All aboard for railroad’s Golden Age

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

The old Union Depot went out with a wild party in the fall of 1914, when the new Union Station on Pershing Road opened for business.

The heyday of Union Avenue had come to a close; the old depot built in the late 1870s had seen its last flood and its last train. After the great floods of 1903 and 1908 that had inundated the depot in close to 10 feet of water each time, city fathers began the process of moving the depot to higher ground.

A site along the OK Creek gully near Gillham Road and 24th Street was chosen, and soon after construction began on what is now Union Station. According to this Valentine Souvenir postcard published in 1916, “The heart of the new Union Station is the Grand Lobby. Built in the form of a “T,” of which the grand lobby forms the cross piece and the North waiting room the stem. Surrounding the lobby are all the public conveniences such as the waiting rooms, post office, telephone and telegraph booths, book store, drug store, smoking rooms and a barber shop. The grand lobby has an area of 22,060 square feet.

The old Union Depot building from the West Bottoms could be placed in the space occupied by the grand lobby and main waiting room alone.” The semi-circular structure jutting out onto the lobby floor is the ticket office, where rail line representatives booked passage on everything from standard train seats to berths for families in the popular Pullman sleeper cars.

A maze of tunnels lies underneath the station and were used for shipping of mail to and from the (former) main post office on Pershing Road. The main post office is now housed inside Union Station, which remains one of Kansas City’s grand façades and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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