Day 3 of our train journey home. After leaving Union Station in D.C. last night and traveling throughout the Eastern U.S. and Midwest during snow much of the day and evening we arrived mid-day at Chicago Union Station....several hours late due to snow and ice delays.
Riding through Ohio and Indiana reminded me of days long past and of growing up on our South Dakota farm. Majestic barns and farm houses and never ending fields of corn as far as the eye could see. Farm country gave way to the industrial corridor along Lake Michigan with it's massive steel mills and other factories....many of which have seen better days.
Arriving around mid-day we caught a glimpse of the stunning Chicago skyline, albeit blurred by the gray wintery day. Arriving at Chicago Union Station, we marveled at the shear size of the station. Located in the downtown West Loop neighborhood, near the Chicago River, Union Station is one of Chicago's most iconic structures. Opened in 1925, it was designed by the same master designer who designed Washington Union Station. Amtrak's flagship station in the Midwest, it occupies an entire city block. You might ask why many train stations are named "union stations". A union station (also known as a union terminal and, in Europe, a joint station) is a railway station at which the tracks and facilities are shared by two or more separate railway companies, allowing passengers to connect conveniently between them. The term 'union station' is used in North America and 'joint station' is used in Europe. Union Station in Chicago was built through a partnership among four railroads: the Pennsylvania Railroad; Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad; Michigan Central Railroad; and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, thus the name Chicago Union Station. Today the station is owned by Amtrak.
Chicago Union Station is the nation’s 3rd-busiest station overall, and it is Amtrak’s 4th busiest. More than 3 million Amtrak customers use the station annually and it serves as the major hub of all passenger trains heading to the Western U.S. As pictured above, it features massive Corinthian columns, marble floors, a Great Hall, wide porticos and large colonnades. One has to marvel at the Great Hall, the main waiting room, with its 110-foot-high atrium capped by a large barrel-vaulted skylight. The 24,000-square-foot room has connecting lobbies, staircases and balconies and enormous wooden benches are arranged for travelers.
The station has been featured in many movies and you may recall the grand staircase where an unforgettable scene in The Untouchables was filmed in 1987. Remember the baby carriage rambling down the stairs? It's all still there with Claudia is standing at the foot of the staircase. Another tidbit....the name “Chicago” derives from a word in the language spoken by the Miami and Illinois native peoples meaning “striped skunk”.
Tonight we are traveling through Wisconsin and Minnesota and as we passed through Milwaukee I caught a glimpse of a lone skyscraper, the former First Wisconsin Bank Center, where I started my business career working for Arthur Andersen. We spent 6 wonderful years in Milwaukee and riding through this afternoon brought back fond memories of the city's diverse ethnic neighborhoods, great German food, Pabst, Miller and Schultz breweries, Milwaukee Brewer baseball games, the Packers, Friday night perch fish fry's, Summerfest on the shores of Lake Michigan and the birth of our son and daughter. Lastly a beautiful sunset in the rolling hills of Wisconsin farm country.