SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – One glimpse at Union Station’s grand concourse, and you’re transported back to the 1930s.
The grandeur of the station is matched only by the excitement of rail travel to get from Springfield to Boston, New York City, and beyond.
Springfield Museums Historian Guy McLean told 22News, “Springfield was called the crossroads of New England because it was both on the East-West railroad route and the North-South railroad route as well.”
The current station was built in 1926, the fourth of its kind for Springfield, replacing previous versions from the 1800s.
You can almost picture it: businessmen meeting for drinks, families welcoming a loved one from a faraway place, and young soldiers taking a mental snapshot of this concourse as their last comfort of home before heading off to war.
Navy veteran David Sullivan told 22News, “It was a beehive of activity when I went in. There were barber shops and you name it, little coffee places and paper places and shoeshine places.”
Congressman Richard Neal told 22News, “It has a bit of an emotional grip on my memory, largely because my grandmother took me through here, my uncles and my family members, they went through World War II and Korea through these doors and returned here safely.”
That emotional tie has been Congressman Neal’s catalyst for reopening Union Station since it closed its doors more than four decades ago. In the 1960s, the need for trains faded as the American dream of owning a car and the lower cost of flying became more attractive.
Union Station closed its doors in 1973.
Congressman Neal announced his run for Springfield City Council from a recently closed Union Station 40 years ago this weekend. As mayor, he worked to reopen the station. Once in Washington, he continued earmarking federal funding for this station, securing $96-million in total.
The first of the money was used to fortify the roof, preserving the original Terrazo floors you see today. Look up, and you’ll see the original clock. The original mail sorting room was replaced by the current bus terminal, but travelers are reminded of that history with the original mail cart on display in the grand concourse.
Union Station: grandeur of the past, with the convenience of the present, and the promise of tomorrow at each terminal.
Related Union Station coverage:
- As Union Station completion nears, Congressman Neal’s career celebrated
- Grand Central benches coming to Union Station
- New Union Station restaurant to offer sit-down, take-away service