1901 – McMillion Commission
1903 – Construction Begins
Congress approved the union terminal site on the north side of Massachusetts Avenue, with D.H. Burnham & Co. as the building’s architects. Burnham and chief designer Peirce Anderson employed the elegant Beaux-Arts style and drew on Rome’s Baths of Diocletian and Triumph arches for the building’s inspiration. The glorious result helped set the tone for Washington’s monumental architecture for the next forty years.
February 28, 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt signs into law a measure “to provide for a Union Station in the District of Columbia.”
October, 1903-1908 Union Station construction begins. Washington Terminal RR (Washington Terminal company) created as the joint but independent Company to build and operate the station by its owners the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The Washington Terminal company would provide switching services for B&O and PRR and tenants from the south (Chesapeake & Ohio, RF&P, Southern, Atlantic Coast Line, and Seaboard). Many at-grade crossings eliminated from the Virginia Ave mainline with new elevated trackage.
1907 – First Trains
Union Station opened with the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Pittsburgh Express on October 27th. The first Pennsylvania Railroad Train arrived three weeks later on November 17.
1908 – First Streetcar Service
June 24, 1908 First streetcar service to Union Station, over 8 months after opening (compliments of DC City Commissioners).
1908 – Building Completed
The main building was completed in October 1908 and opened at a cost of more than $16 million, including facilities, Brentwood car shops. The Washington Terminal company would provide switching services for B&O and PRR and tenants from the south (Chesapeake & Ohio, RF&P, Southern, Atlantic Coast Line, and Seaboard).
1917-1918 – World War I
The station became a center of American efforts during World War I, moving deploying soldiers to ships bound for Europe and civilians to the capital to manage tremendous logistical demands.
1935 – Regular PRR Electric Operations Commence
January 28,1935 Mainline electrified train service commences on PRR Washington to New York.
1937 – First Road Passenger Diesels
1937 First streamlined road passenger diesels in the country begin operation on the B&O RR Washington-New York & Washington-Chicago.
1941 – 1945 – World War II Operations
The heart of Washington, as many as 200,000 passengers passed through the station in a single day. The Presidential Suite was converted in December 1941 to a USO Lounge, which served 6.5 million military service members before closing on May 31, 1946.
1951 – USO Lounge Reopens for Korean Conflict
In 1951 the Presidential Suite was reopened as a U.S.O. lounge and dedicated by President Harry Truman as a permanent “home away from home” for traveling U.S. Armed Services members.
1953 – Wreck of the Federal Express
On the morning of January 15, 1953 the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Federal, the overnight train from Boston, crashed into the station.
1954 – Last Regular Steam Passenger Train
Sunday, January 3, 1954 last Union Station steam passenger train departs Washington to Richmond RF&P eng #622 “Carter Braxton” departs at approx. 1: 40 PM
1971 – Amtrak Beginnings
May 1, 1971 – Amtrak took over most of the Operations of the national passenger rail system and eventually established corporate headquarters at Union Station.
1972 – Last Steam Passenger Excursion INTO Union Station
May 1972 saw the last steam passenger excursion into Washington Union Station Reading engine No. 2102 Philadelphia-Washington round trip.
1976 – Metro Arrives
March 27, 1976 was the date that WMATA’s Red Line opened at Union Station.
1976 – Bicentennial Visitors Center
For America’s Bicentennial Celebration the station was turned into a Visitors Center run by the National Park Service. It opened on July 4, 1976. The center being well off of the National Mall, was not heavily visited and closed just over two years later.
1981 – Amtrak purchases Washington Terminal Company
In June, 1981 the Washington Terminal Company was purchased by Amtrak. It took until December 1985 though to assimilate all unions into its Washington Division.
1981 – Union Station Salvation Begins
In April 1981 a serious leak caused a portion of the roof to collapse. Union Station was closed later that year and on December 31, 1981 President Ronald Reagan signed the Union Station Redevelopment Act, which set the basis for the building’s revival and enabled formation of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, the not-for-profit responsible for the restoration, preservation, maintenance, and operation the station.
1986 – Historic Rail Car Operations
In May 1986 the DOVER HARBOR, a 1923 Pullman owned by the National Railway Historical Society, Washington, D.C. Chapter, Inc., achieved Amtrak certification and begin operating on Amtrak trains with it’s home Amtrak terminal in Washington, D.C. The car has been in continuous operation since 1986 on Amtrak and is available for mobile and stationary charters.
1988 – Grand Reopening
The station reopened in its present form on September 29, 1988 after a $160 million dollar renovation.
- MARC (Commuter Trains to Maryland and West Virginia): 1-800-325-RAIL
- Virginia Railway Express (Commuter Trains to Virginia): 1-800-RIDE-VRE
- METRO - WMATA (Washington, D.C. Area Mass Transit) : 202-637-7000
- Amtrak: 1-800 USA-RAIL
- The main web site for the station is www.unionstationdc.com