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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

Union Station: 1910

Union Station: 1910

Circa 1910. "Train concourse, Union Station, Washington, D.C." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

The colored waiting room

When I first looked at this picture, I thought it was peculiar that there were only a few places to sit in that entire huge space. I noticed that there was a waiting room sign, and wondered why people would be sitting in that cold, open space, when there was a waiting room. Then, I realized that the people sitting there all had something in common. It was apparently a "whites only" waiting room. The "good old days" weren't always good.

[Actually, Union Station's waiting room (the cavernous main lobby, shown below) was open to all passengers. - Dave]

Great! I am glad to hear it! After studying the picture of the waiting room, I think I see why there were people in the seats out on the concourse. It looks like they had individual sections with arms, and curved backs, which would make them more comfortable than the benches in the waiting room. The latter actually look quite uncomfortable.

Crash!

Here's a photo. You're right, the train fell right through the floor.

Guy on a Ladder

Anyone notice the guy in the upper right sitting on a ladder changing a light bulb.

Scary!

Concourse crash

On January 15, 1953, a train full of people from Boston bound for the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower crashed through onto this concourse and was in the basement there for awhile. There were no lives lost. I remember my mother telling me this because I vaguely remember that the flooring didn't match in that area where the train came through. Maybe this was just my imagination. But I do remember this. And there were many porters with carts just waiting to carry bags for people. All were in uniform and very polite.

Fantastic

I go through Union Station almost every day. It is wonderful to see it in its original state! Amazing! I'll have to picture this as I go through next time.

Runaway Train

The Concourse is 760 feet long. One notable event occurred in 1953:

On January 15, 1953, the Federal Express train, out of control on Track 16, crashed through a newsstand and into the main concourse of Union Station. Miraculously, no one was killed. Thanks to a tower crew member located about a mile from Union Station who had been able to warn the station master's office that a runaway train was on its way, the concourse was cleared in two and a half minutes. Although the floor collapsed under the locomotive, 96 hours later, at 8:00 a.m., an Eisenhower inaugural special train rolled to a stop on Track 16. The concourse showed little evidence of the accident.

They temporarily left the locomotive where it fell and built a floor above it in the 96 hours. My mother volunteered in the USO at the station and was in the main waiting room (not Concourse) when the accident occurred. She said it was LOUD and things rocked.

Union Station.

Two blocks away. As soon as I log out I'm going there for some dinner.

Invention

This would have been a great time for someone to think of putting wheels and a folding handle on suitcases.

Wide Open

This section of Union Station now houses a lovely 2-level shopping complex. It's fun to see the original space. So much space!

 
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