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Union Station is a Chicagomarker 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 Rivermarker 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 (only its impressive head house is not). 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.


The first Union Station soon after opening
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 Rivermarker.

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 Stationmarker, but instead built the Chicago and North Western Passenger Terminalmarker in 1911. The other four companies went on to use the station when it opened in 1881.

Planned appearance of the second Union Station
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.
The Great Hall
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, with greatly reduced traffic, the concourse at Union Station was demolished, in anticipation of the station's general destruction. However, its continued usefulness prevented this, and a new, modernized concourse was constructed. In 1992, Union Station was renovated by Lucien Lagrange Associates. Union Station currently serves all Amtrak intercity train 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: , 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 Terminalmarker and Penn Stationmarker in New Yorkmarker, 30th Street Stationmarker in Philadelphiamarker, and Union Stationmarker in Los Angelesmarker, Union Station does not have any direct connection to local rapid transit service: the Chicago Transit Authority's 'L' system does not stop at Union Station (one must walk approximately 1 block south of the station to board the blue line CTA train at Clinton). 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:

Airport connections

Riders may easily connect to either O'Hare International Airportmarker, General Mitchell International Airport marker, and Midway International Airportmarker, using nearby CTA stations. For O'Hare, riders should walk to the any of the nearby Loop stations and ride to Clark & Lake for a connection to the Blue line, which operates 24 hours a day (alternately, the Blue Line's Dearborn Street stops are a few blocks away from several of Union Station's entrances, or the Clinton/Congress station is two blocks southwest of the station). In addition, the Metra North Central Service also offers 11 trains daily directly from Union Station to O'Hare Transfer station where passengers may connect with the Airport Transportation System serving all terminals. For Mitchell (Milwaukee), riders can take the Hiawatha Amtrak route which runs directly to the Milwaukee Airport 7 times a day. For Midway, riders should walk to the Quincy/Wells CTA station and ride the Orange line.

Bus & Rail Connections

CTA Brown, Orange, Pink, and Purple Lines
  • Quincymarker (3 Blocks east of Station)

CTA Blue Line

CTA Buses
  • #1 Indiana/Hyde Park * #7 Harrison * #14 Jeffery Express (Madison Entrance) * #19 United Center Express (Madison Entrance) * #20 Madison (Madison Entrance) (Owl Service) * #X20 Madison Express (Madison Entrance) * #X28 Stony Island Express * #56 Milwaukee * #60 Blue Island/26th (Owl Service) * #120 Ogilvie/Wacker Express (Madison Entrance) * #121 Union/Wacker Express * #122 /Illinois Center/Ogilvie Express (Madison Entrance) * #123 Illinois Center/Union Express * #124 Navy Pier * #125 Water Tower Express * #126 Jackson * #128 Soldier Field Express (Game Day Only) * #129 West Loop/South Loop * #130 Museum Campus (Summer Service Only) * #151 Sheridan (Owl Service) * #156 LaSalle * #157 Streeterville/Taylor * #192 University of Chicago Hospitals Express

  • M1, M2, M3, M5, M6, M7


The concourse has an unusual layout: it is a double stub end station, with tracks coming in to platform from both the north and south, but (except for one at the east end) not connecting. Passengers can therefore walk down the middle of the station to get from any platform to any other without stairs or elevators. The northern platforms are used for Amtrak services to Milwaukee and Seattle and the Metra Milwaukee District West, Milwaukee District North and North Central Service lines; the southern platforms are used for the rest of the services. On the upper concourse of the building, a food court can be found. Local flairs are found here, as well as bigger national chains.

See also

Major trains that served Union Station prior to Amtrak

Burlington Route

Chicago and Alton/Gulf, Mobile and Ohio

Milwaukee Road

  • The Admiral
  • Broadway Limited
  • Cincinnati Daylight Express
  • The Fort Pitt
  • Pennsylvania Limited
  • Pennsylvanian

Some of these trains and their names have survived to present Amtrak services, such as the Empire Builder,the California Zephyr, and the Hiawatha.

The name Ann Rutledge was used by Amtrak as a Chicago -- St. Louis -- Kansas City route until a name and service consolidation in 2009. There is also a Lincoln Service that runs in Illinois. See also: Ann Rutledge; Illinois Service; Missouri Service.


  1. On the Bi-Level, June 2006; October 2007.
  2. Filming locations for The Untouchables (1987),

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