Union Station, Albany, New York (3)

The main entrance to Union Station on Broadway in Albany, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

This view of Union Station is similar to the one in the previous post, but provides more of a close-up view of the central part of the building, with the main entrance in the foreground. As explained in that post and an earlier one, the station opened in 1900, and it served passengers of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, the Delaware and Hudson Railway, the West Shore Railroad, and the Boston and Albany Railroad. The latter two railroads were owned by the New York Central, so overall the railroad was responsible for two-thirds of the daily trains here. This is emphasized by the fact that the New York Central’s name is engraved here on the facade in the first photo, directly above the central arch.

The station was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, with a Beaux-Arts style that was popular for public buildings of the era. The three arches here at the main entrance are the most distinctive architectural elements of the building, and in some ways they foreshadow the similar arches used more than a decade later when the New York Central built Grand Central Terminal more than a decade later.

Above the arches are a number of carvings, including a clock in the center atop the building, which is incorporated into the New York state seal. To the left of the clock is a figure representing Liberty, and to the left is Justice. An eagle is perched atop a globe above the clock, and underneath the clock is the inscription “Excelsior,” the state motto of New York. Other prominent carvings include large globes atop the corners, each of which is supported by four lions.

The first photo was taken soon after the station opened, and it shows an interesting mix of people outside the station. There are no cars visible on the street, but there are two horse-drawn vehicles, with an expensive-looking coach in the foreground on the right, and a more modest carriage further in the distance on the left side of the scene. Several people appear to have been watching the photographer, including a man with a top hat just beyond the coach, a man beneath the right arch with a briefcase and bowler hat, and three young newsboys who are standing in the street. Others seem indifferent to the camera, including at least three women walking along the sidewalk in front of the station, and another man in a bowler hat who is smoking a pipe and casually leaning against a column.

Union Station continued to be used by the railroads well into the mid-20th century, but by the 1950s ridership was in a steady decline, here in Albany and around the country. The station ultimately closed in 1968, ending passenger rail service into downtown Albany. To replace it, the railroad built a new, much smaller station across the river in Rensselaer.

The old station here in Albany was in limbo throughout the 1970s, and it was the subject of several different proposals, including demolition. However, it was ultimately restored as an office building in the late 1980s by Norstar Bancorp, whose name still appears on the facade in the spot where the New York Central’s name was once located. After a series of bank mergers, the building eventually became offices for Bank of America until 2009, and it is now occupied by several different tenants. Despite these changes in use, though, the exterior remains well-preserved, and the only significant difference here in this scene is the loss of the iron canopy above the entrance.

Union Station, Albany, New York (2)

Union Station in Albany, seen from the southwest corner at Broadway and Steuben Streets, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in more detail in a previous post, Albany’s Union Station opened in 1900 here on Broadway, in the northern part of downtown Albany. It was primarily used by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, along with two of its subsidiaries: the West Shore Railroad and the Boston and Albany Railroad. Together, these three railroads comprised more than two-thirds of the rail traffic here when the station opened, with 42 New York Central, 13 West Shore, and 10 Boston and Albany trains departing daily. The remaining traffic was from the Delaware and Hudson Railway, which was headquartered in Albany and had 31 daily departures here.

The first photo was taken soon after the station was completed, showing its ornate granite Beaux-Arts exterior. It was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, which was responsible for many of the stations along the route of the Boston and Albany. During the heyday of passenger rail travel, the railroad stations of large cities often featured grand architecture. Such stations would provide a good first impression to visitors of a particular city, along with demonstrating the importance and prosperity of the city and its railroad lines. This would have been especially important here in Albany, given its role as the capital city of what was, at the time, the largest state in the country.

Here on the west side of the station, where most passengers would have entered and exited the building, the exterior features three arches, giving it an appearance similar Grand Central Terminal, which was built more than a decade later. Above these arches are a number of elaborate carvings. Of these, the most prominent is the state seal of New York, which was carved over the course of three months by about 15 workers. It stands above the middle arch, and it consists of a clock that is flanked on either side by allegorical representations of Liberty and Justice. Beneath the clock is the state motto, Excelsior, and above it is an eagle perched on a globe. To the left and right of the seal, atop the corners of the central part of the station, are stone globes, each supported by four lions. Although not visible here, two identical globes are located on the other side of the building.

This station was a busy place throughout the first half of the 20th century, with rail travel peaking during World War II when up to 121 daily trains departed from here. However, railroads around the country saw a steep decline in ridership soon after the war, when highways and airlines became the preferred ways to travel by the 1950s. Even the New York Central, once one of the most lucrative companies in the country, was facing possible bankruptcy. This financial situation was not helped by the fact that it had to maintain large, aging stations such as this one in Albany, despite very limited numbers of passengers.

In 1968, the New York Central merged with its former rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, creating the Penn Central Railroad. Around the same time, the railroad began constructing a new, much smaller station across the Hudson River in Rensselaer, and the old station here in Albany closed on December 29, 1968. The tracks to the station were then removed and, as a sign of the changing ways that Americans traveled, Interstate 787 was built through the former rail yard behind the station.

The station itself was the subject of different redevelopment proposals, some of which would have involved demolishing the old building. Instead, it was ultimately preserved and converted into offices in the 1980s. For many years it was occupied by banks, beginning with Norstar Bancorp. The company’s name is still carved in the facade above the central arch, but the bank went through a series of mergers in the 1990s and early 2000s, eventually becoming part of Bank of America. The former station was occupied by Bank of America until 2009, and the building is now used as offices for a variety of other companies.

Union Station, Albany, New York

The platforms on the east side of Union Station in Albany, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

Taken nearly 120 years apart, these two photos capture one of the ways in which transportation changed in the United States over the course of the 20th century. The first photo shows a large, recently-completed downtown railroad station, with several trains waiting on the tracks and a group of people on one of the platforms. However, in the present-day scene the railroad station has been converted into offices, while the tracks and platforms are completely gone, replaced with a parking garage. Another even larger parking garage stands in the distance on the right side, and further to the right, just out of view, is an interstate highway.

Albany’s Union Station was completed in 1900, and it was primarily used by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. However, it was also used by the Delaware and Hudson Railway and the New York Central-controlled West Shore Railroad, and it was the western terminus of the Boston and Albany Railroad, which the New York Central had begin leasing earlier in 1900. The station building featured a granite, Beaux-Arts exterior, and it was designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. This firm was particularly well-known for their railroad stations, and they designed a number of them for the Boston and Albany, including Union Station in Springfield and South Station in Boston.

The station was built at the corner of Columbia Street and Broadway, with the main entrance on the western side, facing Broadway. However, this view shows the other side of the station, looking north from the southern end of the platforms. Here, three large island platforms were situated between the tracks, and passengers could access them via two underground tunnels. The train on the left side of the first photo is a New York Central passenger train, with 4-4-0 locomotive number 1135 in the lead. Another unidentified locomotive stands on the far right side of the photo, and further in the distance just to the left of that train is a group of men—possibly railroad employees—leaning against and sitting on a row of baggage carts. These trains were just two of the 96 daily trains that served Union Station when it first opened at the turn of the 20th century. Of these, there were 42 New York Central trains, 31 Delaware and Hudson, 13 West Shore, and 10 Boston and Albany.

Passenger rail travel continued to increase nationwide throughout the first half of the 20th century, eventually peaking during World War II. This was also the busiest time for passenger trains in Albany, with 121 daily trains here at Union Station. However, the postwar period saw a sharp decline in ridership, a problem exacerbated by the development of the Interstate Highway System starting in the 1950s. By the 1960s, many of the railroad companies that had dominated the nation’s economy a half century earlier were now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. As a result, the New York Central merged with its longtime rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, in 1968, forming the Penn Central Railroad.

For nearly a decade prior to the merger, the New York Central had been looking to rid itself of Albany’s Union Station, which was under-utilized and expensive to maintain. The station was also near the path of the planned Interstate 787, which would cut through part of the station’s passenger yard. Soon after the formation of Penn Central, the newly-formed railroad opened a new, much smaller passenger station directly across the river from here in Rensselaer, and the old Albany station was unceremoniously closed on December 29, 1968.

A few months later, the New York Times published an “obituary” of the station, titled “In Melancholy Memory of Albany’s Union Depot.” The article lamented the closure of the grand station, recalling its long history during the heyday of passenger trains and contrasting its architecture with that of the new station, which was described as a “one-story crackerbox of concrete blocks.” At the time, the fate of the old station was still undetermined, but the article mentioned several different proposals, which ranged from converting it into a museum to demolishing it and building a high-rise luxury apartment building and marina on the site.

Ultimately, neither of these proposals materialized, and the building was instead converted into offices in the 1980s. It was originally the home of Norstar Bancorp, and it was initially named Norstar Plaza, although it was subsequently renamed Peter D. Kiernan Plaza after the death of the bank’s president. The bank then went through a series of mergers, and over the next two decades the building was home to Fleet Financial Group, FleetBoston Financial, and then Bank of America. The building was used by Bank of America until 2009, and it now serves as offices for several other companies.

Overall, the present-day scene is drastically different from the view in the early 20th century. The most dramatic change is the parking garage in place of the station tracks and platforms, but other changes have included the tall building just beyond the station on the other side of Columbia Street. However, the station itself has not seen many exterior changes since the first photo was taken, even though much of it is hidden by trees from this angle. Today it stands as an excellent work of Beaux-Arts architecture, and it also serves to highlight the benefits of historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

Pennsylvania Station, New York City

Pennsylvania Station, seen from the corner of 7th Avenue and 31st Street in New York City, probably in 1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Pennsylvania Station on May 5, 1962. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2019:

During the heyday of rail travel in the late 19th and early 20th century, passenger stations in major cities were typically large, ornate buildings. As the first place that most travelers would see upon arriving in a new city, these stations sought to convey a strong first impression by demonstrating the importance and grandeur of both the city and the railroad company. Consequently, when the Pennsylvania Railroad—one of the largest corporations in the world at the time—constructed a rail line into the largest city in the country, it built what was arguably the grandest railroad station in American history.

Throughout the 19th century, the Hudson River was a major obstacle for railroad traffic heading to and from New York City. At the time, Manhattan’s only direct rail link was to the north, across the narrow Harlem River. This connected the city to upstate New York, New England, and other points north and east, but travel was much more difficult when heading south or west. In the absence of bridges or tunnels, the only way for these railroads to reach Manhattan was by ferry from the New Jersey side of the river.

As early as the 1880s there were proposals to bridge the Hudson, but these would have been prohibitively expensive, given the necessary height of the bridge and the amount of valuable Manhattan real estate that would have been required for the approaches. The only other option was to tunnel under the river, but this did not become a viable alternative until the development of electric locomotives, as there would have been no way to provide ventilation for steam locomotives in the tunnel. Even then, it would entail significant expense and engineering challenges along the way, not least of which was the difficulty of tunneling through the viscous mud on the riverbed.

The final plans consisted of two parallel tunnels under the Hudson River, which would bring Pennsylvania Railroad trains into the heart of Manhattan at a new station in midtown. This would be done in conjunction with the Long Island Rail Road, which was building similar tunnels under the East River. These tunnels would meet the Pennsylvania Railroad here at the new station, providing direct rail access to Manhattan for Long Island commuters.

Work on both the Hudson River and East River tunnels began in 1904, as did the excavation work for the new Pennsylvania Station. The station site occupied two full city blocks, and it was bounded by West 31st Street, West 33rd Street, 7th Avenue, and 8th Avenue, in the middle of the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood. This spot was four blocks west and nine blocks south of the city’s other major rail hub, Grand Central Terminal, which was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad’s rival, the New York Central.

Pennsylvania Station included 11 tracks and 21 platforms, but its most notable feature was its above-ground portion, shown here in this view along 7th Avenue. The massive building was designed by the prominent architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, and it is often regarded as their magnum opus. It featured ornate Beaux-Arts architecture, with an exterior of pink granite that was lined with columns and other classically-inspired elements. Here on the east side of the building, the main entrance was topped by a large clock, with allegorical representations of Day and Night on either side. The clock was also flanked by six eagles, with three on each side. All of these statues, along with the matching figures above the other three entrances to the station, were the work of noted sculptor Adolph Weinman, who is perhaps best known for designing the Mercury dime and the Walking Liberty half dollar.

On the interior, the main entrance opened to a 225-foot long, 45-foot wide arcade that was lined with shops. This led to the main waiting area in the center of the building, which spanned the width of the station from West 31st Street to West 33rd Street and featured a ceiling that rose 150 feet above the floor. It was said to have been the largest such waiting room in the world at the time, and it included ticket offices, baggage check windows, and telephone and telegraph offices, in addition to two smaller adjoining waiting rooms, with one for men and one for women. Beyond the waiting room, on the west side of the building, was the main concourse, with its distinctive iron and glass arched ceiling. The station also included two covered carriage drives, which led down to the lower level. These were located on the north and south sides of the station, and they were accessed here on the 7th Avenue side, beneath the pediments on the left and right side of this scene.

Pennsylvania Station was completed in the late summer of 1910, and part of it opened on September 8. The rest of the station opened on November 27, drawing an estimated 100,000 visitors throughout the day, in addition to the 25,000 passengers on the more than 80 trains that arrived and departed from here. Aside from a few short early morning delays the opening went smoothly, and the station was easily able to accommodate the large crowds. Reporting on the opening day, the New-York Daily Tribune described the station as a “fresh mechanical miracle,” and further noted:

And in thousands they flooded the acres of its floor space, gazed saucer eyed like awestruck pigmies at the vaulted ceilings far above them, inspected curiously the tiny details of the place, so beautifully finished, on their own level and pressed like caged creatures against the grill which looked down upon subterranean tracks, trains and platforms. W. W. Egan, the station master, was of the opinion that some of them had been there all night. There was no let up all day, at all events, and late last night the steel and stone palace still entertained its thousands of liliputian admirers swarming in and out and round about.

Aside from its colossal dimensions and great distances, the most noteworthy feature of this human achievement is its silence. It’s too big to be noisy, too dignified in its spaciousness for staccato sounds. The steady hum of its tense life spells only peace, like the drone of bees in a summer garden. The stealthy trains circulate in its underworld unnoticed. Even the announcers’ calls fade into faraway song, echoing in a canyon.

The hordes of sightseers caused no indigestion in the huge maw of this monster. Passengers came and went or waited without inconvenience or crowding, though they were outnumbered fifty to one. A delay here and there in providing car equipment, due to untried complications at the Harrison transfer station, only accentuated the general smoothness with which the eighty-four trains to and from the West were operated.

The first photo was taken within a year or two after the station opened, probably sometime in 1912. The presence of many horse-drawn vehicles suggests an early 1910s date, but the most helpful clues in dating the photo are the advertisements for Broadway shows, which are visible on the extreme right side of the photo. These productions, which include The Master of the House, The Little Millionaire, Hanky Panky, and Little Women, all premiered in either 1911 or 1912.

Penn Station, as it was commonly known, remained in use throughout the first half of the 20th century, with ridership here peaking during World War II. However, this quickly began to change after the end of the war, as commercial airlines and private automobiles began to eclipse railroads for long-distance travel. Railroads across the country began to struggle financially, including the once-mighty Pennsylvania Railroad, which had difficulty maintaining its iconic station here in New York.

This neighborhood, which had been a red light district prior to the construction of Penn Station, was valuable Midtown real estate by the mid-20th century. In addition, the cavernous station that had so impressed visitors in 1910 was both costly and underutilized, so in 1954 the railroad optioned the air rights to a developer. This agreement would allow for the demolition of the above-ground portion of the station, leaving only the tracks and platforms from the original structure.

Nothing came of this initial plan, but in 1962 the site became the subject of a new redevelopment proposal, which would involve demolishing the station, constructing a new, smaller station underground, and building a new Madison Square Garden and an office building atop it. The second photo was taken around this time, in May 1962, evidently as part of an effort to document the building’s architecture before its demolition. By this point, the interior had undergone some significant changes since the station opened, but the 7th Avenue facade was largely unchanged from this angle, aside from the accumulation of a half century of grime on the pink granite walls and columns.

These redevelopment plans caused significant controversy, as Penn Station was still a major New York landmark, despite the reduced importance of rail travel. However, demolition began in October 1963, just over a year after the second photo was taken, and the building was mostly gone by 1966. Madison Square Garden opened in 1968, and occupied the western two-thirds of the site. In the present-day scene, it is barely visible on the far left side of the photo. To the east of it is an office building, which stands in the foreground of the photo along 7th Avenue.

The reconstructed Penn Station was also completed in 1968, although almost none of it can be seen above ground aside from the entrances, one of which is visible in the lower right side of the photo. It remains in use as New York’s primary intercity rail station, and it is the busiest station in North America, with an annual ridership of over 100 million. However, it lacks all of the grandeur and architectural distinction of its predecessor, and its design is particularly unimpressive compared to the historic Grand Central Terminal, which still stands as the city’s other major railroad station.

In hindsight, though, the loss of the original Penn Station may not have been entirely in vain. The demolition helped to draw attention to the need for historic preservation, at a time when many important buildings were being lost to urban renewal projects in cities across the country. Here in New York, it led to the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, in order to protect significant buildings in the city. These included Grand Central Terminal, which was threatened by a similar redevelopment proposal that would have put a skyscraper atop the station building. This was successfully blocked by the Commission, and their ruling was upheld in a 1978 Supreme Court decision, thus preserving Grand Central in its historic appearance.

Union Station, White River Junction, Vermont

The railroad station at White River Junction, around 1900. Image from The Gateway of Vermont: Hartford and its Villages (1903).

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, the village of White River Junction is situated at the confluence of the White River and Connecticut River, on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. Once sparsely-settled farmland within the town of Hartford, this area became an important railroad crossroads in the late 1840s, as new rail lines began spreading across northern New England.

By 1850, there were four different railroads that met here in White River Junction: the Vermont Central Railway from the northwest, the Connecticut River Railroad from the south, the Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad from the north, and the Northern New Hampshire Railroad from the east. A fifth line, the Woodstock Railroad, was built in 1875, connecting White River Junction to the town of Woodstock, located 14 miles west of here.

The arrival of the railroads led to a small but thriving village, which was centered around the depot here, where the rail lines met. The first passenger station opened here on this spot in 1849. It was a union station, meaning that it was used by all of the railroads. This original depot burned in 1861, in a large fire that began in a nearby factory. The flames quickly spread, destroying a number of industrial buildings and warehouses, along with both the passenger and freight depots. It was one of many fires that hit White River Junction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was the first of three stations here that would be destroyed by fires.

The replacement station was completed here in 1862, but it burned within a couple decades, and around 1880 it was replaced by a third station, which is shown here in the first photo. It was from this station that, in the early morning hours of February 5, 1887, a northbound Central Vermont passenger train departed, heading for Montreal. However, just ten minutes later, at a bridge less than five miles northwest of here, the last four cars of the train derailed and fell onto the frozen White River. The cars caught fire with many passengers and crew trapped inside, and an estimated 37 people were killed, making it the deadliest rail accident in Vermont history.

The first photo was taken around the turn of the 20th century, showing the view of the station from the northwest. By this point, the various rail lines here at White River Junction had been consolidated into the Boston & Maine Railroad and the Central Vermont Railway. The Boston & Maine owned two-thirds of the station, with the Central Vermont owning the remaining third. These two companies controlled a significant portion of the rail traffic in northern New England, and White River Junction remained an important hub within their networks. In addition, the station housed a restaurant and the local telegraph office, which served as a major relay point for communications between Boston and Montreal.

Like its two predecessors, this station was also destroyed by a fire, which started on the morning of November 28, 1911. It evidently began as a result of faulty wiring in the telegraph office, and it soon consumed the entire building. The station was a total loss, but valuables such as the mail, baggage, and the contents of the ticket office were safely removed, and firefighters prevented the flames from spreading to neighboring buildings.

A day after the fire, the Barre Daily Times expressed optimism that the fire would lead to a new, improved station here, noting:

Now is the time for the Central Vermont and Boston & Maine railroads to get together and build a union station at White River Junction that will be just right. With the old station in ruins, they will have to start over again, and the new project ought to be accomplished with the added features, such as subways to the business streets of the village.

Evidently not everyone shared this hope for the future, though, because a few days later the Times quoted the Springfield Republican of Massachusetts, which had written “Travelers will find waiting at White River Junction, Vt., drearier than ever now that the railroad station has been burned.” To this, the Times added “Nevertheless, they ought to be able to find amusement in delving in the mysteries of antiquity, meaning the ruins of the old station.”

As it turned out, the Republican‘s assessment of the situation proved particularly accurate. For more than 25 years after the fire, passengers had to use a converted freight house as a temporary station, as the two railroads squabbled over the construction of its replacement. The new station, shown here in the present-day photo, was finally completed in 1937. It featured a Colonial Revival exterior that was designed by Jens Fredrick Larson, a noted architect and World War I flying ace who designed much of the campus at nearby Dartmouth College.

Today, more than 80 years after the station opened, the two railroad companies that built it are now long gone, and White River Junction is no longer the major passenger rail hub that it once was. The station is still here, and it remains in active use, although its passenger service is limited to just two daily trains on Amtrak’s Vermonter route, a significant drop from a village that, at its peak, saw up to 50 passenger trains stop here every day.

However, there are remnants of the past here in the present-day scene, including Boston & Maine engine #494, which is visible under the pavilion in front of the station. It was built in 1892 by the Manchester Locomotive Works in New Hampshire, and it remained in use until 1938. A year later it was an exhibit the 1939 World’s Fair, and in 1957 it was donated to the town of Hartford, which eventually restored it and put it on display here. In the 2018 photo, it contrasts with the modern diesel locomotive on the far right, which is operated by the New England Central Railroad, the successor to the Central Vermont.

Union Station, Springfield, Mass (2)

The old Union Station in Springfield, seen from near the corner of Lyman and Chestnut Streets around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows Union Station as it appeared about 10 to 20 years after its completion, as seen looking west from near Chestnut Street. The photo in a previous post shows the south side of the station from Lyman Street, but this view provides a more elevated look at the station, showing both the north and south sides, along with the platforms in between. Further in the distance, beyond the station on Main Street, are two of the city’s leading hotels: the Massasoit House on the far left at the end of Lyman Street, and Cooley’s Hotel, which can be seen in the center of the photo.

This area has been the site of Springfield’s primary railroad station since 1839, when the Western Railroad arrived, linking Springfield with Worcester and Boston. The original station, which was located on the west side of Main Street, burned in 1851, and the following year it was replaced by a brick and iron, shed-like station on the same spot. This station served for most of the second half of the 19th century, but it began to cause problems as the city grew in population and as rail traffic increased. Because the station was located at street level, trains had to cross directly over Main Street, leading to significant delays for traffic on the street. The station itself was also becoming insufficient for the number of trains that passed through here, and by the late 1860s there were already calls for a new station and elevated tracks through downtown Springfield.

In 1869, the state legislature authorized such a project, but it would take another 20 years before it was actually finished, thanks to an impasse between the city government and the Boston & Albany Railroad, which was the successor to the old Western Railroad. This dispute centered around which side was responsible for paying to raise the tracks and lower the grade of Main Street, and it ultimately did not get resolved until 1888, when the railroad agreed to spend around $200,000 to raise the tracks, while the city would spend about $84,000 to lower Main Street by four feet.

This compromise enabled the station project to move forward, and the old station was demolished in the spring of 1889. The new one was completed in July, and it was located on the east side of Main Street, which provided more room for the station. It featured a Romanesque Revival-style design, and the original plans had been the work of noted architect Henry H. Richardson, who designed many of the stations along the Boston & Albany Railroad. He died in 1886, though, and his successor firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge subsequently modified the plans for the Springfield station.

One of these changes proved to be a serious design flaw. Richardson had intended for a single station building, located on the south side, with a large train shed over the tracks. However, the Connecticut River Railroad, which would share the union station with the Boston & Albany and the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroads, objected to this plan, wanting a separate building on the north side. As a result, the finished station consisted of two buildings, each with its own ticket offices and waiting rooms, and four tracks in between them. The smaller northern building, on the right side of this scene, served northbound and westbound travelers, while the larger building on the south side was for those heading southbound and eastbound.

Within less than 20 years, this design was already causing problems as Springfield continued to grow. Having two different station buildings was an inefficient use of space, since it meant redundant facilities such as the waiting rooms. This was also a source of confusion for passengers, who would sometimes find themselves at the wrong ticket office or platform. In addition, the two buildings prevented the railroads from adding new tracks, since the space in between was already filled with four tracks and three platforms.

Aside from practical considerations, the architecture of the building was also obsolete by the early 20th century. Romanesque Revival had been widely popular during the last two decades of the 19th century, particularly for public buildings, and railroad stations were seen as important architectural showcases. They were usually the first thing that a traveler saw in a particular city, so any self-respecting city need a monumental station, in order to give a good first impression to visitors. This may have been the case for Union Station in the 1890s, but Romanesque Revival had fallen out of favor by the next decade, and the new generation of iconic railroad stations – such as Grand Central and Penn Station – began to feature classically-inspired Beaux-Arts designs.

As early as 1906, it was evident that the station was inadequate. That year, the Springfield Republican published an article on the city’s numerous railroad-related problems, observing that “[t]he most important problem as far as the safety and convenience of the public is concerned is the rebuilding of the union station.” In 1921, the newspaper was even more explicit, remarking on how “there seems to be, in fact, a nearly unanimous demand that the structure be cast to the scrapheap,” and four years later it declared that the station was “long execrated for its combination of discomfort, dinginess and danger.”

The station’s demise was hastened by a November 1922 fire that caused about $25,000 in damage to the north building. The fire was considered to be suspicious, but its origins were unclear, with the railroad superintendent simply telling the Republican, “your guess is as good as mine.” The city’s fire chief declared that he found no evidence of arson, although he did not actually inspect the cellar beneath the waiting room, where the fire had apparently started. There were no injuries, and most of the valuables, including mail, packages, and cash, were safely removed by railroad employees and by an off-duty police officer.

Within less than a month of the fire, the railroad had approved the plans for a new station. This replacement would be in approximately the same location, but the entire station would be located on the north side of the tracks. It would be connected to Lyman Street on the south side by way of a tunnel beneath the tracks, and this tunnel would also provide access to the platforms, avoiding the dangers of passengers crossing directly over the busy tracks. Perhaps most significantly, the number of tracks would be increased from four to 11, reducing congestion and delays on the railroad.

Demolition on the old station began in 1925, just 36 years after it was built, and the new Union Station opened the following year. It would remain in use for the next few decades, but passenger rail began to experience a significant decline throughout the country during the post-World War II era. With passenger trains becoming unprofitable for railroads to operate, Amtrak ultimately took control of the country’s passenger rail services in 1971. Two years later, most of Union Station was closed except for the Lyman Street entrance, and a small Amtrak station was built on the south side of the tracks.

Union Station sat empty for many years, and only one of the old station platforms was used for passenger service. However, the building underwent a major restoration in the 2010s, reopening in 2017. It now features a ticket office, waiting area, and retail space in the concourse, along with office space on the upper levels, including the offices of the Peter Pan Bus Lines. Union Station is also the terminus for most of the city’s PVTA bus lines, with 18 bus berths just to the west of the station. In addition to this, the rail traffic here at the station has also increased. Along with a number of daily Amtrak trains, Union Station is also served by the Hartford Line, which opened in 2018 with commuter trains running from Springfield south to New Haven.

The 2018 photo shows this scene about a year after the station reopened. An Amtrak train is visible in the distant center of the photo, consisting of two passenger cars pulled by a P42DC diesel engine. This is the typical setup for most of the Springfield to New Haven Amtrak trains, and the rear car is a converted Metroliner cab car, which allows the train to be operated in either direction without turning the locomotive. Just to the right of the train is Platform C, which was the last part of the station’s renovation project. It was still unfinished when the first photo was taken, but this project – which upgraded the platform to modern accessibility requirements – was finished in January 2020, marking the end of Union Station’s restoration.