St. Paul Union Depot
214 E 4th St
Saint Paul, MN 55101 (map)

Original Union Depot

There actually have been two Union Depot train stations in St. Paul. The first was completed in 1881, and combined the services of several different railroads into one building. In 1888 the old train station had its peak year, handling eight million passengers. That year, about 150 trains departed daily. Around this time, the building was remodeled with a taller central tower and other alterations to the roofline.  The earlier train station burned in 1915.

More Historical Images of Original Union Depot

source: adapted from wikipedia

Current Union Depot

IMG_1656The current Saint Paul Union Depot was started in 1917, although it was not completed until 1923 because World War I caused construction to halt for several years.

During its heyday, the St. Paul depot had nine railroads operating, with more than 20 million pieces of mail passing through the train station to the neighboring Downtown Saint Paul Central Post Office annually. At its peak in the 1920s, there were 282 train movements daily. The concourse had 9 platforms serving 18 tracks; the eight northern ones closest to the headhouse were stub-end tracks, while the other ten ran through. However, track ownership and trackage rights west of the train station meant that most trains operated as though the station was a stub terminal. These trains, when they were intended to continue beyond the train station, would instead back up to a wye just to the east to get to other main lines.

However, train ridership began to quickly erode in the 1920s as the automobile took hold and airlines began to operate. The railroads sought ways stem the flow of passengers and compete with these new forms of transportation. The Great Northern Railway introduced the Empire Builder in 1929 as the railroad’s new premier train. As the Great Depression unfolded, more aggressive moves were required. The streamliner era in the United States began in 1934 with the introduction of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Zephyr. After making a “Dawn-to-Dusk Dash” from Chicago to Denver, Colorado, the CB&Q’s interest would soon turn to the Twin Cities. A demonstration run was completed in 6 hours and 4 minutes, including six one-minute stops. Other railroads were soon busy investigating how to run faster trains to Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

More Historical and Current Images

(source: adapted from wikipedia)