Cincinnati Union Terminal
Cincinnati Union Terminal by (CC BY-SA)

50 Stunning Photos of Historic Train Stations Across America

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Cincinnati Union Terminal
Cincinnati Union Terminal by (CC BY-SA)

All Aboard!

For about 100 years, from the mid 1800s until the middle of the 20th century, railroads ruled the nation. The major rail companies — Southern Pacific, New York Central, Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania Railroad, and others — built Gilded Age temples to transport in cities from coast to coast. But after World War II, the railroads and their grand stations quickly fell into decline. One by one, these grand train stations were abandoned or destroyed, until only a handful remained by the 1980s. But then something wonderful happened: The train stations came back. Some were converted to hotels, museums, and event spaces, while others have been restored as hubs for bus, light rail, and Amtrak service. Climb aboard for a look at some of the most beautiful train stations in the U.S.

Related: 40 Spectacular Train Trips Across America and Beyond

St. Louis Union Station, Missouri, USA
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St. Louis Union Station

Completed in 1894, the Romanesque St. Louis Union Station was designed by Theodore Link, who also designed the Mississippi state capitol building in Jackson. Its steel train shed, with 32 parallel tracks (later increased to 42), was the largest of its kind when the station opened. At its peak in 1943, more than 100,000 passengers passed through St. Louis Union station daily, making it for a time the busiest in the nation.

The station now serves as a hotel and shopping complex
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St. Louis Union Station | A Grand Restoration

By 1970, only 13 trains per day stopped at Union Station. Eight years later, Amtrak moved its diminished passenger operations from the station to a double-wide trailer that locals dubbed “Amshack” and Union Station was abandoned. The facility was given a $150 million restoration in the 1980s, restoring the ornate Grand Hall, converting the station building into a luxury hotel and the train shed into an indoor-outdoor shopping mall. Today, it is also home to the St. Louis Aquarium and a 200-foot-high Ferris wheel, too.

Grand Room at Union Station
Grand Room at Union Station by Americasroo (CC BY-SA)

St. Louis Union Station | Art in Glass

Union Station’s pride and joy is the “Allegorical Window” above the station’s main entrance. Handmade of Tiffany glass, it celebrates what were considered at the time to be the nation’s three grandest train station cities: New York City, San Francisco, and St. Louis.

Michigan Central Railway Station
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Michigan Central Train Depot, Detroit

For decades, this abandoned structure loomed over the Motor City, an accidental icon of Detroit’s long, slow urban decay. But when it opened in 1913, it was a symbol of civic pride, with an 18-story office tower attached to the main station building, which looked out over Roosevelt Park. More than 4,000 passengers a day passed through the station in the 1940s at its peak, but had dwindled so much by 1967 that the ornate main lobby was closed. It reopened in 1975, following a $1 million renovation funded by Amtrak, but the station’s days were numbered.

Michigan Central Train Depot
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Michigan Central Train Depot | A Symbol of Detroit’s Decline

The last Amtrak train left in 1988 and the structure quickly fell into disrepair, a frequent target of trespassers who stripped the building of its architectural details and valuable metal components (including the roof), and plastered its walls with graffiti. Ownership changed hands several times, and numerous plans to revive the building went unfulfilled.

Michigan Central Railway Station
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Michigan Central Train Depot | A New Lease on Life

In 2017, the Ford Motor Co., purchased Michigan Central Train Depot and announced that it would spend more than $700 million to restore the site, converting it into a new corporate headquarters. The project is expected to be finished in 2022.

Cincinnati Union Terminal
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Cincinnati Union Terminal

A fine example of art deco, Cincinnati’s rail station opened in 1933. At nearly 10 stories high, the striking main entrance (called The Rotunda), was the largest semi-domed structure in the world when it opened. Sixteen massive mosaics paying tribute to Cincinnati industry decorated the now-demolished passenger terminal that led from the Rotunda to the train tracks.

Cincinnati Union Terminal Rotunda ceiling
Cincinnati Union Terminal Rotunda ceiling by (CC BY-SA)

Cincinnati Union Terminal | From Trains to Museums

With rail passenger traffic plummeting, Amtrak in 1972 moved out of Union Terminal, leaving it empty. Two years later, the terminal and train platforms behind the Rotunda were demolished; nine of its mosaic murals were preserved and relocated to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. An attempt to convert the station into a shopping mall in the 1980s failed, and the structure later became the new home of the combined Cincinnati Historical Society and Cincinnati Museum of Natural History. Amtrak service returned in 1992. Today, after a major restoration, the Cincinnati Museum Center is home to five museums, an IMAX theater, and a historical center.

Grand Central Terminal
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Grand Central Terminal, New York City

This magnificent Beaux-Arts building opened in 1913 after a decade of construction. It was designed by the same architects who designed Detroit’s Michigan Central Depot to replace an older station that had become woefully inadequate to serve the growing metropolis. The station’s heart, the magnificent Main Concourse, features a four-sided Tiffany glass clock atop the information booth in the center of the room. Overhead, a celestial mural depicting constellations and zodiac signs stretches the length of the concourse, illuminated “stars” twinkling day and night.

Grand Central Station
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Grand Central Station | Saved from the Wrecking Ball

Hard to believe, but Grand Central could have been demolished in the 1970s had it not been for a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and the support of influential preservation advocates like Jackie Kennedy Onassis. A three-year, $197 million restoration restored the station to its full glory in the late 1990s.

grand central terminal in New York City
ablokhin/istockphoto

Grand Central Station | A Mecca for Visitors

Today, Grand Central is a tourist magnet, not to mention one of the busiest train stations in the U.S. Among its many non-train attractions are the Oyster Bar & Restaurant in the basement, the nearby Whispering Arch, and the elegant Campbell Bar. There are even tennis courts in Grand Central: The Vanderbilt Tennis Club occupies space on the fourth floor once used as a CBS television studio.

Related: A Virtual Weekend Vacation in New York

Union Station Los Angeles
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Union Station Los Angeles

Even if you’ve never been to L.A., you’ve probably seen the Mission Moderne-style passenger station in movies (“Blade Runner” and “Seabiscuit,” to name just two). Opened in 1939, the station has been in service ever since. In addition to Amtrak, Union Station also serves as a stop for L.A.’s Metrolink, commuter rail, and city bus lines. An estimated 100,000 people pass through the station on a daily basis, making it the busiest on the West Coast.

Los Angeles Union Station old ticket room
Los Angeles Union Station old ticket room by Steve and Julie (CC BY)

Union Station Los Angeles | Picture Perfect

Union Station was designed by architects John and Donald Parkinson, a father-son team who also designed the Los Angeles City Hall. Its iconic waiting room features a terra-cotta floor with a dramatic Navajo-style stripe of inlaid marble and travertine running down the center. Sadly, the adjacent ticket lobby, with its stunning 110-foot-long Art Deco wooden ticket counter, is not open to the public — except for the occasional special event.

Fountains in front of Union Station
Fountains in front of Union Station by City of Overland Park (CC BY)

Kansas City Union Station

This Beaux-Arts beauty was opened in 1914. Three chandeliers, each weighing some 3,500 pounds, hang from the 95-foot-high ceiling of the station’s iconic Grand Hall. On June 17, 1933, the station was the site of the “Kansas City Massacre”— four police officers and gangster Frank Nash were killed in a shootout with mobsters who were attempting to free Nash from police custody.

Kansas City Union Station: Grand Hall of Union Station
Wikimedia Commons

Kansas City Union Station | A City’s Cultural Center

Voters in the Kansas City metro area approved a ballot measure in 1996 to fund renovation of the station, which had been abandoned after Amtrak moved its passenger service to a smaller facility nearby. The two-year, $250 million renovation restored the building’s architectural grandeur, repurposing it as a museum and cultural hub. Today, Union Station is home to a science museum, planetarium, IMAX and live theaters, and Amtrak, which returned in 2002.

Chicago Union Station
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Chicago Union Station

This imposing limestone structure, opened in 1925, occupies a whole block of downtown Chicago, not far from the Chicago River. The station’s breathtaking Great Hall features a barrel-vaulted skylight that extends 219 feet across the length of the room. During World War II, it was blacked out to protect the station from enemy air attack. The hall’s Grand Staircase was featured in the 1987 Kevin Costner film, “The Untouchables.”

The Great Hall of Chicago Union Station
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Chicago Union Station | All This Can Be Yours

In 2018, Amtrak completed a six-year, $22 million restoration of the Great Hall, including the skylights and staircase. Although Union Station remains the city’s passenger rail hub, it also serves as an event space; you can rent the 20,972-square-foot Great Hall for a mere $16,500.

Union Station in Washington, D.C., taken from Columbus Circle
Union Station in Washington, D.C., taken from Columbus Circle by VeggieGarden (CC BY-SA)

Washington Union Station

The nation’s capital is home to many things, including the second-busiest rail station in the country, which opened in 1907. Designed by noted architect Daniel Burnham, who also designed New York City’s Flatiron Building, the flagship Marshall Field & Co., department store in Chicago, and Pittsburgh Union Station

Related: 18 Iconic Department Stores We Miss

South Front Entrance, 1968
Wikimedia Commons

Washington Union Station | Classical Beauty

Mounted on columns that bracket the station’s main entrance are six limestone sculptures of Greek gods, titans, and sages: Apollo, Archimedes, Ceres, Prometheus, Thales, and Themis.

Washington Union Station | A National Treasure
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Washington Union Station | A National Treasure

During World War II, an estimated 200,000 passengers streamed through the station every day. But like other rail stations, the postwar years brought decreases in passenger traffic and a general state of decline. The Main Hall was used briefly as a venue for Bicentennial celebrations, but after a portion of the ceiling collapsed in 1981, the structure was closed to the public, save for Amtrak’s passenger service. After $160 million in renovations, Union Station reopened in 1988 with a movie theatre, food court, and stores in the Main Hall and a new Amtrak passenger terminal behind the concourse.

30th Street Station in Philadelphia
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30th Street Station, Philadelphia

Another stop along Amtrak’s famed Northeast Corridor, Philly’s 30th Street Station is a neoclassical art deco gem completed in 1933. It was designed by the architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White, which also designed Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, another iconic American train station. The third-busiest train station in the U.S., it is also a hub for regional commuter rail and city trolley lines.

Main Concourse, 30th Street Station, looking east.
Main Concourse, 30th Street Station, looking east. by Beyond My Ken (CC BY-SA)

30th Street Station, Philadelphia | Never Forget

One of the most notable station features is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, a 28-foot bronze sculpture of Michael the Archangel cradling a fallen soldier. It pays tribute to the more than 1,300 railroad employees who died during World War II.

Related: 15 Photos of Awe-Inspiring Memorials and Other Places Honoring Our Vets

UNION STATION, UTICA, NEW YORK
UNION STATION, UTICA, NEW YORK by Oaktree b (CC BY-SA)

Union Station, Utica, New York

Utica, located in central New York, is one of the few smaller cities in America that can still boast of having a station from railroad’s golden era. Another Fellheimer and Stem design, the Utica station opened in 1914. Though much smaller in stature than stations in New York City or Buffalo, the three-story structure features many of the same classical Beaux Arts details: terrazzo flooring, marble columns, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Union Station, Utica
Union Station, Utica by Oaktree b (CC BY-SA)

Union Station, Utica | Renovations Ongoing

Oneida County purchased the badly deteriorating station from Amtrak in 1978 and began restoration work with the aim of making Union Station the “official” rail terminal of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Piecemeal renovations continued through the turn of the 21st century. Today, the station continues to welcome Amtrak trains and passenger buses, as well as provide room for Oneida County officials and public event space.

New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal
New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal by Infrogmation (CC BY-SA)

New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal

In the postwar years, some cities like New Orleans opted to build new, smaller facilities. Opened in 1954 after seven years of construction, it was the first major urban railway station to be fully air conditioned. The main waiting room is dominated by four frescos spanning 120 feet that depict New Orleans history. The murals were badly damaged from years of neglect, but have since been restored.

Greyhound Station, New Orleans USA
Greyhound Station, New Orleans USA by The Erica Chang (CC BY-SA)

New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal | Midcentury Modern

In the late 1960s, the station was renovated to accommodate Greyhound Bus service in addition to continued passenger rail service. The station survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 relatively unscathed and for a period of about six weeks served as the city’s jail; the warden dubbed the controversial facility “Camp Greyhound.” In 2013, the new Loyola Avenue streetcar line was completed, connecting Union Passenger Terminal with downtown.

Cleveland Union Terminal
Cleveland Union Terminal by Erik Drost (CC BY)

Cleveland Union Terminal

Cleveland’s Union Terminal was a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1928, with 37 tracks accommodating both interstate passenger rail and local interurban rail lines. It was the brainchild of brothers O.P. and M.J. Van Sweringen, who developed the suburban enclave of Shaker Heights and a light rail line that linked it to downtown Cleveland. The adjoining Terminal Tower office building, rising 52 stories above downtown’s Public Square, was the second-tallest in the world when it opened (a title it retained until 1964).

Related: America's 25 Tallest Buildings: How Many Can You Name?

Tower City Concourse sign
Wikimedia Commons

Cleveland Union Terminal | A Downtown Landmark

By the mid-1970s, Amtrak could no longer justify the expense of maintaining the terminal; in 1977, passenger service moved to the new (and significantly smaller) Cleveland Lakefront station. A year later, the last commuter train line to use the station, connecting Cleveland with Youngstown, ceased operation. Today, the Terminal Tower complex is known as Tower City Center, a mix of shops, restaurants, and offices. Lakefront Station is still in operation, widely reviled as being outdated and poorly maintained.

Union Station, Nashville
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Union Station, Nashville

Opened in 1900, Nashville’s castle-like Union Station features a Romanesque clock tower above the main entrance that was once topped by a statue of the Roman god Mercury (destroyed during a 1951 storm.) Inside, the barrel-vaulted ceiling soars 65 feet high and features stained glass skylights, while the walls are decorated with friezes depicting historical modes of transportation from ox cart to train, winged angels above the window arches, and — once upon a time — two pools that housed alligators.

Union Station, Nashville
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Union Station, Nashville | Stay the Night in Style

By the time Amtrak took over the nation’s passenger rail service in 1971, just one train a day served Nashville; by the end of the decade, it, too, had ceased operations. The station sat empty until the mid-1980s, when a group of investors renovated it as a luxury hotel, leaving the massive, 200-foot-long train shed behind the building untouched. A fire damaged the structure in 1996, and it was demolished in 2001. Union Station itself has flourished; today, it is a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel.

Indianapolis Union Station
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Indianapolis Union Station

In 1849, when railroading was still in its infancy, the Hoosier State capital became the first in the nation to build a train station that served all the competing lines coming into the city. But by the 1880s, the first Union Station had outlived its usefulness, and a new station was commissioned. Designed by Thomas Rodd, a Pennsylvania Railroad engineer, the Romanesque Revival structure opened in 1888 and by the turn of the century was one of the busiest train stations in the Midwest.

Indianapolis Union Station Waiting room
Indianapolis Union Station Waiting room by David Wilson (CC BY)

Indianapolis Union Station | Still Chugging Along

As was the case with so many other of the grand urban train stations, Indy’s Union Station fell into decline in the 1970s. A developer purchased the facility in 1986, converting the massive train shed into a hotel and shopping mall and turning the Grand Hall — with its 60-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling, 3,200 square feet of stained glass skylights, and clock tower above the main entrance — and into an event space. Within a decade, the mall had failed, although the hotel, now a Crowne Plaza, continues to operate. Amtrak continues to serve Indianapolis from a small corner of Union Station, too.

Denver Union Station
Wikimedia Commons

Denver Union Station

This Beaux-Arts station opened in 1914 on the site of the city’s previous Union Station, which had been destroyed by fire. One of its most unique features was a steel arch that spelled out “Welcome” on one side and “Mizpah” (a Hebrew word that expresses a bond between people), illuminated with some 2,000 light bulbs. Sadly, the arch was demolished in the 1930s after city officials became concerned that it was a potential fire hazard.

The open-air train hall
The open-air train hall by Kenneth C. Zirkel (CC BY-SA)

Denver Union Station | A 21st Century Terminal

Today, after some two decades of redevelopment, Denver’s Union Station is again a bustling transit hub for the city, including Amtrak passenger service, city bus lines, as well as commuter and light rail lines linking downtown with the University of Colorado at Boulder and Denver International Airport. The terminal building has been converted into a luxury hotel with public spaces, shops, and restaurants, while the former rail yards along the South Platte River are now occupied by high-rise housing and commercial buildings.

Richmond Main Street Station, Virginia
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Richmond Main Street Station, Virginia

Richmond’s grand train station is a gem of Second Renaissance Revival style and opened in 1901. In some respects, it’s a wonder the structure is still standing. It narrowly avoided being bulldozed in the 1950s to make way for Interstate 95, was severely flooded by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, and was extensively damaged by fires in 1976 and ’83. In 1975, Amtrak built the considerably smaller (and far less attractive) Richmond Staples Mill Road station, abandoning Main Street Station.

Richmond Main Street Station | Visitors Welcome
Brian Clay/istockphoto

Richmond Main Street Station | Visitors Welcome

The empty building was converted into a shopping mall in the early 1980s, but that venture (and others) quickly fizzled. The state of Virginia acquired the building in 1995, and by 2001 a multi-year, $95 million renovation project had begun. Amtrak resumed passenger rail service at the station two years later. Today, Main Street Station’s terminal building and shed are used primarily as event space and a visitor center.

King Street Station, Seattle
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King Street Station, Seattle

King Street Station opened in 1906. Its clock tower, rising 242 feet, was built to resemble the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. At the time, it was the tallest structure in the city. Seattle actually boasts two grand turn-of-the-century train stations (Union Station, one block away, opened in 1911). But this is the station Amtrak has called home since the early 1970s.

View of King Street Station from southeast King Street Station
View of King Street Station from southeast King Street Station by felix_s (CC BY)

King Street Station | One of Two Grand Seattle Stations

After decades of neglect (including the installation of a drop ceiling that concealed the rosettes and friezes of the original 45-foot-high ceiling), the city of Seattle acquired the station for the token amount of $10 in 2008.A $55 million renovation, completed in 2013, restored the terminal building, converted a parking lot into a public plaza, and linked the station to the city’s light rail line.

Texas and Pacific Terminal Complex in Fort Worth, Texas
Texas and Pacific Terminal Complex in Fort Worth, Texas by Renelibrary (CC BY)

Texas and Pacific Terminal, Fort Worth, Texas

One of the more unique train stations in the U.S., this soaring Zigzag Moderne-style complex opened in the depths of the Great Depression in 1931. In addition to the 12-story passenger terminal and office building, a matching 8-story warehouse and a United States Post Office facility were constructed as well. Construction of Interstate 30 in the 1950s cut off the station from the rest of downtown Fort Worth, and by 1967 passenger rail service had ceased, leaving only the office portion of the complex still operating.

Texas and Pacific Terminal | An Art Deco Dream
Texas and Pacific Terminal | An Art Deco Dream by Renelibrary (CC BY-SA)

Texas and Pacific Terminal | An Art Deco Dream

The passenger station, with its elaborate Art Deco ceiling and chandeliers, lay unused from 1967 through the end of the century. In 1999, the passenger area was restored; two years later, the metro region’s Trinity Railway Express commuter line began serving the station. The passenger station and office tower have been converted into condominiums, although the adjacent warehouse remains unused.

Union Station, Pittsburgh
Wikimedia Commons

Union Station, Pittsburgh

At one point in the 20th century, Pittsburgh had four major train stations serving the city. Today only Union Station — built and operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad — still stands. Designed by noted architect Daniel Burnam, the man responsible for Chicago Union Station, it opened in 1904. Its most striking feature is the skylit brick and terra cotta rotunda capping the massive arched porte-cochère that welcomed passengers and workers at the adjacent office tower.

Union Station, Pittsburgh
Union Station, Pittsburgh by brian donovan (CC BY-SA)

Union Station, Pittsburgh | Gilded Age Glory, Restored

By the mid 1970s, only a handful of Amtrak routes were passing through Union Station. Several proposals to renovate the station were considered — a new city hall building, subsidized housing for seniors, even artist studios. Ultimately, the office tower was converted into luxury condominiums, while the passenger terminal and rotunda today serve as private event spaces.

Terminal Station, Chattanooga, Tennessee
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Terminal Station, Chattanooga, Tennessee

“Pardon me, boys. Is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?” Glenn Miller’s 1941 song made both Chattanooga and its Beaux Arts railway station famous — even though no such train existed. Opened in 1909, the building features a dramatic arched window above the main entrance and an 82-foot high domed, skylit ceiling.

Terminal Station, Chattanooga | A Historic Hotel
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Terminal Station, Chattanooga | A Historic Hotel

Passenger rail service ended in 1970, and in 1973 the building was reopened by a group of investors who spent $4 million converting it into a hotel — one of the first such historic renovations of its kind in the U.S. The Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel continues to welcome guests today. The redeveloped rail yard also has event space and condominiums. There’s even a pour-your-own craft beer bar housed in an old Pullman rail car on site.

Santa Fe Depot, Oklahoma City
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Santa Fe Depot, Oklahoma City

Opened in 1934 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, this limestone and granite Art Deco structure is one of two surviving 20th century train stations in Oklahoma City. Amtrak served this station until 1979, when it discontinued its passenger service to the city. Like other stations that had seemingly outlived their usefulness, the Santa Fe Depot fell into disrepair. But in the late ’90s, developer Jim Brewer — who led the restoration of the adjacent Bricktown district — acquired the building and spent more than $2 million renovating it. Amtrak resumed service in 2010, and the Oklahoma City Streetcar added a stop in 2018.

Oklahoma City Union Depot
Oklahoma City Union Depot by Patrick W. Moore (CC BY-SA)

Oklahoma City Union Depot

Oklahoma City’s other train station, which served the Rock Island and Frisco lines, opened in 1931. The Mission Style structure served the city until 1967, when the two railroads discontinued passenger service to the city. Eventually, the 50,000-square-foot building was acquired by the Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority, which uses the building as its headquarters. But plans are underway to convert the structure into an event space as part of a larger revitalization of the area.

Sunset Station, San Antonio
Sunset Station, San Antonio by Tony Kent (CC BY-SA)

Sunset Station, San Antonio

Described by the National Register of Historic Places as “a depot as handsome as can be found in the South,” this Spanish Mission Revival-style structure opened in 1903, serving the Southern Pacific Railroad. Its most notable feature is a 16-foot-wide rose window over the main entrance. Although Amtrak continues to use a portion of the facility for its passenger rail service, Sunset Station today is primarily an event venue.

International and Great Northern Railroad Station, San Antonio
Wikimedia Commons

International and Great Northern Railroad Station, San Antonio

Although Sunset Station is San Antonio’s only active passenger rail station, it’s not the grandest such structure in San Antonio. That honor belongs to the former International and Great Northern Railroad station, which today is home to Generations Credit Union. Opened in 1908, the elaborate building — with its grand interior staircase, stained-glass mural and rose windows, and 88-foot-high copper dome topped with a bronze statue of a Native American archer, was abandoned in 1970 and lay empty until a $3.1 million, three-year restoration in the mid-1980s.

Related: Eerie Abandoned Factories Across America

South Station Boston
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More Great American Train Stations You Can Visit

The glory days of riding the rails may be long gone, but a number of cities and towns have preserved their train stations to one degree or another. Stations still active today include Boston’s neoclassical South Station, which opened in 1898; the Italianate Tampa Union Station, built in 1912; and San Diego’s Mission Style Santa Fe Depot, opened in 1915.

Adirondack Route
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Want to Learn More?

Amtrak, the federally operated passenger rail carrier, operates an amazing website called The Great American Stations. You can find histories and photos of every single Amtrak station in the U.S., as well as information about new public transit projects and resources for train station preservationists.