Union Station is a Chicago train station that opened in 1925, replacing an earlier 1881 station, and is now the only intercity rail terminal in Chicago. Union Station was built on the west side of the Chicago River and stands between Adams Street and Jackson Street. It is, including approach and storage tracks, about nine and a half city blocks in size, and almost entirely beneath streets and skyscrapers. Since the station is underground, exhaust from the trains is a problem which is demonstrated by its dark ceilings. The Chicago Union Station Company, now a subsidiary of Amtrak, owns the station.
On April 7, 1874 the Pennsylvania Company (the owner of the Pennsylvania Railroad's "Lines West" territory), Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, Michigan Central Railroad, Chicago and Alton Railroad and Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway signed an agreement to build a union station on land owned by the Pennsylvania Company's Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway between Van Buren Street and Madison Street on the west side of the Chicago River.
The Michigan Central, which used the Illinois Central Railroad's Illinois Central Depot, would have switched to the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway at Tolleston, Indiana. However, it quickly decided to keep using the Illinois Central Depot. The Chicago and North Western Railway also considered switching to the new station from its Wells Street Station, but instead built the Chicago and North Western Passenger Terminal in 1911. The other four companies went on to use the station when it opened in 1881.
The second Union Station was built by the Chicago Union Station Company, owned by all the companies that used the first station but the Chicago and Alton (which used the new one anyway). The architect was Daniel Burnham of Chicago, who died before its completion. The firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White completed the work to Burnham's designs. Work began in 1913 and the station opened on May 16, 1925, though some construction on viaducts carrying streets over the approach tracks went on into 1927. Construction was delayed by World War I, labor shortages and strikes. It is one of about a dozen monumental Beaux-Arts railroad stations that were among the most complicated architectural programs of the era called the "American Renaissance", combining traditional architecture with engineering technology, circulation patterning and urban planning.
Upon its completion, Union Station was hailed as an outstanding achievement in railroad facility planning. Today, the monumental neoclassical station is the last remaining railroad terminal still used by intercity trains in Chicago. The station's ornate Beaux-Arts main waiting room, the "Great Hall", is one of the United States' great interior public spaces with its vaulted skylight, statuary, and connecting lobbies, staircases, and balconies. The Great Hall is over high. Enormous wooden benches are arranged in the room for travellers to wait for connections.
During World War II, Union Station was at its busiest, handling as many as 300 trains and 100,000 passengers daily. In 1969, the concourse at Union Station was demolished so that two office buildings and a new, modernized concourse could be constructed. In 1992, Union Station was renovated by Lucien Lagrange Associates. Union Station currently serves all Amtrak intercity trains to Chicago, as well as Metra commuter rail lines - the North Central Service, Milwaukee District/North Line, Milwaukee District/West Line, BNSF Railway Line, Heritage Corridor and SouthWest Service. Union Station remains a busy place: as of 2007, approximately 54,000 people use the station on a daily basis, including 6,000 Amtrak passengers.
Unlike other major American intercity/commuter rail hubs, such as Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station in New York, 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, and Union Station in Los Angeles, Union Station does not have any direct connection to local rapid transit service: the Chicago Transit Authority's El system does not stop at Union Station. However, Chicago's highly centralized urban form means that most commuters can walk to their final destinations.
Union Station served as a terminal for the following lines and intercity trains:
Chicago and Alton/Gulf, Mobile and Ohio