Union Station (Denver, Colorado)

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Denver Union Station
Denver union station.jpg
The front of Denver's Union Station, facing Wynkoop Street
Station statistics
Address 1701 Wynkoop Street (Amtrak)
1600 Wewatta Street (RTD)
Denver, CO 80202
Coordinates 39°45′11″N 105°00′00″W / 39.753187°N 105.000093°W / 39.753187; -105.000093Coordinates: 39°45′11″N 105°00′00″W / 39.753187°N 105.000093°W / 39.753187; -105.000093
Line(s) Amtrak: RTD (17th & Chestnut Pavilion):
  C Line
  E Line
  W Line
Connections Thruway Motorcoach
Regional highway coaches for Boulder County points
other express and local bus routes.
Platforms 2 side platforms, 3 island platforms (Amtrak, Commuter Rail)
1 side platform, 1 island platform (Light Rail)
Tracks 8 (Amtrak, Commuter Rail)
3 (Light Rail)
Other information
Opened 1894
Rebuilt 1914, 2011-2014
Accessible Handicapped/disabled access
Station code DEN
Owned by RTD and partners
Passengers (2013) 108,124[1] Decrease 4.6% (Amtrak)
Preceding station   BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak   Following station
toward Emeryville
California Zephyr
toward Chicago
Terminus C Line
W Line
E Line
toward Lincoln
  Former services  
Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe
Terminus Denver Branch
toward La Junta
Denver Branch
Major stations
toward La Junta
Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad
Terminus Main Line
Rock Island Line
Terminus Main Line
toward Chicago
Union Station
Union Station (Denver, Colorado) is located in Colorado
Union Station (Denver, Colorado)
Location 17th St. at Wynkoop, Denver, Colorado
Coordinates 39°45′12″N 104°59′57″W / 39.75333°N 104.99917°W / 39.75333; -104.99917
Area 25.1 acres (10.2 ha)
Built 1881
Architectural style Classical Revival, Other, Romanesque, Italian Romanesque
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 74000571[2]
CSRHP # 5DV.114
Added to NRHP November 20, 1974

Denver Union Station is the main railway station and central transportation hub in Denver, Colorado. It is located at 17th and Wynkoop Streets in the present-day LoDo district[3] and includes the historic building, a train shed canopy, a 22-gate underground bus facility, and light rail station.[4] The building first opened on June 1, 1881 with its present-day structure completed in 1914. In 2012 it underwent a major renovation in order to redevelop it as the centerpiece of a new transit-oriented mixed use development on the site's former rail-yards.[5] The building re-opened in the summer of 2014 with the addition of a hotel, several restaurants and retailers, and a train hall.


Nineteenth Century Structures[edit]

The second incarnation of Union Station with the Mizpah Arch, circa 1908.

Denver's first train station was constructed in 1868 to serve the new Denver Pacific Railway, which connected Denver to the main transcontinental line at Cheyenne, Wyoming. By 1875, there were four different railroad stations, making passenger transfers between different railroad lines inconvenient. To remedy this issue, the Union Pacific Railroad proposed creating one central "Union Station" to combine the various operations. In February 1880, the owners of the four lines (the Union Pacific, the Denver & Rio Grande Western, the Denver, South Park & Pacific, and the Colorado Central) agreed to build a station at 17th and Wynkoop Streets. Architect A. Taylor of Kansas City was hired to develop the plans, and the station opened in May 1881.[6]

A fire in 1894 destroyed the central portion of the 1881 depot. The Kansas City architectural firm of Van Brunt & Howe was hired to design a larger replacement depot in the Romanesque style. Both the 1881 and 1894 depots included a tall central clock tower with four clock faces.[7]

Early Twentieth Century[edit]

The Mizpah Welcome Arch, circa 1910.

On July 4, 1906, a large arch known as the Mizpah Arch was dedicated in front of the station in order to provide a threshold for travelers entering and leaving the city[5] . Constructed at a cost of $22,500 with 70 tons of steel and over 2,000 light bulbs, the arch originally featured the word "Welcome" on both sides. However, the elevation facing 17th Street was changed to "Mizpah", a Hebrew word expressing an emotional bond between separated people, and used as a farewell to people leaving Denver. [8]

In 1912, the original Union Depot partnership was dissolved and replaced by the Denver Terminal Railway Company, representing the then-major operators of the station (the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Colorado & Southern, the Union Pacific, and the Denver & Rio Grande Western). The new partnership decided to demolish and rebuild the central portion of the station to handle the increasing passenger traffic. The new central portion, designed by Denver architects Gove & Walsh, was built in the Beaux-Arts style and opened in 1914.[9]

By the 1920's and 1930's, over 80 trains served the station daily with notable dignitaries such as Queen Marie of Romania, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, etc. arriving to Denver through the station. As a result of the increasing traffic, the Mizpah Arch in front of the station was deemed a traffic hazard and was torn down in 1931.[5]

Twentieth Century Decline[edit]

Denver Ski Train, 2003

After a surge of rail traffic during World War II, the latter half of the 20th century saw a sharp decline in service for Union Station and countless other train stations in the United States as competition began to grow from automobiles and airlines.

For the first time in 1958, passenger traffic at Stapleton International Airport exceeded that of Union Station. It was during this period that the orange "Union Station: Travel by Trains" signs were placed on both sides of the building in order to advertise intercity rail travel.[10]

Amtrak eventually became the sole provider of rail service through the station, operating only two trains daily between Chicago and the Bay Area with the California Zephyr.

Entrance for light rail, bus, and ski train, 2007

From the 1980's to early 2000's, RTD, the City of Denver, the Denver Union Terminal Railway Corporation (the private owner of the site), and several other entities made several improvements to the rail platforms in order to accommodate an RTD bus lane to access Market Street Station from I-25 and a light rail connection to the C Line.[5]

The station also served special routes such as the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad's Ski Train which operated until the end of the winter of 2008–2009, at which time the operation was discontinued. In September 2009 plans were announced to revive the service as a special limited route beginning in December,[11] but this did not occur due to insurance problems.[12]

The station also continues to serve the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days Train, usually pulled by Union Pacific's steam locomotive 844, the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific. The train runs between Union Station and Cheyenne, Wyoming for the Frontier Days Rodeo event.

FasTracks Redevelopment[edit]

Main article: FasTracks
The historic building with the new open-air train hall designed by SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Under a public/private consortium, the station and the surrounding 19.5 acres (79,000 m²) was redeveloped to be the hub of Denver's new FasTracks commuter rail network as well as its Regional and Express bus networks. The redevelopment was done under the Regional Transportation District's master plan for the station site, officially known as the Denver Union Station. Eight teams of prominent architects, developers and engineers competed in 2002 for the massive contract to redevelop the station into a transit-oriented retail, office and residential complex, with a budget in the range of $900 million.

Union Station during renovations, September 2013.

On July 30, 2010, the US Department of Transportation announced that the station had received a $300 million grant to construct three light-rail tracks and eight heavy-rail tracks for both intercity and commuter rail services, as well as additional storage and servicing capabilities.[13]

On February 1, 2011, Amtrak's passenger station and boarding platform were moved to a temporary station at 21st and Wewatta streets, behind Coors Field, in order to allow construction of the commuter rail tracks and platforms.This temporary relocation lasted until February 28, 2014, when Amtrak's ticketing and passenger services returned to the station.[14]

The new Union Station stop on the RTD Light Rail which opened in August, 2011. The MallRide was also moved west adjacent to the light rail stop. On the far left are the consolidated main line railroad tracks.

The new light rail station opened on August 15, 2011[15] west of the former light rail stations and adjacent to the consolidated main line railroad tracks near the Denver Millennium Bridge. The westernmost stop of the 16th Street Mall shuttle, also known as the MallRide, was also moved west and is adjacent to the new light rail stop.

The new underground Union Station Bus Concourse, with 22 boarding-deboarding gates, opened on May 11, 2014. On that same day, the Market Street Station closed permanently after thirty years of continuous use. All bus service from the Market Street Station was re-routed to Union Station from that day forward.

The main historic building closed to the public on December 1, 2012 for construction and re-opened July 12, 2014. The majority of the terminal building's upper levels have become The Crawford Hotel, with the Great Hall on the ground level serving as the hotel lobby, public space, and train waiting room. The building also includes restaurants and shops on the first floor.[16][17]


  1. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2013, State of Colorado" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  3. ^ See Forrest, Kenton and Albi, Charles. "Denver's Railroads: The Story of Union Station and the Railroads of Denver." (1981, Colorado Railroad Museum). (ISBN 0918654319).
  4. ^ Welcome to the New Union Station. Regional Transportation District. Retrieved 06 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Denver Union Station History and Timeline. Denver Union Station Project Authority. Retrieved 06 December 2014.
  6. ^ Stevens, Mark E., Denver Union Station National Register of Historic Places Nomination, August 1974; p. 2.
  7. ^ Stevens, Mark E., Denver Union Station National Register of Historic Places Nomination, August 1974, p. 3.
  8. ^ Rinaldi, Ray Mark (December 20, 2009). "Mizpah Arch: A gateway to Denver's past and future". Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  9. ^ Fraser, Clayton, and Jennifer Strand. Railroads in Colorado, 1858–1948. Loveland, Colorado: Fraserdesign, 1997, p. 161.
  10. ^ "Denver Union Station Facts: Current, Historical and Fun". RTD Fastracks. Regional Transportation District. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  11. ^ Leib, Jeffrey (September 18, 2009). "All Are Aboard Plan to Revive Ski Train". Denver Post. 
  12. ^ Leib, Jeffrey (December 29, 2009). "Problems derail revival of ski train". Denver Post. 
  13. ^ "Denver receives $300 million from USDOT for Union Station project". Progressive Railroading. July 30, 2010. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  14. ^ RTD FasTracks, February, 2014. Amtrak moves back to Union Station
  15. ^ SOUTHEASTConnections newsletter, September, 2011. New light rail station debuts at Union Station in Denver
  16. ^ The Crawford Hotel at Denver's Union Station to Open Summer 2014
  17. ^ Jaffe, Mark (July 13, 2014) "Denver's renovated Union Station has been a 30-year barn-raising" The Denver Post

External links[edit]