You know, for many years I wondered why so many US cities had a “Union Station”
I mean, I’d heard of Union Station in Washington, and Union Station in Chicago – but on a recent trip to the US, we actually caught trains to (or from) Union Stations in Denver, Colorado, and of course in Los Angeles.
Turns out that Union Station is the name given to stations that serviced a range of railway companies – in the case of LA, it was the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads.
Nowadays, those have been replaced by Amtrak, Metrolink, and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.
But in any case, of all the Union Stations around the US, LA’s has been described as a ‘nearly perfect time machine’.
Built in the 1930s, over the bulldozed homes of many immigrants, Union Station is an amazing amalgam of Art Deco, Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne styles .. it’s all light and shade using galleries and arcades to provide shelter from Southern California’s burning sun.
It has marble, and tile, and parquetry floors. It has faux-wood ceilings (actually steel and plaster, but an excellent imitation) and it has an extraordinary waiting area for ticketed passengers.
With deep, leather armchairs that suggest an earlier place and time, the waiting room here is so different to the usual transport hub as to be truly remarkable.
And while its supposed to be only for those holding tickets, its not unusual for locals – and particularly local homeless men – to rest in its air-conditioned, remarkably quiet ambience.
On the far side of the station – at the East Portal – there’s another unexpected concourse – leading to LA’s grossly underutilised Metro Subway train service.
And if the Main Entrance is all about LA’s past, then the East Portal is all about the future – a massive steel-and-glass dome soars above a mural of multicultural Los Angeles.