitude of services. All three had large train sheds protecting passengers from weather while they boarded the trains. These train sheds, soaring structures made of glass and steel, were physical manifestations of Americans’ love of technology and reflected trends in Victorian architecture and engineering that also characterized the era’s world’s fairs and new department stores.

The first of the grand Victorian stations, Broad Street Station was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1881 and expanded in 1891-92. Train service ended in 1952, and it was demolished the next year. (Library Company of Philadelphia)

The first of these grand stations to open, in 1881, was the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broad Street Station, which was qualitatively different from any previous depot in Philadelphia. Its façade, in the style and scale of a great London Victorian railway terminus, was unlike that of any existing railroad structure in the city. Closely resembling the recently completed St. Pancras station in London, the initial structure’s Gothic design by the Philadelphia firm of Wilson Brothers looked more like a massive church than a train station. Located directly across the street from Philadelphia’s still under-construction City Hall, it was a fitting temple to both the power of Philadelphia’s most influential corporation—the Pennsylvania Railroad—and the pretensions of the growing metropolis. In 1892, when the station needed to be enlarged because of the continuing expansion of the Pennsylvania Railroad and growing commuter traffic, Philadelphia architect Frank Furness (1838-1912) designed a significant addition in his eclectic modern style. The station also gained a new train shed, the largest single-span train shed in the world at the time.

Reading Terminal was constructed in 1893 by the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. It served passengers until 1984 and was integrated into the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 1993. (Library Company of Philadelphia)

Reading Terminal, at Twelfth and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia, opened in 1893. When the Reading acquired the site it was a public farmers market, and the railroad agreed to accommodate the market on the ground level of the station under the train shed (the Reading Terminal Market ultimately outlasted the use of the station by trains). The Reading Terminal headhouse, an Italian Renaissance design by New York architect Francis H. Kimball (1845-1919), known for his work with terra-cotta, contained the offices of the Reading Railroad and was coupled to a train shed built by Wilson Brothers. After rail service to Reading Terminal ended in 1984, the train shed and headhouse became part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Marriott Hotel.

The final grand depot to serve Philadelphia was Pennsylvania (30th Street) Station, opened in 1933 by the Pennsylvania Railroad in West Philadelphia. Designed by Alfred Shaw (1895-1970) of the Chicago firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White in a transitional neoclassical, art deco style, it was one of the last major railway passenger stations constructed in the United States. (Cincinnati Union Terminal opened in the same year, and only Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, opened in 1939, is on the same scale and later).

Pennsylvania Station formed part of a complex that also included a new main post office for the city and a distribution center for the Railway Express Agency. It was built as part of a Pennsylvania Railroad scheme known as the “Philadelphia Improvements,” a series of projects to improve efficiency by enabling passenger trains to easily operate throughout Philadelphia without having to stop and reverse in Center City. The projects also included Suburban Station near Sixteenth and Market Streets, so that Broad Street Station might be abandoned and its site and approaches redeveloped as commercial offices. The Great Depression and World War II delayed the full implementation of this plan until 1953.

Thirtieth Street Station, shown here under construction in 1932, is the largest rail hub in Philadelphia. It was constructed to replace Broad Street Station. (Library Company of Philadelphia)

Because of competition between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the allied Reading/Baltimore & Ohio system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, secondary urban centers of the region all had multiple train stations that were smaller versions of Philadelphia’s grand depots. This pattern existed in Wilmington, Delaware Camden and Trenton, New Jersey and Chester and Reading, Pennsylvania, but its best example was in Atlantic City. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, three rail lines linked Camden and Philadelphia with Atlantic City, which had a variety of grand but small stations. After the competing companies merged into Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, a new station that looked like a small version of Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Station opened in 1934.

The local or community stations in the Greater Philadelphia area can be classified in four ways. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the most common type of station provided service for passengers, express, and mail. Even the electric local trains introduced in the early twentieth century on the Pennsylvania and the Reading had combination cars that provided for all these services. The express service permitted both national shippers and local merchants (such as department stores) to deliver goods throughout the region before highway delivery services became common. A second type of station, common through the middle of the twentieth century, also combined passenger, freight, express, and mail service, but in an integrated complex of buildings. Many an awkward early-twenty-first-century commuter parking lot is located where a small freight facility used to adjoin a passenger station.

This freight-only facility was added to the existing Prime Street depot in 1876. It remained in use until the late twentieth century. (

Stations that served passengers only were uncommon until the middle of the twentieth century, but by the twentieth-first century they were the most common type operated by Amtrak, SEPTA, and NJ Transit. A small number of freight-only stations operated through the late twentieth century, often in industrial areas of the region. As transport of less-than-a-carload freight by rail declined because of truck competition, these facilities closed.

Architecturally, community stations were a varied lot. The railroads’ engineering departments built many of wood and by common designs, while architects designed some, especially those serving wealthy suburbs. Philadelphia’s Frank Furness not only designed central stations in Philadelphia and Wilmington for the Pennsylvania and the Baltimore & Ohio but also more than one hundred smaller stations for the Reading, many in Greater Philadelphia.

In the early twenty-first century, railroad stations continued to change. Some were rebuilt for further passenger use, others became stores, residences, and offices, and still others have been preserved for their architectural distinctiveness and their connection to an age when railroads and their stations were the primary mode of transportation in Greater Philadelphia. A total of thirty of stations in Greater Philadelphia–ranging from small community depots to Pennsylvania (Thirtieth Street) Station and Reading Terminal–have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places for their architectural significance.

John Hepp is Associate Professor of History and co-chair of the Division of Global History and Languages at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He teaches American urban and cultural history with an emphasis on the period 1800 to 1940.

Copyright 2015, Rutgers University.

Related Reading

Grow, Lawrence. Waiting for the 5:05: Terminal, Station and Depot in America. New York: Main Street/Universe Books, 1977.

Hepp, IV, John H. The Middle-Class City: Transforming Space and Time in Philadelphia, 1876-1926. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Highsmith, Carol M., and James L. Holton. Reading Terminal and Market: Philadelphia’s Historic Gateway and Grand Convention Center. Washington: Chelsea Publishing, 1994.

Meeks, Carroll L. V. The Railroad Station: An Architectural History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956.

Messer, David W. Triumph III: Philadelphia terminal, 1838-2000. Baltimore: Barnard, Roberts and Co., 2000.

Stilgoe, John R. Metropolitan Corridor: Railroads and the American Scene. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.


Architecture collections, Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 219 S. Sixth Street, Philadelphia.

Railroad station materials in manuscript collections and books, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia.

Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia.

Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pa.

Manuscript collections and photographs, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Strasburg, Pa.

Pennsylvania Railroad Collection and Reading Company Collection, Hagley Museum and Library, 200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, Del.

Government agency collections and photographs, Philadelphia City Archives, 3101 Market Street, Philadelphia.

Places to Visit

Amtrak Wilmington Station, 100 South French Street, Wilmington.

Historic Cold Spring Village, 720 Route 9 South, Cape May, New Jersey.

Merion Station, 293 Idris Road, Merion, Pa. (a complete early twentieth century station with passenger, express and postal facilities).

Penn Center Suburban Station, One Penn Center, 1617 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street, Philadelphia (former Reading Terminal train shed and headhouse).

A brief history of the train station that once served Wall Street

1 of 8 Josh Glasser, owner of Ink-Side-Out Tattoo, shows the safe in what used to be a former train station on Wall Street in downtown Norwalk, Conn., on Friday Sept. 16, 2016. Behind Glasser the tracks Metro-North use run right underneath the building. Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

2 of 8 A view of the tracks Metro-North use run right underneath business Ink-Side-Out Tattoo on Wall Street in downtown Norwalk, Conn., on Friday Sept. 16, 2016. The building used to be a train station. Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

4 of 8 A photo showing the train station and historic buildings along Wall Street circa 1907 in downtown Norwalk, Conn., on Friday Sept. 16, 2016. This is hanging on the wall inside Kosta Jewelers next door to the former train station building. Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

5 of 8 Views of the former train station, in center, and other historic buildings along Wall Street in downtown Norwalk, Conn., on Friday Sept. 16, 2016. Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

7 of 8 Kosta Jewelers owner Kosta Almirakis, poses next to a photo from 1907 showing his building, the train station and historic buildings along Wall Street circa 1907 in downtown Norwalk, Conn., on Friday Sept. 16, 2016. Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

NORWALK &mdash Ink-Side-Out Tattoo owner Josh Glasser has grown accustomed to customers asking him, as they&rsquore getting inked, about the rumbling sound beneath the building.

&ldquoThe train comes up in conversation because that&rsquos the Danbury Line and obviously still runs,&rdquo said Glasser, referring to the active railroad tracks beneath his business at 47 Wall St. &ldquoYou&rsquoll be tattooing and you hear a train come by and people are always surprised how close it is. If you look out that back window, there are the tracks. This actually used to be a train station.&rdquo

For at least four decades, 47 Wall St. was home to the Wall Street station of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

Commuters living or working in the Wall Street area boarded trains for New York City, Danbury or simply South Norwalk.

Glasser points to an old iron safe built into the wall at the back of his tattoo studio. He said the safe, which he now uses to store supplies, belonged to the old train station.

&ldquoThe door has some old writing,&rdquo Glasser said. &ldquoIt&rsquos kind of cool. When I opened it up, I found some papers that had some dates from the 1940s.&rdquo

Yet little remains known about the Wall Street train station, said Norwalk historian Ralph C. Bloom.

&ldquoThat&rsquos one of the great mysteries in this town because anybody you talk to knows it&rsquos there ,but they know nothing about it,&rdquo Bloom said of the long-closed train station.

History of Trains in SoNo

Danbury Branch Line - 1852 to present

Wall Street Train Station - circa 1896 to 1936

While the facade of 47 Wall St. appears relatively modern, the brick/masonry structure behind it was built in 1860, according to the Norwalk Tax

The train station first appears in the 1896/1897 Norwalk Directory published by the Price & Lee Co. The station is at 47 Wall St. and identified as &ldquoNYNH & HRR station.&rdquo After 1936 &mdash long before a flood devastated the Wall Street area in 1955 &mdash the station disappears from the annual city directory.

Bloom said the station likely became economically nonviable amid changing transportation patterns. Wall Street also had a trolley barn, but buses replaced the street trolleys in 1935, he said.

In its time, Bloom said, the train station served workers and commuters riding between Wall Street and South Norwalk, or between Wall Street and New York City or Danbury. He added that the Danbury Line spur, which was built in the early 1850s, also transported product from the area&rsquos many hat factories.

Bloom said the windows at the back of the building at 47 Wall St. belonged to the train station waiting room. Elsewhere in the building, he said, stairs once led down to the train tracks.

By the time the flood struck, the station apparently was no longer in use, but the railroad tunnel running beneath Wall Street served an important purpose. Water rushed through the tunnel, relieving pressure on the Wall Street Bridge, he said.

&ldquoThe tunnel itself was one of the saving graces for uptown because it allowed the water to pass,&rdquo Bloom said. &ldquoThe water came through the railway tunnel. It took railway ties and the rails and twisted them like pretzels. That tunnel, I believe, kept the Wall Street bridge from being washed out.&rdquo

History of South Station Train Terminal

The Boston Terminal Company, formed to develop South Union Station, was comprised of The New Haven Railroad, The Boston and Albany Railroad Company, The New England Railroad Company, The Boston and Providence Railroad Corporation and the Old Colony Railroad Company. Due to railroad industry consolidation, by the time of the station’s dedication, there would only be two players left out of the original group of five.

Image: "South Station and Atlantic Avenue Elevated", T.E. Marr, 1904.

For location of the new site, the company decided on a $9 million, 35-acre expanse adjacent to Fort Point Channel, which was also the site of the New England Railroad terminal.

Image: "Approach tracks and trainshed of South Station in Boston, Massachusetts in 1904", Detroit Photographic Co.

The land and construction of the station was funded with successful public bond sales and stock purchases from each of the five rail companies that made up the Boston Terminal Company. The City of Boston spent $2 million to reroute streets and utilities and constructed a seawall along Fort Point Channel in order to hold back the tides.

Image: "South Station, Boston, with the Atlantic Avenue Elevated in front", Detroit Photographic Co., 1905.

The look and feel of the new South Station, designed by the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, was inspired by the style of famed Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson, most known for his design of Boston’s Trinity Church. Richardson had also designed nine railroad stations for the Boston and Albany Railroad and had collaborated with famed Boston landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted to design the landscaping along the Boston and Albany line.

Image: "South Station: New York, New Haven & Hartford R. R. Built 1900", Thomas E. Marr.

The building itself was comprised of five stories in neo-classical revival style. Three double doors, a design element that still exists today, opened up into the newly designed Dewey Square, named for Civil War and Spanish American War Hero George Dewey.

For the comfort of passengers, the trainshed for the station’s 28 platform tracks was enclosed by a massive roof with protection from the elements.

Image: "Inside the South Station shed", Leslie Jones, 1930.

Inside the station, large, arched windows looked out onto Summer Street. The main waiting room, 225 by 65 feet, featured marble mosaic floors, polished granite, and enameled brick and plaster walls. Coffered ceilings and its walls shone brightly from 1,200 incandescent lights.

Image: "Boston Herald Sketch of South Station", George B. Francis, 1898.

While it was already the largest, South Station quickly became the busiest train station in the world, handling about 38 million passengers in 1913, ranking higher than its second nearest competitor, Boston’s North Station, which handled 29 million and New York’s Grand Central Station, which handled 22 million that same year.

Following the heights of the early 1900s came a long period of further consolidations and decline in train travel.

Image: "South Station Passenger Concourse", Daniel Brody, 1970.

Within 30 years of its opening, South Station’s metal train shed and the two-story metal-covered midway were demolished due to deterioration. Around that same time, interior alterations were made to passenger waiting rooms and service areas.

During World War I, a government takeover of rail helped stem the industry’s financial problems. Despite financial difficulties, passenger numbers still held strong. Then, in 1929, The Great Depression added to the station’s declining fortunes.

During World War II, trains were filled with soldiers traveling for military purposes. In 1945, swollen by GIs returning from war, South Station again made history when over 135,000 visitors poured into its halls each day.

Image: "Draftees leaving from North Station for Ayers, MA", Leslie Jones, 1917.

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