Friday, May 2, 2014




1940's postcard view of the newly opened Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. From the Metro Transportation Library and Archive / James Rojas Collection

Union Station Today. 

Aerial shot of Los Angeles Union Station (Photo: Gary Leonard)
The master plan will be a roadmap for the long-range future of the station and the 40 acres that surround it which Metro purchased in April 2011. After its acquisition of Union Station, the Metro Board saw the opportunity to take a fresh look at the current and future uses at this site and directed a long-term master planning process be undertaken. The master planning process will encompass near term passenger and other circulation improvements as well as longer term rail and joint development opportunities, including an analysis of high speed rail station alternatives. It also will create better access for pedestrians and bicyclists and clearer linkages among the transit modes on site. Finally, the master plan team is charged with exploring close linkages with Union Station’s neighbors and downtown itself that will support and catalyze activities in the city around the station.

*  Special thanks to  "Google Images", "", "USC Digital Libraries", "", "Los Angeles Public Libraries", "Loyola Marymount University Library",  
"The Downtown News", and "The Los Angeles Times".

by Felicity Blaze Noodleman
Los Angeles, CA
5. 2.14

May 5th. 2014 the Los Angele's historic Union Station celebrates it's 75th anniversary serving the Los Angeles area as the premiere train station.  Originally in 1939 the station was the boarding platforms for the Atcheson & Topeka RR, the Santa Fe, lines, the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific rail road companies train lines.  As it turns out, Union Station is not as old as we thought, opening it's doors for business in 1939.  Of course we at "Noodleman" wondered about the previous stations preceding Union Station.  We did a little digging and were able to find some interesting information.  Since our article on "Steam Locomotives" was one of the most read "Noodleman" articles we have written, we thought this might be just as popular.

Opening "days" crowds at the inauguration of Los Angeles' Union Station, May 3-5, 1939. More than half a million people attended the parade alone. (Courtesy of USC Digital Library)

At least half a dozen or so stations, depots and terminals preceded Union Station.  As Los Angeles grew, grew and grew some more rail road companies built train stations to service their customers and make a statement with their architecture.  All were grand and the buildings themselves welcomed passengers aboard the trains which they serviced.

Wikipedia fills in the background history concerning the concept for Angeleno's decision to build a consolidated passenger train station which is then followed by a story from the "Downtown News" with more history and information on the 75th. anniversary of Union Station.

In 1926, a measure was placed on the ballot giving Los Angeles voters the choice between the construction of a vast network of elevated railways or the construction of a much smaller Union Station to consolidate different railroad terminals. The election would take on racial connotations and become a defining moment in the development of Los Angeles.

The proposed Union Station was located in the heart of what was Los Angeles' original Chinatown. Reflecting the prejudice of the era, the anti-railroad Los Angeles Times, a lead opponent of elevated railways, argued in editorials that Union Station would not be built in the “midst of Chinatown” but rather would “forever do away with Chinatown and its environs.” Voters approved demolishing much of Chinatown to build Union Station by a narrow 51 to 48 percent.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway's combined Super Chief/El Capitan at the station in 1966
The station took over service from La Grande Station and Central Station and originally served the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, Southern Pacific Railroad, and Union Pacific Railroad, as well as the Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway (LARy). It saw heavy use during World War II, but later saw declining patronage due to the growing popularity of air travel and automobiles.


News Union Station Turns 75 
and Looks to the Future 

photo by Gary Leonard

Architects Donald and John Parkinson used a Mission Revival style to set the Downtown Los Angeles station apart from other transit hubs in the country. 

Tue Apr 29, 2014.

By Donna Evans Los Angeles Downtown News
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Iconic. Historic. Gorgeous. 

These are some of the most common adjectives used to describe Union Station, the Downtown transportation hub that debuted 75 years ago. On May 3, 1939, nearly half a million people stood in line for hours to watch as steam engines rolled down Alameda Street, celebrating the largest railroad passenger terminal in the West. 

Seven decades later, the landmark is one of the last great railway stations, both because of its impressive architecture and its daily use as a regional transit center, said Art Leahy, CEO of station owner the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. To commemorate the milestone, Metro representatives have held a smattering of special events such as concerts and movie screenings at the station since last year. 

On May 3, the actual anniversary, Union Station will host National Train Day, starting with a rededication of the building at 10 a.m. Activities, which continue through 4 p.m., will include one-of-a-kind railcar displays from Amtrak and more than a dozen musical acts performing jazz, blues and swing. There will also be a children’s theater performance and model train displays. Metro anticipates upwards of 10,000 people will attend. 

To Leahy, a bus operator in the early 1970s whose Torrance route terminated at the transit hub at 800 Alameda St., Union Station is a “gem” that they continue to polish. Literally. 
“It’s a wonderful place that gets more gorgeous by the day. Metal work that we thought was black was actually bronze,” he said of the ongoing effort to rehabilitate the facility. 

Metro bought Union Station in 2011 for $75 million. The following year, the agency hired Gruen Associates and Grimshaw Architects to create a master plan for the future of the station and 40 surrounding acres of land.

Jenna Hornstock, deputy executive officer of countywide planning for Metro, said the agency spent eight months studying all facets of the facility. Proposing changes for the future required that they be respectful of the past, she said. Representatives are addressing how the station, and the surrounding land, can be used in a growing Downtown. Early concepts include bringing in more retail, restaurants, housing and office space. 

Additionally, Metro is working to make the transit hub easier to use for the 75,000 people who pass through the station every day. Improvements that have already been made include a new message board in the waiting room and additional signage posted throughout the corridors to better direct travelers. Part of the master plan also involves widening the tunnel that leads pedestrians to the Metrolink and Amtrak rail lines, which is jammed with harried passengers during rush hour. The crowded pathway also connects the west and east ends of the station. 

In 1939, Hornstock said, there were just three lines for passengers and freight. Today, Union Station is the center of L.A.’s transit universe,  with Metro rail and bus service, along with Amtrak and Metrolink lines. 
One component of the past that Leahy is keen to bring into the future is the Fred Harvey Restaurant. Harvey created a chain of restaurants that, beginning in 1875, opened alongside railway stations. Leahy imagines turning the former eatery at Union Station into a nightspot. Although the proposal has been broached many times over the years, Leahy said he can picture people heading home from the theater or a Dodgers game and stopping in before catching the train.

Long Build
As beloved as Union Station is today, it took the better part of two decades to get on track, said Marylyn Musicant, senior exhibitions coordinator at the Getty Research Institute. Musicant is overseeing the exhibit No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station, which opens at the Central Library on May 2. Organized by the Institute, the show examines the design process of the station, as well as the contentious politics behind it. No Further West runs through Aug. 10.

“The railroads didn’t want this,” Musicant said, noting that the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads each had their own modest station in the region. That led to a faceoff with city leaders who wanted an impressive, grand station, a symbol of Los Angeles’ prosperity and progress. Musicant added that safety was also an issue, as consolidating the tracks, rather than having trains crisscross the city, would be better for pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages and bicyclists.

In 1916, a number of surrounding cities filed complaints against the railroads, which started a two-year investigation that led to a 16-year fight. The railroads argued that Los Angeles was the end of the line, not a place where people transferred. The battle reached the U.S. Supreme Court before the railroads relented and agreed to build a unified station. 

Still, there were repercussions. The city needed up to 60 acres of land. That led to the decision to build on what was then Chinatown. The community was razed and Union Station rose. Chinatown was moved to its current location.

Architects Donald and John Parkinson were tasked with designing a station that was unique to California. The Mission Revival-style building with mahogany walls and travertine tile cost $11 million, a hefty sum as the Depression was unfolding, Musicant said. However, the construction provided a lot of jobs at a time when few were available. 

“The really unique thing is this gorgeous, iconic station still functions as the transit hub for the region, and continues to accommodate growth. It’s impressive,” Musicant said. 
So, impressive, in fact, that sometimes Musicant, her husband and two sons will travel to Union Station just to walk around the 75-year-old building and explore, always looking for new discoveries. Not surprisingly, the Culver City residents take the train. 

Union Station’s 75th birthday celebration and National Train Day are Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 800 Alameda St. or The exhibit No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station is open May 2-Aug. 10 at the Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St. (213) 228-7000 or

"Downtown News" 

Now when it comes to passenger train stations in Los Angeles we've had our share and each one makes a statement about where we were in architecture and functionality.  If "necessity is the mother of invention" than Los Angeles has given birth to some of the best rail stations the world has ever seen!  We now have a pictorial history for many of the previous stations prior to the building of Union Station.

1880 - 1939  

(1875) - View of a steam locomotive in front of the Los Angeles and Independence Rail Road Terminal in the Victorian style building at Fifth Street and San Pedro Street, 1875. Two lavishly decorated brick towers extend from the main building to either side of its entrance.  
Historical Notes
The Los Angeles and Independence Railroad Company was incorporated in January 1875 with Francisco P. Temple, John P. Jones, Robert S. Baker, T. N. Park, James A. Pritchard, J. S. Slauson, and J. U. Crawford, as directors. Col. Crawford was the engineer and general manager.
The 16.67 miles of track between Los Angeles and Santa Monica were privately built without government subsidies or land grants, all in a little over ten months - primarily using 67 Chinese laborers imported for the task. Right-of-way between Los Angeles and Santa Monica was given by local ranchers who were anxious to have access to a railroad. The line opened October 17, 1875, with two trains a day running between Santa Monica and Los Angeles; the fare was fixed at $1.00 per trip, freight at $1.00 per ton.

The Los Angeles Terminal Railway in Pasadena near Raymond Hotel in background, ca. 1888. The Los Angeles Terminal Railway, earlier known as the Pasadena Railway, and unofficially as the Altadena Railway, was a small terminal railroad line that was constructed between Altadena and Pasadena, California in the late 1880s. It was a byproduct of a land boom period and a victim of the land bust that occurred soon thereafter. It opened officially on January 31, 1888.

The depot of the Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad, the city's first, stood at Commercial and Alameda streets. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

The Southern Pacific's River Station stood on the present-day site of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. In 1901, it was torn down and replaced by a new station, also called the River Station, across the street. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust, and C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.

Hisoric Photo of River Station Roundhouse and Turnable in the 1880s.(Photo courtesy of the California State Railroad Museum)
Southern Pacific opened a freight house and depot in 1875 to complement the newly constructed sets of tracks.  In 1879, a hotel was built next to the existing depot to expand services for passenger (California Department of Parks and Recreation 2005:20).  River Station continued to expand soon after its initial opening and eventually consisted of a roundhouse with turntable (Figure 2), freight house, blacksmith shop, machine shop, transfer table, car shop, paint shop, coal dock, and other facilities (Mullaly and Petty 2002:10; California Department of Parks and Recreation 2005:20; Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. Maps).  By the 1880s, Southern Pacific had become the largest employer in Los Angeles, with River Station being the headquarters for its operations in Southern California (California Department of Parks and Recreation 2005:20).

The Arcade Station's rail shed was five hundred feet long and ninety feet high. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Three trains could fit inside the Arcade Station's rail shed. Soot and smoke from the steam locomotives collected inside the building, annoying passengers. Courtesy of the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.
Historical Notes
In 1914, the Southern Pacific Railroad replaced the Arcade Station with the Central Station, a larger and more modern railroad passenger depot. The Union Pacific Railroad moved its Downtown Los Angeles passenger terminal to Central Station in 1924 after its original passenger depot just south of First Street on the east side of the Los Angeles River was destroyed by fire.

(Below)  Los Angeles Central Station.  This station was located on Central between 4th. and 5th. St.s and replaced the Arcade Station.  It serviced the Southern Pacific railroad line.  Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.

Interior view of the Central Station lobby. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.
The Moorish dome of the Santa Fe Railway's red-brick La Grande Station welcomed newcomers to Los Angeles from 1893 to 1939. This station was located on 2nd. St. and Santa Fe.  Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.

Circa 1904 postcard depicting La Grande Station. Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.

1924 aerial view of the Santa Fe's La Grande station. Courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

The main depot view north on Main Street CA. circa 1910.  Pacific Electric, also known as the Red Car system, was a privately owned mass transit system in Southern California consisting of electrically powered streetcars, light rail, and buses and was the largest electric railway system in the world in the 1920s.  It was in operation from 1901 - 1961.  Organized around the city centers of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, it connected cities in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County and Riverside County

Union Station in downtown L.A. under construction in 1939. It opened in May of 1939 bringing all three major transcontinental railway lines into Los Angeles under one roof. I’m happy to say that it still looks pretty much the same now as it did when it opened.

The iconic Union Station is a nationally registered historic landmark.

Metro headquarters sits directly east of the 38-acre site of Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Aerial photo by Gary Leonard

The Metro Red Line arrived at Union Station in 1993. Metro Transporation Library & Archive

Today Union Station is still a busy rail terminal for the Los Angeles area connecting Amtrack passengers with local Metro transit subways and bus service.  Metro is expanding their subway services throughout the Los Angeles basin bringing people back into the downtown area and revitalizing a historic part of our city.  The slogan for the downtown area is "live, work and play in downtown LA".  This has been felicity remembering a historic part of our LA history and looking for ward to the future at Union Station.  See you Next week!

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