MILLIONS SPENT ON RAILROAD STATIONS (Feb, 1909)

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MILLIONS SPENT ON RAILROAD STATIONS

By SAMUEL O. DUNN

Western Editorial Manager. Railroad Age Gazette

THE typical American railroad passenger station of the past has been a building so dingy, so ugly and so ill-arranged that travelers wished to see as little of it as practicable and to get through it as quickly as possible. Justification for this statement is found in such representative large structures as the Union depots in Chicago and Kansas City, and in many smaller depots in cities and towns in every part of the country. The typical passenger station of the future will be a building rivalling or surpassing in sanitariness, convenience and beauty any other structure in the community. The ground for this prediction is the many well arranged and handsome structures that have been built in towns and cities all over the country within the past few years, and especially three magnificent depots that recently have been or are now being built in the nation’s greatest railroad and commercial center, its capital and its financial center and metropolis.

The Chicago & Northwestern is spending $20,000,000 on a new passenger station and terminals at Chicago. The Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania last year finished at a cost of $31,000,000 a new Union station and terminals at Washington, D. C. The Pennsylvania is spending $90,000,000 in extending its rails under and into Manhattan Island and is erecting a new passenger station in the heart of New York City.

These great projects are parts of a widespread movement that promises to make the railroads leaders instead of laggards in improving American architecture.

The methods that are being used to make the new stations adequate, sanitary, convenient and beautiful are illustrated by what was done by the Chicago & Northwestern before work was begun on the plans for its Chicago station. The architects, Messrs. Frost & Granger, of Chicago, were sent to London, Liverpool, Paris, Vienna, and Edinburgh, to study the principal railway terminals in Europe. They sought not merely for ideas for making the proposed station handsome, but for suggestions for making it serve in every way the needs and comfort of those using it. The size of their task will be realized when it is stated that the new station is designed to accommodate 250,000 passengers per day. The present Wells street station of the Northwestern in Chicago is used by but 50,000 persons daily; yet in number of passengers handled it is exceeded in this country by only one depot, the South Station in Boston.

To handle well so many people, a very large structure is needed. The approaches to the new Northwestern station will occupy thirty acres. Thirteen acres will be occupied by the station and tracks between Kinzie street on the north, Madison on the south, Clinton on the west, and Canal on the east.- The area of the basement of the station will be over two acres; of the street floor, one and three-fourths acres; and of the train shed, six acres. In all, there will be ten acres of floor space. There will be seven public entrances; and if the stairways were laid side by side they would make steps 100 feet broad. On each of the two approaches there will be four elevated tracks. The trainshed will be 840 feet long and 320 feet wide. It will con- tain sixteen tracks, and each track will hold fifteen cars. The trainshed will therefore have a total capacity of 240 cars, in which almost 15,000 people could be comfortably seated at one time. About 330 passenger trains now use the Wells street station of the Northwestern daily, or one every four minutes. This one road has more passenger trains in and out of Chicago daily than all of the trunk lines that use the St. Louis union station. The Northwestern’s new station will have a capacity of 1,600 trains daily, or more than one every minute. The Northwestern is anticipating the future on a grand scale.

The principal feature of the main entrance of the station on Madison street, will be a colonnaded portico that will rise 150 feet above the street. In front of this will be a broad esplanade supporting the granite columns that will guard the vestibule. The esplanade will be lighted by clusters of electric lights on large bronze lamp standards. Four clocks, each twelve feet in diameter, will look down from the walls. The trainshed, which will stretch over three blocks, will present a very different exterior from most such structures, for its roof will be hidden by a curtain-wall of brick and granite, rising forty-eight feet high.

The walls of the building will be of light gray granite, the interior finish of marble, and the floors of marble or marble tile.

To understand the architecture of the station it must be borne in mind that it is to be merely a station, there being no offices in it, as there are in the LaSalle station in Chicago, in the Union station at Pittsburg, and as there will be in the Pennsylvania’s great station in New York, and that there are three levels, the street or first floor level, the trainshed or main floor level, and the third floor level.

The main feature of the street level is the concourse, which will be reached directly through the Madison street entrance, and will be 160 by 250 feet. It will be surrounded by ticket offices, cab stands, telegraph and telephone facilities, etc. There will also be a lunch room 50 by 90 feet, and a big store in which the traveler can buy anything he needs. There will be another large concourse reaching from Canal to Clinton streets for suburban passengers. The cab and automobile stands will adjoin the suburban concourse; and passengers will be able to leave the station under cover by cab, automobile or street car.

There will also be on the street level a large space devoted to the use of immigrants. With a clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated building, having tiled floors and enameled tile walls, with bath, toilet and dining rooms, and a kitchen and laundry tubs where service will be given for small sums, it is claimed the conveniences afforded immigrants will be better than ever before were provided for them in a railroad station.

The structure crosses Washington street over a subway. This will have portals of granite and arches treated in the. monumental style of architecture, and will be lined with white enameled tile and brilliantly lighted with electricity. Washington street will be widened at this place from 80 to 120 feet, and the arched walls of the subway will form a handsome passageway.

On the main floor, or trainshed level, there will be a marble lined waiting room, 100 by 200 feet in area, and 80 feet high, and having a noble barrel- vaulted ceiling. The walls will be colonnaded like the main entrance. On this floor there also will be a large dining room, the walls of which will be a series of panels decorated with mural paintings depicting the history of the Northwest. It is stated that the service given will equal that of the best clubs and hotels. There will be a special waiting room for women reached by separate elevators and provided with bath and retiring rooms and a corps of maids and attendants.

The trainshed concourse, instead of being, as is usual, an open space fenced from the trainshed by wire or open iron work, will be completely enclosed with glass and metal. It will be 60 by 318 feet. At either end stairways will lead direct to cab stands and to the street, so that passengers can get to and from trains without going through the station. The curve of the roof over each pair of tracks will be broken by a duct running the length of each track and so placed that the locomotive funnels will discharge into the air.

One of the novel features of the station will be the third floor. This can be reached by private elevators, and will’ contain a series of rooms where sick persons or others seeking privacy can go and rest, bathe, change their clothes, have tea, or, in the “emergency” rooms, get prompt medical attention and nursing such as usually can be got only at a hospital. On the same floor will be baths, barber shops and a lounging room for men-. It is Expected this third floor will be found especially convenient by the Northwestern’s thousands of suburban patrons who often have occasion to make their toilettes and change their clothes while down town to go to the theaters, etc.

There are six passenger terminals in Chicago, used by a total of twenty-four trunk lines. This arrangement is very inconvenient for through travelers. Four years ago, and again two years ago, Mr. Frederick A. Delano, the far-seeing and public spirited president of the Wabash Railroad, suggested the grouping of these six groups of railroads in a row of six stations on Twelfth Street, five of them between the Chicago River and State Street, and one just west of the river. His plan contemplated bringing in the passenger tracks twenty feet above the level of the present surface and slightly above the viaduct level, utilizing the entire space beneath them from Twelfth to Fourteenth streets, and from State to the river, and, if needed, west of the river, for handling, on the present ground level, baggage, express, mail and less-than-carload freight. He estimated that, exclusive of the land, $75,000,000 would cover the cost of carrying out this plan. Such a grouping of stations was made improbable when the Lake Shore and Rock Island built the La Salle station, and it will be rendered a very remote possibility by the construction of the Northwestern’s station.

The Northwestern has adapted its plans to the needs of its peculiar business in Chicago. Of the 330 passenger trains that daily use its present station, 220 are suburban trains. The requirements of thousands of suburban patrons as well as of thousands of through passengers had to be met.

The Pennsylvania and Baltimore & Ohio, which jointly built the magnificent Union station at Washington, D. C., into which the Baltimore & Ohio ran the first train on October 27, 1907, had a problem to solve very different from that of the Northwestern at Chicago. The amount of suburban business at Washington is relatively small. Provision had to be made for a large amount of through business every year; for the occasional handling of immense throngs of persons attracted to the capital by the inaugurations of the presidents and vice-presidents of the United States; and for the convenience of the President and other distinguished travelers to whom it was thought proper to extend special courtesies. A station has been built which meets these requirements, and which in architectural appropriateness and beauty takes rank among the finest public and private buildings of a city noted throughout the world for the suitableness and elegance of its architecture.

The first steps toward the building of the Washington station were taken by a committee of the United States Senate, headed by Senator Benton McMillan. It employed a commission of distinguished architects, composed of Daniel H. Burn-ham, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., Augustus St. Gaudens and Charles Mc-Kim, who visited European cities, and also made a very complete study of the District of Columbia, and of the papers of Major L’Enfant, the French engineer, who made the first plans for the national capital for President Washington. They came to the conclusion that L’Enfant’s original layout ought to be conformed to, and that to do this the Pennsylvania Railroad would have to abandon its station and tracks across “The Mall.” “The president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, A. J. Cassatt,” stated Senator McMillan, “looked at the matter from the standpoint of an American citizen, saying that he appreciated the fact that if Congress intended to make The Mall what the founder intended it to be, no railroad should be allowed to cross it.”

The Washington station and terminals were built by the Washington Terminal Company, owned jointly by the Baltimore & Ohio, the oldest railroad in this country, and the Pennsylvania Railroad, considered by many the greatest railroad in the world. Of the $31,030,000 spent on them, Congress appropriated $3,000,-000. While they are owned jointly by the roads named, they are used also by all the other roads entering Washington, viz., the Philadelphia, Washington & Baltimore, the Southern, the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Atlantic Coast Line, and the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac.

The station is at an elevation sixty feet above high tide. It is on a gently-sloping plaza, and faces the Capitol and the new Senate office building, being but a few minutes’ walk from either. Its site was low, and a fill of 380,500 cubic yards had to be made before construction. The building is of white Vermont granite, and is 633 feet long and 211 feet wide. Its height varies from 65 feet, at the east and west wings, to 120 feet.

The main entrance is through three graceful arches each 50 feet high. The general waiting room is 220 feet by 130 feet, and has a ceiling 120 feet high which is decorated with sunken panels. Light is supplied to this room through a circular window at each end having a diameter of seventy-five feet, and by five semicircular windows at each end thirty feet in diameter.

The main dining room, which is to the east of the general waiting room, has 6,456 square feet of floor space. It is decorated with marble columns and mural decorations and is the largest and finest banquet hall in the national capital. One thousand persons can sit at its tables.

In the east wing of the building is the state reception suite and the President’s room. The state suite is for the exclusive use of the President of the United States, foreign diplomats and official parties. It is a new departure in railroad station architecture in this country, although similar provision is made for royalty in the large railroad stations in Europe. The reception room of this suite contains 2,130 square feet’, and persons using it can leave or reach their trains without coining in contact with the public.

Another novel feature of the station is a mortuary. chapel for the use of funeral parties awaiting trains. Funeral parties can reach and leave it without coming in contact with other passengers. Still another novel feature is a branch police station with ample detention room.

The passenger concourse extends the entire length of the north side of the station. It is longer than the Capitol, and is the largest room under a single roof in the world, having an area of 97,500 square feet, as compared with 75,200 in the Grand Central station, New York, 58,528 in the concourse of the new station that the Pennsylvania is building in New York, and 25,000 in the concourse of the Northwestern’s proposed new station in Chicago. Almost the entire regular army of the United States could wait in it at one time. This big concourse will be found very useful in handling Inauguration Day crowds. The Pennsylvania in New York and the Northwestern in Chicago do not need to provide such big concourses because so large a part of their passengers will always be suburban dwellers who rush directly through the station to their trains.

Connected with the concourse is the trainshed containing thirty-three passenger tracks. These tracks are 1,200 feet long, and at busy times sixty-six trains can be run upon them. At present 206 trains use the station daily, handling about 25,000 passengers.

The woodwork of the station is solid mahogany. The ornamental iron work, both inside and outside, is of the finest workmanship and quality. Instead of being moulded in sand, as is usual, it was moulded in plaster, which gives a smoother surface and brings out better the decorative features.

The trainshed is divided into “Y” shaped sections, one over each track, and each section having a gutter running through it. By this arrangement smoke and gases from the locomotives are carried at once into the open air.

The Baltimore & Ohio had charge of the construction of the station proper, express building, various shop buildings, power house and engine houses, and the north approach. The Pennsylvania built the tunnel under Capitol Hill, the Plaza, and what is known as the “Magruder” connection.

In order that it may be enabled to land passengers and freight in Manhattan Island the Pennsylvania Railroad is performing one of the most extraordinary and expensive engineering feats in the railroad history of the world. As this article relates only to passenger stations, only facts will be given that relate to the passenger phase of the Pennsylvania’s great enterprise.

Manhattan Island is the most densely populated place in the world. It contains 99,000 people per square mile. London has but 38,000 per square mile; Brooklyn, 18,000; Baltimore, 17,000; Boston, 14,000; St. Louis, 12,000; Chicago, 11,000. Within a radius of nineteen miles of the City hall, Manhattan, there are 6,000,000 people. For the use of the many persons who wish to get on Manhattan Island every day, and for the use of the many who wish to get off the island every day, there is but one railroad station. The Grand Central Station at Forty-second Street and Fourth Avenue, which is used by the New York Central, and the New York, New Haven and Hartford, is the only passenger station on Manhattan Island. The rails of the Pennsylvania Railroad terminate in Jersey City, N. J., on the west bank of the Hudson river. Persons using its lines to reach or leave Manhattan from or to the west or south must cross the Hudson by ferry. The Pennsylvania owns the Long Island Railroad on Long Island. Passengers using this line have to cross the East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan by ferry. The Pennsylvania’s situation, of course, is not peculiar. Passengers going over most lines to New York City have to cross the Hudson or the East River by boat to get to Manhattan Island. The total number of persons ferried across the Hudson is now about 150,000,000 annually. The total number ferried across the East River is 100,000,000 annually, and the railways on the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges carry 200,000,000 more. So the total number who annually enter and leave Manhattan Island by ferry or rail is about a half billion. This is the number of through and suburban passengers from which a railroad reaching Manhattan Island from both east and west can expect to draw passenger business each year.

The Pennsylvania long wished to extend its lines to Manhattan Island. It thought it was not getting its share of the business, although its ferries are now carrying about 35,000,000 persons across the Hudson annually, or 95,000 per day. It tried vainly to induce other roads to join with it in tunneling under the Hudson. It decided at last that the time was ripe for the work, and that it alone would undertake not only to reach Manhattan from New Jersey but also from Long Island, via the Long Island Railroad.

Pursuant to this decision, it is building a line that starts in a tunnel under the Hudson River on the state line between New Jersey and New York, runs eastwardly through and under Manhattan borough, and will enter a great new passenger station in New York City proper, bounded by Thirty-first and Thirty-third streets and Seventh and Eighth avenues. From here the line will run under Man- hattan Island, East River and Long Island City, rising to the surface at Sunnyside yard, in this place. Thirteen miles of new line are being built, seven and a half miles in the open, five and a half miles in tunnels. There are twin tunnels under Bergen Hill, West Hoboken, Weehawken, becoming two single track iron tube tunnels as they pass under the Hudson into New York City. After the tracks emerge from the tunnel at Tenth Avenue, they begin gradually to increase in number until twenty-one tracks enter the passenger station. At the station there are twenty-eight acres enclosed by retaining walls, making 7,800 feet of such walls. Easterly from Seventh avenue the tracks are merged into four tracks in twin tunnels, and later in four single track iron tube tunnels extending under the East River and into Long Island. The tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers were bored through some time ago, and work is now going forward rapidly on the passenger station.

The size of the business that it is expected to handle through this new station from the start is larger than the business now handled at any station in the United States. From the beginning the Penn- sylvania Railroad will use it for 400 trains per day and the Long Island Railroad for 600 trains per day, or an average for both of forty-two trains per hour. These trains can easily handle 135,000 people per day. The maximum capacity of the tunnels will be 144 trains per hour, or 3,456 per day. When it is considered that the Northwestern is handling 50,000 passengers in and out of its Wells Street station in Chicago daily with 330 through and suburban passenger trains some adequate idea of the capacity of the New York terminals and station of the Pennsylvania will be formed.

The station will be at the center of the shopping and theater districts of Manhattan. The frontage on the Seventh and Eighth avenues will be 433 feet and on Thirty-first and Thirty-third streets 774 feet. Like the Northwestern station in Chicago, the Pennsylvania station is being built upon three levels; unlike the Northwestern station, the lowest level will be the track level, which will be forty feet below the streets.

Above the street level, the building rises to a height of seventy feet, except in the center, where the walls of the general waiting room rise 153 feet. The architectural design of the entire exterior is a Doric colonnade, thirty-five feet high, surmounted by a low attic. The exterior is of pink Milford granite. The baths of the Emperor Caracalla, still magnificent in their ruins, suggested this design; and in architecture, as well as in dimensions, the station will recall the ancient Roman baths more forcibly than any other building in this country. The structure will look low among its skyscraper neighbors, but its extent will make it impressive. The fact that the tracks, as already stated, are forty feet below the street, and that, therefore, there will be no high arched” trainshed, will make the structure look different from all other railroad stations.

The main entrance, which is for foot passengers only, is in the center of the building on Seventh Avenue. From the street to the stairway to the main waiting entrance there is a facade 225 feet long and 45 feet wide that is to be flanked with shops whose wares will be especially adapted to the needs of travelers.

At the corners of Thirty-first and Thirty-third streets and Seventh avenue are open pavilions to furnish entrances for carriages, which descend by a slight gradient about twenty feet to the main station level. Besides the main entrances there are other entrances on all sides of the building.

The general waiting room, which is the central section of the plan, is the largest room of its kind in the world, being 110 by 320 feet. Adjoining it on the west are two waiting rooms, 58 by 100 feet, for men and women, respectively. Connecting with the main waiting room is the concourse, which, with the adjacent area leading to the tracks, makes a court yard 210 feet by 340 feet, roofed by a lofty trainshed of iron and glass. Stairs descend from the concourse to the tracks.

The northern side of the building, extending along Thirty-third Street, will be assigned to the suburban service of the Long Island Railroad.

The length of the platforms adjacent to passenger tracks will be 21,500 feet. The number of columns supporting the station is 650. The number of buildings removed on the terminal area was approximately 500. The total excavation required was 3.000,000 cubic yards. The weight of the street bridging steel used is 23,500 tons; of the station building steel, 25,000 tons. There will be 1,000,000 square feet of solid masonry floors in the station; and more than 600,000 square feet of hollow terra cotta blocks will be used for partitions and for covering steel columns. These additional facts will help to convey an idea of the magnitude of the work which the Pennsylvania is doing.

Another large passenger station that will soon be in course of erection is the proposed new Union passenger station at Kansas City, Mo. The original purpose was to spend $29,000,000 upon the new station and terminals there, which are to be built jointly by ten, and used by thirteen, railroads. Owing to the panic and business depression the initial expenditure has been cut to $15,000,000 The plans, which are being drawn by Jarvis Hunt, of Chicago, have not been made public, but the new station is sure to rank among the handsomest and most complete in the country.

The movement for more attractive and convenient passenger stations did not begin with those that have been mentioned. The South station at Boston, which together with the terminals connected with it, was finished in 1899, at a cost of $40,000,000, and which is used daily by more passengers than any other station in this country, is a splendid piece of station architecture. So is the great Union station at St. Louis, which was built at about the same time. The Union station of the Pennsylvania system at Pittsburg, and the LaSalle Street station of the Lake Shore and Rock Island roads in Chicago, although also office buildings, are high class depots. The station of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, at Omaha, although comparatively small, is a fine example of the best contemporary railroad architecture.

Such structures as these show that the railroads are awakening to a sense of their civic duty, not only to afford people places to get on and off their trains, but also to do what they can to subserve the public convenience and improve the public taste.

2 comments
  1. Stephen says: January 17, 20136:44 am

    Now grand stations are more and more out of favour. The (in)famous terminal in Detroit seems to be too late to be in this article, but Burlington Station in Omaha (page 5) has been shamefully treated, stripped of its fittings and left to decay.
    http://en.wikipedia.org…

  2. Toronto says: January 17, 20138:34 am

    Toronto’s Union Station is still quite grand, although the majority of the 200,000 people that go through it each day never see the Grand Hall (the GO Train commuter service and the TTC subway are both in the basement.)

    The station was built between 1914 and 1920, but didn’t open until 1927. In between, it was often rented out as a ballroom.

    (There was a war, a depression, and one of the railroads in the “union” went bust, adding to the delays. )

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