Tuesday, September 30


Union Station - Opened on October 27, 1907 and completed in 1908, Union Station is considered to be one of the finest examples of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture. Architect Daniel Burnham designed the bulding. . .

At the time it was built, the station covered more ground than any other building in the United States and was the largest train station in the world. The total area occupied by the station and the terminal zone was originally about 200 acres and included 75 miles of tracks. In fact, if put on its side, the Washington Monument could lay within the confines of the Station's concourse.

Seventy pounds of 22-karat gold leaf adorned the 96-foot barrel-vaulted, coffered ceilings. The cost was monumental as well - $125 million for the station and its approaches.

At various times it employed a staff of over 5,000 people and provided such amenities as a bowling alley, mortuary, baker, butcher, YMCA, hotel, ice house, liquor store, Turkish baths, first-class restaurant, nursery, police station and a silver-monogramming shop.

As train travel was the mode of transportation for even U.S. Presidents in the early 1900s, a presidential suite was added to Union Station (now B. Smith's Restaurant). Over the years many dignitaries were officially welcomed here. The last president to use the presidential suite was President Eisenhower. . .

The advent of air travel led to a decline in railroad passengers, and Union Station began to fall into disuse. In 1968, in anticipation of the Bicentennial, the decision was made to transform the Station into the National Visitor Center. The ill-fated project opened in 1976 but failed to draw sufficient crowds to sustain its operation, and was closed in 1978.

Following three years of renovation at a cost of $160 million, Union Station reopened on September 29, 1988. In addition to over 130 unique shops and restaurants, Union Station is the hub for Amtrak's headquarters and executive offices.

Today, Union Station is still the most visited destination in the nation's Capitol with over 32 million visitors a year.

Joe Korner Net - On the night of January 14, 1953, Train #173, T, left Boston on time for its scheduled arrival at Washington Union Station, 459 miles and 9-1/2 hours away. This was one of many trains bringing people to Washington for Eisenhower's first inauguration.

A minor brake problem was corrected after the scheduled station stop at Providence, RI. . .

The train was about 56 minutes late due to the inspections, but the engineer made up about 11 minutes on the run into New Haven. There, the diesel engines were changed for electrics and the trainline brakes again checked. Everything seemed in order. . .

The train arrived at Pennsylvania Station, New York only 38 minutes late. The brakes had been used 14 times between New Haven and New York with no recurring trouble.

At Pennsylvania Station, GG-1 class electric locomotive #4876 replaced the New Haven electric for the remaining trip to Washington. The new engineer was Harry W. Bower, who was not told the reason the train was late, but did make the prescribed terminal brakes checks before moving the train.

The Federal made stops at Philadelphia and Wilmington with a total of 14 more brake applications with no problems. . . After clearing the Baltimore Yard Limits, Engineer Bower notched the controller up to 80 MPH for the run into Washington. He had no reason to apply the brakes until the train reached signal #1339 about 2 miles from Union Station.

Bower shut the controller and applied a 17 pound brake this should have slowed the train considerably, but did not. He then realized that the train could not be stopped in time. He dropped sand and put the brakes into emergency. This should have brought the train to a jarring halt, but did not.

All of the members of the operating crew realized the train was in trouble, but could do nothing about it. Bower stayed at his post and held the horn valve open to warn everyone away from track 16, where the Federal was due to stop.

Bower knew that the engine brakes and maybe those on the first car had applied, but the other 15 cars were pushing them.

The train director at K Tower at the entrance to Union Station called the station master and said "There's a runaway coming at you on track 16 - get the hell outa there!" The train smashed through the station master's office behind the end of track 16. . .

The clock in the Station Master's office stopped at 8:38AM - the FEDERAL was only 18 minutes late.

Because of the quick action of a few railroaders and a little luck, no one was killed and only 87 were injured. Property damage was estimated at $1 million.

By 7:00 AM the next day all of the cars were removed from the station, leaving only #4876 in the baggage room. A temporary floor was built over the engine and the station was open as usual within 72 hours of the accident.

After the inauguration, #4876 was cut into a number of pieces and shipped to the Pennsylvania's engine shop in Altoona, Pa. and was rebuilt and placed back into service.


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