When we got married back in 1944,
We’d board that Silver Liner below Baltimore.
Trip to Virginia on a sunny honeymoon.
Nobody cares about the railroads any more.
Throughout the United States, passenger railroad stations are primarily relics of the past. There are parts of the U.S. where train service is still an active part of daily life, but it’s greatly diminished in scope from its heyday, replaced by automobiles and highways.
The old depots are scattered everywhere: in small towns and hidden within large cities. Some are derelict, others serving as local museums or community meeting rooms, and some converted into restaurants.
I’ve seen a lot of them, in every condition. A number of years ago, my crew and I ate at a nicely restored one on the edge of downtown Colorado Springs. A year ago, the Counselor and I had dinner at one in Roseburg, Oregon, now part of the McMenamins’ extensive hospitality empire in the American Northwest:
Dad and I ate dinner at The Alpine Restaurant in Georgetown, Colorado, a former depot built in 1877. Yes, it has train-themed food and decor:
I’ve written about several other locations that have old depots. I focused on the Carnegie Library in an old western town that is full of historical interest, Las Vegas, New Mexico. The 1899 station there, now nicely restored, still serves as the Amtrak passenger station and also houses the town’s visitor center.
I recently wrote about sand dune fields in the American West, including the Kelso Sand Dunes in the Mojave Desert of California. The Kelso station, built in 1923, was derelict when The Counselor and I visited many years ago, but has been restored since then and now serves as the main Visitor Center of the Mojave National Preserve.
I could go on at length: Durango and Silverton, Colorado; Santa Fe and Chama, New Mexico, and countless others in towns large, small or abandoned. Railroads were central to the development of America, and these old structures are ubiquitous.
Los Angeles is making a solid effort to revive light rail service in a city that virtually eliminated it during the transition from local light rail (the famous “Red Car”) to freeways.
You’re familiar with freeways?
Yes, we have a few here in L.A.
The city is making admirable progress to rebuilding a light rail infrastructure, with its hub at the wonderful 1939 Art Deco/Mission Revival/Streamline Moderne Union Station in downtown. I’ll get to that local icon in a future blog post.
There are other historic railroad terminals around the metropolis, and some, like today’s subject, still serve as passenger stations. North of downtown L.A. is the Glendale Transportation Center, originally named the Glendale Southern Pacific Railroad Depot
Glendale is a city of about 200,000 people, surrounded by the L.A. megalopolis. Built by the Southern Pacific Railroad to serve Glendale in 1923, the structure was rebuilt in 1999 as an “intermodal” center to provide a connection point for Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains, buses and LA’s light rail, Metrolink.
The architectural style is described as Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival.
The interior is clean and spare, still managing to convey a sense of what it was to pass through nearly 100 years ago.
Glendale is north of downtown LA. The map shows the depot at 400 West Cerritos Ave., circled in red. Downtown LA is in the lower left and Pasadena is in the upper right corner. The blue asterisk on the right indicates the location of the South Pasadena Carnegie Library I wrote about recently, just for reference.
We were in that part of town on an entirely different errand, but went just a few blocks out of our way to get a look at this historical gem, living our philosophy that interesting things are everywhere, if one simply makes a moderate effort to find them.
Do you have a favorite train station, old or new, operating or obsolete? Leave me a comment.
© Brad Nixon 2016. Georgetown photo courtesy Willard Nixon; Kelso photo courtesy M. Vincent, all rights reserved. Lyrics to “Nobody Cares About the Railroads Anymore” are the property of whatever publisher owns the work of Mr. Nilsson. Miss that guy.