Kansas City Union Station

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Kansas City Union Station

Postby carajul » Sat May 23, 2009 6:09 pm

It's great to see KCUS in use again and refurbished. Does anyone know what's left of the track platforms that ran under the station? As I understand it two office buildings were built right up against the station on each side blocking any future rail access to the station and ATK now uses an overhead walkway to access the tracks they use behind the station. And the stairway doors from the waiting concourse have been bricked up. Is there anything left down there? I bet all the platorms and even tracks are still there with all kinds of old RR goodies and wall signage and equipment. Can you get down there from outside or any type of service door?

What a shame that large coach yard trackage behind the station has been reduced to two BNSF tracks.
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Re: Kansas City union station

Postby Tadman » Sun May 24, 2009 9:11 am

Tracks 27 and 28 are the only serviceable tracks left, used by the St. Louis train and the Chief. There is an office tower to east, and a parking garage to west. There is also a house track (26 & 25?) for PV's and the KCS biz train, but it's not a platformed track - it approaches from the west end, goes through the parking lot that was once the west platforms, and ends just short of the concourse. It's not out-of-ordinary to see 2-5 PV's or the KCS biz train, but I've seen big steam parked there as well. For a city with 3 trains/day (6 total) I can't complain as to how well the station is kept up. If the state of Kansas funds their end of the Heartland flyer, a fourth train will call.
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Re: Kansas City union station

Postby John_Perkowski » Sun May 24, 2009 1:43 pm

Where do I begin?

First, the public space of the station is fully preserved and restored. If you want to visit the areas under the North Waiting Room, buy a ticket to Science City. Most of that space is in use by them.

Second, as Mr Dunville mentioned, the two Northernmost interior tracks are PV stubs now. Under the NWR is the equipment KC diplays in its own museum (that's another and a different story).

From what track maps I've seen, tracks 27 and 28 were through trackage around the station for switching movements. I'm not sure they were ever revenue service platforms.

The area North from Tracks 27/28 were tracks supporting the various railroads for freight operations.

The Coach Yards were about 1,000 south of Union Station, where DST systems has its buildings now. The roundhouses on their property were the KCT roundhouses. Boulevard Brewery's building was the Pullman Company District office.

As Mr Dunville notes, tracks 27 and 28 can easily support six movements per day. If the state of Kansas ever gets off it's metallically weighted fourth point of contact, that could grow either to 8 or 10 movements per day. That depends on them doing things that trigger PRIAA 08 matching funds to kick in for extension of the Heartland Flyer. Of course, with the Dallas-Houston end of that opening up, who knows what that service might look like by 2013 or so.
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Re: Kansas City union station

Postby carajul » Sun May 24, 2009 8:04 pm

Six trains per day :(

I read that in the 1940s there were around 250 trains per day :-)

I'm really interested in what's left of the platforms under the passenger concourse. They must still be there as all the construction and development occured on either side of the concourse.

Also, when were the platform canopies demolished?

Actually..... just looked at some recent photos ... those 2 tracks where private cars get parked. They actually do still go under the concourse. They still stub end under the concourse but the photo shows two diesel engines parked under the concourse and it looks like metal garage type doors can come down over the entry ways.
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Re: Kansas City union station

Postby Tadman » Sun May 24, 2009 10:00 pm

KCUS owns a few display cars and a KCS F9, and they're parked at the end of the house track under the concourse. But for the most part, the concourse is a glassed-in science museum and no tracks remain.
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:12 pm

I traveled to Kansas City, MO on business recently and took the opportunity to visit downtown KC. I made a specific point to visit the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial and Kansas City Union Station. I was extremely impressed by both and have to say that as a student of that era (B.A. History) and former resident of the Washington, D.C. area I thought the museum and the memorial were absolutely world class and would have been easily comparable to a Smithsonian Institution museum.

I didn't really know what to expect with KCY. It seemed to figure prominently in a lot of images of the city but on the other hand there didn't seem to be a lot of promotion of it as an attraction in of itself. I was stunned to walk through the front door and find a fantastically well preserved Edwardian period American rail terminal built in the Beaux-Arts style of so many of its larger cousins in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York City (GCT). The station's context, especially coupled with later addition of the Liberty Memorial in the grand Egyptian Revival style, is a clear reminder of the City Beautiful movement's influence on the station's main architect, Jarvis Hunt.

Among the most prominent nods to history at the station are "Harvey's at Union Station", named in honor of the Fred Harvey Company which operated foodservice and hospitality for the AT&SF for many many years including long before the Santa Fe ever had regular dining car service. The current restaurant is a centerpiece of the Grand Hall occupying the former position of the station ticket counter. KCY is likely one of the very few places anywhere in the country where the Fred Harvey Company history is mentioned or discussed in any length at all. Another nod to the importance of the railroads, and the Santa Fe in particular was the exhibition of the Reed Family Model Locomotive, a fully functioning 1:8 scale model of a Baldwin 4-4-2 "Atlantic" type engine. The model was built as a prototype demonstrator for the Santa Fe and was presented to Mr. John Reed, Chairman, President and CEO, upon his retirement from the Santa Fe in 1983.

I also made a point to visit the Amtrak portion of Union Station which now has a "historical" exhibit of old 70s plastic waiting room chairs in the entry way. Walking through to Amtrak's section I found myself reentering something of a time capsule which I felt had taken me back to Amtrak as I remembered it from my childhood in the 80s. It was about 4:00PM in the afternoon, people were sitting in the stuffy waiting room which had a Coca-Cola vending machine in it (and maybe a TV), the baggage office was open with one older baggage agent passing time with the luggage and the ticket counter was manned also by an older ticket agent with little else to do but wait for the departure of the Heartland Flyer. The waiting room could just as easily have been Sanford, NC which I remember so well after having fallen asleep on one of the benches waiting for a 2:30AM train from the south which ended up being delayed about 9 hours on Thanksgiving so many years ago.

Next to the ticket window was an old fashioned display board with black felt rows and white plastic letters which displayed the daily service schedule to and from KCY. It could just as easily have accommodated the daily meeting schedule at the local Comfort Inn. This really was the Amtrak I hadn't seen in so many years but now it was housed in substantially more accommodating quarters but still running the same or very similar low level of service. As I walked through the rest of the station, which has a whole slew of other amenities I reflected at length on the historical significance of what I had seen. The low point for Amtrak in Kansas City has probably already come and gone, the Amshack years in which the Southwest Chief was the only train serving the city, "one a day each way". The Missouri River Runner is a growing state supported corridor that has planned trackwork and apparently even manages to sell out on certain days of the week.

All of which left me with the question, "Where is rail passenger service headed in KC?" The answer clearly was "up". Amtrak has crawled out of the proverbial "basement" and now offers a very convenient service to St. Louis that is close to becoming time competitive to drive times and the Southwest Chief will continue to run through KCY regardless of any anticipated route changes in the future. There is also the distinct possibility of additional frequencies for the River Runner and trip time improvements that will drive ridership growth for many years to come. The River Runner uses Horizon passenger equipment which will likely be in abundant supply for many years to come, making capacity expansion for the service subject only to fiscal and not operational limits. At some point the State of Kansas may also become a state sponsor of an extension of the Heartland Flyer which is anticipated to extend all the way to KCY at some point. Regardless, I still found it quite shocking to realize that POR (Portland, ME) has 2 more trains per day than Kansas City and will soon have even more than that once the Downeaster extension service to Brunswick begins on November 1.

My conclusion was that Kansas Citians had done a very good job refashioning one of their cities great landmarks into a very well preserved cultural center that still had transportation links to other parts of the country. Additionally in doing so they had also preserved their options for the future utility of KC Union Station as a major transportation hub in the event that rail travel ever re popularizes again. Even if they rightly assume that passenger rail would never again be as significant as it once was the facility they have now will be able to accommodate any conceivable expansion of Amtrak service for many years to come. Overall it was a great experience and I'm very glad I took the time to visit.
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby Tadman » Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:34 pm

Great post, George. KCY is a really neat station. Unfortunately, I don't see any frequency upgrades in the near future as KCY is an hour from, uh, Topeka, across a right-leaning state. Portland, Maine, is an hour from Boston across three left-leaning states.

I often feel, though, that there's a big gap overlooked in KC. If the state of Kansas would pay to shift the servicing point west to Topeka, the River Runners could be extended to service the main population corridor of Kansas over a 64 mile stretch. No new stations needed, no new equipment needed, no new frequencies. Further, Lawrence and Topeka to Chicago via 3/4 would be viable markets, which they're not now, as you have to lay over at KCY to meet the STL trains and then again at Argentine to fuel.
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby Station Aficionado » Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:36 pm

A nod should be given to Tom Downs, former Amtrak president, as he really pushed to get Amtrak back into Union Station proper.

More frequencies of the River Runner are the most likely candidate for service expansion. There is periodic talk about extending a River Runner to Omaha, but I doubt NE would kick in the necessary funds. At one time,IIRC, there was a Thruway to Omaha that connected to the CZ, but that ended some years back. I think a new Omaha-St Joseph-KC Thruway connecting to/from River Runner service should be given a shot.

I wouldn't count on seeing the HF in KC anytime soon. KS gives no indication of a willingness to support passenger rail. What I have thought might be possible is KC-Tulsa service via a KCS/BNSF(ex-SLSF) routing through Joplin and Neosho, so as to avoid KS. Both OK and MO support passenger services, and OK has indicated an interest in getting service to Tulsa (I know they want OKC-Tulsa service, but that is a very long way off).
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby Ocala Mike » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:31 pm

I lived near Kansas City in the mid-1960's, and I can attest to the beauty of the station there, although I never travelled out of it. Here's some advertising copy from a 1966 Kansas City Athletics scorecard:
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby Tadman » Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:27 pm

Whoa! Check those prices out. $38.10 RT to New Orleans from KC translates to $253 today using the Westegg inflation calculator. We don't have that service direct anymore, but for comparison, Chicago-Albany is the same mileage and is $89/way for a total of $178.

Should we raise fares? Were the KCS fares ICC-regulated?
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:52 pm

Mr. Dunville, regarding your immediate post relating to KCS travel (that got away from me during my railfan joyriding days of fifty years ago) note this observation from, Mr. f59phi2014 who represents to be in the trenches:

I am a conductor for Amtrak and while my own personal opinion on the matter doesn't really matter, my professional stance is I would have done the same. For those of you who may have noticed (or not noticed) Amtrak is becoming the new greyhound, our fares are lower and more people are unable to afford the gas to go anywhere. Most people that have the money fly, and Amtrak scrapes the bottom of the barrel. There are those such as yourself who have the time and the money but PREFER the train, but you are a select minority. I wish that wasn't the case but it is. MOST COACH PASSENGERS RIDE AMTRAK BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO OTHER OPTIONS...not all but most.
From what I'm willing to pay for transportation, be it the fully allocated cost of operating my auto, Amtrak Business Class and Sleeper, or air transport, I'd dare say existing Coach Amtrak fares on its Long Distance routes are in a subterranean bargain basement.
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby jbvb » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:59 pm

In 1966, KCS intra-state fares would have been regulated by the state, interstate by the ICC. Where I know the details, it doesn't appear that RRs tried to take advantage of states with lax regulation to charge more for intrastate traffic than the ICC allowed. In fact, I have never heard of any states that were lax about regulating fares post-WWI. as long as they retained power over them.

Transportation costs, particularly air fares, are much lower than what the 1960s rates would be, after inflation. Of course, our airlines are much less regulated, so city pairs with no competition are subsidizing pairs where competition is strong. And airlines, like Amtrak and the highways, are also heavily subsidized by the taxpayers. Keeping itself important to rural voters is certainly a good surval strategy for Amtrak.

Also, given that the NH and ME legislatures are firmly in the hands of the Tea Party, I question "three left-leaning states". As someone who's held one position or another in my town's government for 22 years, I can assure you that even when the Democrats controlled Concord, NH did not feel "left leaning" to those on the ground.
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:55 pm

jbvb wrote:Also, given that the NH and ME legislatures are firmly in the hands of the Tea Party, I question "three left-leaning states".


Good point on that one. I completely forgot to mention it. The current administration in Augusta is also reliably conservative as well. "Left leaning" probably doesn't describe the current state of affairs at all.
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:10 am

Kansas City Union Station will be the recipient of a $4,500,000 donation from the Hall Family Foundation. The funds will largely be used to continue to pay for improvements to the station's access points. More from the Kansas City Star here.

lanned improvements to Science City and other capital projects at Union Station got a hefty boost Thursday with the announcement of a gift worth more than $4 million from the Hall Family Foundation. One of the proposals is a vehicular and pedestrian bridge linking the main level of Union Station to the existing parking garage, giving visitors more direct access. The donation makes use of state tax credits awarded by Missouri and goes a long way toward fulfilling the station’s project goal of about $10 million. “It’s a pretty dramatic investment and a significant vote of confidence in what we’re doing,” said George Guastello, Union Station’s chief executive officer. The most visible element of the plan would be a connection between the west end of Union Station and the existing multilevel parking garage. That will allow motorists to drive to the garage at an even grade directly from Pershing Road. The project also calls for a new, lower-level entrance to the station from the plaza between the station and the parking garage. The entrance would also serve as a conference area.


The Kansas City Business Journal also has coverage of the gift here:

With a lead gift of more than $4 million, the Hall Family Foundation has pledged more than half of the funds needed for Union Station's planned renovations to improve Science City. The funding will be distributed as a $3 million lead gift toward Science City, with an additional gift of up to $1.5 million in resold Missouri tax credits, which will be used to build new ramps and walkways within the historic building. "The Hall Family Foundation is pleased to support Union Station during its Centennial Celebration," Hall Family Foundation chairman Don Hall said in a release. "We hope that the Station's improvement plans will provide the underpinning for growth and progress over the next 100 years of this Kansas City landmark."


While the gift is largely characterized as helping the Science City complex, and this is understandable given Amtrak's minimal frequencies at the station, these improvements are undoubtedly "dual use" and will help ensure that the station will be more than capable of accommodating future service expansions with little or no difficulty.
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Re: Kansas City Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Sat Nov 29, 2014 10:39 pm

Kansas City Union Station recently celebrated the centennial of its opening.

Coverage from the Kansas City Star includes a video of the absolute breathtaking light show:

Before Union Station celebrated its centennial earlier this month, a teaser was released of a 10-minute digital project to be projected in front of the building to hundreds of guests.

The full video, created by Quixotic in partnership with Bazillion Pictures and BicMedia, has since been released. And it’s a show-stopper.

The project “used state of the art projection mapping and twelve 20,000 digital projectors to transform Union Station into a 3D, mind-blowing masterpiece,” a Facebook post for Union Station said.
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