Union Depot in St. Paul

Union Depot is an awesome place compared to the old Midway Station where we used to catch trains for ourselves or watch for trains as our Tioga Kids arrive from North Dakota.  Amtrak in the Twin Cities is now more like traveling by train in Europe, only much less crowded.  My first question is, “Where has this place been hiding??”  Union Depot has now been open for Amtrak service since May 2014.

Love you.

Parking is a little bit more of an issue but we figured it out for the future as we found the underground public parking lot and squeezed ourselves in.  I think we paid around $5 — which is a sneeze in the wind compared to the $100 taxicab fare that Jenny has paid when we couldn’t pick them up.

Elaborate mural line the distance of the Depot and seem to mark some of Minnesota’s history.  We learned that the Union Depot was completed in 1926 and placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974.

As we waited for the train to arrive, we explored the place and found a room of artifacts and information.  Union Depot underwent extensive renovations in 2011-2012 totaling $243 million.

We learned that this is, in fact, the second Union Depot, and that the first one was built in 1881 but later burned down.  Construction for this facility began in 1917 and was completed in 1926 .  At its peak, nearly 300 trains and more than 20,000 people passed through Union Depot each day.

I found this map while we were waiting for Jenny and the kids to arrive and it was helpful to see how many levels are above and below ground.  I learned we must keep track of where we came in and where we’re going so that we know how to get back.

Many windows at the Depot look out over the Mississippi River and river shoreline.  We learned that this is the loading and unloading dock, where Amtrak stops and lets passengers off and on.  We were here before but it was then 10 o’clock at night when Amtrak picks up our kids to return them to Tioga, ND, and it was too dark to take a picture or see much of anything,.

Now it was a beautiful June 19th morning as we anticipated seeing Jenny, Addie, and Gunnar.  Christopher was fishing for walleye with friends at Devil’s Lake and they were catching and eating their limits.

Until these recent times, the last passenger train had left Union Depot in 1971, the same year we were building our new house in Victoria.  In the early days of Victoria, a passenger train went through Victoria.  In 1971, a freight train went through Victoria.

The tracks through Victoria were removed in 1981.  They were 100 years old.  I wrote a front page story in the Gazette feature the historical moment.  It was called “Trackin’ it Down.”  If you look carefully at the above photo, you can see the Amtrak train coming, with the headlights.  It’s exciting to see the kids.


It’s a 10-12 hour ride through the night for the kids from Tioga to the Twin Cities.

It’s not a lot different than being at the airport and seeing the plane land that is bringing your kids home.

We get to watch the entire long train pass right below the window in front of us.

Jenny and family usually take sleeper cars but now that Addie and Gunnar are a little older (ages 12 and 10), Jenny decided to try coach.  As with Greyhound bus, you can recline but not lay flat.  The price differential between coach and sleeper rooms is very steep.

It was amazing that I could pick out the kids from this vantage point, but I did.  They’re at the very far end point and I saw them coming.

I watched them walk all the way towards me to the stairs.  See the pink shirt, blue shirt, and orange shirt?  People weren't allowed to go down and meet the arrivals at the tracks.

At the top of the stairs, in the glassed-in hallway that you see above, we wave to each other across the vast expanse.  With all the commotion and window reflections and distant mirages, it’s amazing that we saw each other and that we connected.

This time the kids were home for Father’s Day, and in our family that can mean Four Generations.