St. Paul Union Depot
A landmark history of St. Paul’s historic Union Depot and a tale of a bygone era when travel and adventure meant passenger trains.
St. Paul Union Depot was among the busiest and best-known places in the city—one of the largest depots in the nation and St. Paul’s link to the world.
It had nine platforms, twenty-one tracks, and well over 140 trains coming and going each day. At its peak in the 1920s, the Union Depot processed more than twenty million pieces of mail each year. Construction of the new depot began in 1917, among the burned remains of the previous depot, and was finally finished in 1926 as both a monument to St. Paul’s urban growth and its gateway to the Northwest.
Practical rather than pretentious, the Union Depot served St. Paul for more than fifty years—complete with a restaurant, drugstore, infirmary, and playrooms for children. Millions of people bought tickets and walked through its lobby and concourse to board waiting trains. It sent children to summer camps and schools, and young men and women to wars. The depot hosted U.S. presidents and presidents-to-be, international royalty, famous authors, movie stars, and the rich and famous—but it also sheltered the homeless and the troubled seeking a warm place on a cold night.
Though it closed in 1971 after years of declining passenger rail service, today the St. Paul Union Depot is once again being revived as a Twin Cities transit and commercial hub, just as rail travel throughout the United States experiences a renewal.
In St. Paul Union Depot, John W. Diers brings to life the sights and sounds and the behind-the-scenes inner workings of what was in its time the most important rail passenger station west of Chicago. He captures an era when competing railroad companies came together and agreed that one depot was better than nine. Of more interest, though, St. Paul Union Depot is about the people—the stationmasters, gatemen, switchmen, ticket clerks, mail handlers, train directors, locomotive engineers, and others who were employed there, as well as the millions of passengers who passed through its doors.
--University of Minnesota Press
- By: John W. Diers
- Publisher: University of Minnesota Press (2013)
- ISBN: 978-0816656103
- Format: Hardcover, 304 pages, 10 x 0.9 x 11 inches