Union Station: Denver, Colorado

admin October 18, 2010 0

This historic train station opened in 1881.  It was the first train station constructed in 1868 to serve the new Denver Pacific Railway.  It connected Denver to the main transcontinental line at Cheyenne, Wyoming. The city was so anxious to have its own railroad connection to the transcontinental line that the city organized its own Board of Trade and announced it decision to build its own “home town” railroad.  This marked Denver’s place in transportation history.

There was one station for the Denver Pacific and as additional railroads came in, they built their own station.   By 1875, there were four different railroad stations.  This was making passenger transfers between different railroad lines inconvenient.   To help solve this problem the Union Pacific Railroad proposed creating one central Union Station to combine the various operations.

In February 1880, the owners of The Union Pacific, The Denver and Rio Grande Western, The Denver South Park and Pacific and the Colorado Central agreed to build one station.  The station opened in May 1881.  In 1884, a fire destroyed the central portion of the station.  A larger replacement was built in the Romanesque style.  Both the 1881 and 1884 depots have a tall central clock tower that has four clock faces.

In 1912, the Denver Terminal Railway Company replaced the original Union Depot partnership.  The new partnership decided to demolish and rebuild the central portion of the station.  This was rebuilt to handle the increasing passenger traffic.  The new central portion was built in the Beaux-Arts style.  It opened in 1914.

During the earlier years, eighty daily trains served the station.  They were operated by six different railroads.  At the formation of Amtrak, most of this was terminated.  Amtrak operates only one train daily between Chicago and the Bay Area routed through Denver.  Once a year they run the Cheyenne Frontier Days train for the Frontier Days Rodeo event.  The train is usually pulled by the Union Pacific’s steam locomotive 844.  It was the last steam locomotive built for the Union Pacific.

Under the private/public consortium, the station and the surrounding 19.5 acres will soon be the hub of Denver’s new FasTracks rail network.  They are going to redevelop the station into a transit-oriented retail, office, and residential complex.  They are planning to make Union Station, now called Denver Station, the heartbeat of activity in the city.

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