Union Station Revisited

Opening in 1911 with additional floors added in 1912.

Entering Minute Maid Park from the Union Station “Great Hall” door on Opening Day of the 2011 baseball season, an old friend of deep orange attachment to the ball club’s early history stopped to ask me which way the tracks ran when this historic place lived its life as a train station. He didn’t ask it quite that way, but that is the way I heard his question. I told him the answer, but in so doing, it also told me that it was time again to do a little Pecan Park Eagle spotlight on the history of this hallowed ground.

First, let me say this much. There are numerous article sites on the history of Union Station available over the Internet. Just do a search with the words “Union Station Houston” and watch what happens. The output from there is absolutely delicious.

Union Stationed opened in 1911. A year later, a 1912 continuation of the work added several stories to the structure. The building was designed by architects Warren & Wetmore at a cost of five million dollars. Upon completion, Union Station became the largest passenger rail terminal in the Southwest. In addition to rail connection to all parts of the country, Union Station served for years as Houston’s base for electric interurban rail service to various mass transit points in Houston and to Galveston. In 1928, with the opening of Buff Stadium four miles  east of downtown, Union Station was a primary departure pint for baseball fans heading for games after work from downtown on the Galveston Interurban line that ran by the new venue.

Tracks ran east-west from the Great Hall of Union Station.

From a point of view that basically corresponds to looking at the ballpark today from across the street on Texas Avenue from the Home Plate restaurant of 2011, the street-side tracks coming into Union Station are quite obvious. I can neither remember exactly how many there were, nor can I find the information online quickly, but I think there were about four to six parallel track sets, stretching parallel on the entire north-south width of the building as you see it here, and extending about as deep as the current third base line for the deepest interior set of incoming rails.

All I recall as a little kid was going there to pick up “Papa” (my grandfather) on his trips to Houston for visits from San Antonio – and looking around at what then seemed like an endless run of railroad tracks and trains coming and going from the station. It was a loud, bell-clanging place too.

For those who have never seen it, this 1999 article by Tom Marsh on the rediscovery of Union Station’s Great Hall is worth the read and photo review.

http://www.kingswayrc.com/gcst/union/union.htm

The thought that never leaves me is the juxtaposition of time and space effect generated by the conversion of Union Station from its grave as Houston’s once early 20th century center of transportation into the city’s hub of 21st century major league baseball. Think about it for a moment or two or more. – Forget the time differential for now:

Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean, Ducky Medwick, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, and Roy Oswalt, at first one time and then another, now and then, all traveled this same ground with fairly identical goals in mind – to play baseball in the City of Houston – and that’s to say nothing of the fact that FDR, Judy Garland, and Ronald Reagan also all could have been there too – just to watch the game – were it not for the fact that most were not traveling by the same ticks on the clock.

Enough said. Union Station is hallowed ground in a Houston history that has now been both preserved and extended by the ongoing presence of Minute Maid Park and the Houston Astros. Think about that one the next time you go downtown to see a game. It makes the trip even more fun and worthwhile.

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5 Responses to “Union Station Revisited”

  1. larry joe miggns Says:

    As much as I like Minute Maid as a ballpark, it would have been better served as the hub for metro rail with lines that went to Galveston, out 59 to Westpark and down the Katy freeway. Two blocks over from the Harrisburg new railline is and old rail line that is now a hike and bilke trail. Instead of tearing up Harrisburg they could have used it for the rail line. Next time you are in rush hour traffic on I-10, 290 or 59 glance over at what used to be railroad tracks that ran parallel to these freeways and think of what could have been had those in power had not been more interested in making more power and money for themselves not to mention the incredible impact on our environment as cars stand idling on the freeways. I went out 290 the other day in the HOV lane and passes 15.7 miles of backup traffic until it finally cleared way outside the beltway. I think back to the glory days of Houston when we had leaders ,” of the people and for the people” and think of what could have been. guys like Jesse H Jones. Jesse built much of Houston’s landmarks including the San Jacinto monument and he refused to let tham put a cornerstone on it as to not take away for the real heroes that it was built for. By the way the re-enactment is this Saturday at the monument and it still only takes 14 1/2 minutes to win freedom for TEXAS. God Bless leaders like Sam Houston, Jesse H Jones and GOD BLESS TEXAS!

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      God Bless America. God Bless Texas. God Bless Sam Houston, God Bless Dick Dowling. God Bless Lightnin’ Hopkins. God Bless the City of Houston. God Bless Jesse Jones. God Bless Jimmy Wynn. God Bless Allen Russell, Jerry Witte, Larry Miggins, Solly Hemus, Frank Mancuso, Bob Boyd, and the Houston Buffs. God Bless the Witte and the Mancuso families. God Bless the whole beautifully Irish-Texan Miggins Family. God Bless the Houston Astros and the baseball season. And God Bless San Jacinto Day. – And if I left anybody out, God Bless you too.

  2. Bob Green Says:

    my last train ride was from old Union was 1935
    greenz

  3. David Munger Says:

    ……..And also with YOU Bill, Good Night “John Boy”……LOL…….

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