WASHINGTON – Amtrak, joined by the District of Columbia DOT, Union Station Redevelopment Corporation and Ashkenazy Acquisitions, is hosting the Washington Union Station Centennial Celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 4 and from noon to 4 p.m. on Oct. 5.
The event will honor this landmark train station’s role in shaping the city over the last century while celebrating the 20-year anniversary of its historic redevelopment in 1988. The Centennial Celebration includes an open house featuring an expansive display of historic locomotives, private rail cars and current Amtrak equipment, as well as memorabilia exhibits and drawings for free Amtrak trips.
For the past century, Washington Union Station has stood as a symbol of the importance of transportation in the nation’s capital. The original construction took four years to complete and included 34 platforms and 60 miles of track. While the first train actually arrived at Union Station from Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 1907, the official opening did not occur for nearly a year.
When the station, designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham, first opened, six railroads brought passengers to Washington.
World War I and World War II troops destined for overseas service passed through the station, stopping at the USO Lounge, on their way to war. It hosted presidents and royalty and housed a bowling alley and a hotel. President Taft first used the Presidential Suite, and President Truman traveled by charter train from Union Station to Philadelphia for the 1951 Army-Navy football game. At the height of rail travel during World War II, 100,000 people passed through the station daily.
After falling into disrepair in the late 1970s, Congress called upon then-Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole who worked with then Amtrak president, W. Graham Claytor, Jr., to develop a plan to restore the station to its former glory.
Through a public/private partnership, the station was completely renovated and re-opened to much fanfare on September 29, 1988. Since that day Union Station has grown to become the most-visited destination in Washington, D.C., and has become a model for the re-development of historic train stations across the country.
Amtrak began operations at Union Station on May 1, 1971 and since that time the station has hosted Presidential Inaugurals and university graduations as well as the December 2000 launch of America’s first high-speed train, Acela Express. More than 32 million visitors pass through the station every year including shoppers and diners as well as subway and rail passengers, making it the most visited site in Washington, D.C.
Today, Union Station serves as the southern-most point for Amtrak’s most popular route, the Northeast Corridor between Washington, New York and Boston. Last year, 10 million passengers traveled along the Northeast Corridor on Amtrak. Four million of those passengers traveled to or from Washington through Union Station.
Amtrak operates 200 trains in and out of Union Station every weekday.