New London Union Station
Union Station was designed by H.H. Richardson
|Location||27 Water Street
New London, Connecticut 06320
|Owned by||Union Station Development|
|Platforms||1 side platform
1 island platform
|Connections|| Southeast Area Transit
Cross Sound Ferry
Block Island Express Ferry*
Fishers Island Ferry
|Station code||Amtrak code: NLC|
|Opened||1848, 1852, 1864 (previous stations)
1887 (Union Station)
|Rebuilt||Renovations: 1976-77, 2002-03|
|Electrified||25,000V (AC) overhead catenary|
|Passengers (2013)||161,405 6.7% (Amtrak)|
|Architect||Henry Hobson Richardson|
|NRHP Reference #||71000913|
|Added to NRHP||1971|
New London Union Station is a historic regional rail station located in New London, Connecticut, United States. Located on the Northeast Corridor, the busiest railway in the United States, it is the primary railroad station in southeastern Connecticut. Union Station is a station stop for most of Amtrak's Northeast Regional trains and a small number of high-speed Acela Express trains. Certain CDOT Shore Line East commuter rail trains also stop at New London, making it the eastern terminus of commuter rail in Connecticut.
Union Station serves as the centerpiece of the Regional Intermodal Transit Center serving southeastern Connecticut, with connections to local and intercity buses as well as ferries to Long Island, Fisher's Island, and Block Island. The current Union Station building, built in 1887, was the last station designed by famed architect H.H. Richardson. It is the fourth station to serve New London, and one of the oldest stations still in use along the Northeast Corridor.
History and Design
Union Station is the fourth railroad station to serve New London. When the New London, Willimantic, and Palmer Railroad opened in 1848, an existing building on Water Street a block east of Federal Street was converted into a station. In 1854, a connecting track was opened through downtown Norwich, allowing trains from the Norwich and Worcester Railroad to connect to steamers at New London rather than Allyn's Point. Use of the connection stopped in November 1855 but was continuous after April 1859.
A two-story Greek Revival depot was built near the modern location in 1852 with the arrival of the Shore Line Railway. The New London Northern continued to use its older station. After the completion of the New London & Stonington (part of the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad) to Groton Wharf in 1858, ferry service ran from New London to Groton to allow through railroad service. The station was too small to handle large passengers loads, and the Bureau of Railroad Commissioners was petitioned for a new station in 1859.
One or both of the early stations burned on May 8, 1864. The New London Northern was extended several blocks south along the waterfront to connect with the Shore Line, and a new union station was built at State Street. The new station was highly unpopular; the Bureau was petitioned for a replacement just three years after it was built, and local newspapers took up the issue in 1874 and 1875. In 1877, the commissioners referred to the "wholly insufficient and inconvenient accommodations" at the station. When the building burned on February 5, 1885, one paper remarked "few New London people are sorry, as the ancient structure had long since outlived its usefulness."
H.H. Richardson station
After the previous depot was destroyed, the Central Vermont Railroad (which then leased the New London Northern) began making plans for a larger replacement station. The Central Vermont and the New Haven Railroad (which had bought the Shore Line in 1870) bought the east end of the Parade from New London for the unusually low price of $15,000, with the understanding that the railroads would build a structure more suitable for the bustling city.
Noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, known for his public buildings including several Boston and Albany Railroad depots, was hired to design the new station. New London was the last of many railroad stations designed by Richardson before his death in 1887, though numerous buildings were designed by his students (including the nearby New London Public Library designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge). Union Station is particularly large for a Richardson train station, and stands out as the only of his stations not built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of Trinity Church in Boston. Instead, it shows significant Colonial influence taken from other buildings in New London.
Despite this new style, the two-and-a-half story station building features many of Richardson's characteristic motifs, including its multi-faceted roof, prominent arched entrance, and elegant brickwork. Like many of his stations, the roofline is dominant and contrasts the monochrome walls. The bricks are arranged in a mixture of Flemish bond and two different herringbone styles, broken by details around windows and doors, to create visual interest. A projecting central section tempers the roofline on the east and west facades, while the dormers shown a slight Asian influence common in his designs. The rear bay window - the lone circular element save for the matching arched front doorway - served as the ticket booth. The platform canopy was notable for matching the broad curve of the tracks; it originally extended further south, with a raised "eyebrow" section over State Street.
The new station began construction in 1886 and opened in 1887. It was designated a union station as it connected two railroads - the Central Vermont Railroad which succeeded the New London, Willimantic, and Palmer, and the Shore Line was would merge into the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1897. The Thames River Bridge was opened in October 1889, connecting the station to the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad and completing the Shore Line rail link from New York to Boston. The southern end of the Norwich and Worcester Railroad was completed through Gales Ferry in June 1899, allowing traffic from Worcester to reach New London via the bridge rather than through Norwich.
Decline and revival
Central Vermont service running north ended in 1949, but service running east and west along the Shore Line has remained continuous since the station was built. In the latter days of the New Haven Railroad, infrastructure was not maintained in order to cut costs, and stations like New London suffered for it. Union Station was considered obsolete and considered for demolition in the late 1960s; the pedestrian bridge was removed at that time. By the time Penn Central took over operations in 1969, Union Station was in poor shape.
Union Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places after a local effort in 1971, the same year that Amtrak took over Penn Central intercity service. In 1973, a number of the same local activists formed the Union Railroad Station Trust, intending to restore the station. However, the station was still threatened; the New London Redevelopment Agency voted in February 1975 to demolish the building. Later that year, George Notter (later president of the American Institute of Architects, and an early advocate of adaptive reuse) and others bought the station as the Union Station Associates and kept it open for Amtrak use.
The station received a full renovation in 1976-77, including new platforms. The exterior was restored to the original 1885 specifications. However, some of these changes modified the station far from its original configuration. A mezzanine was built over half the waiting area to provide restaurant seating, and the floor of the rest was cut out to create an atrium. The basement became the passenger waiting area. New London Union Station was the first station in the country to be restored for Amtrak use.
Amtrak built a pair of high-level platforms to serve the Acela Express in 2001. Later that year or early in 2002, the 1899-built freight house was torn down as part of redevelopment sponsored by the New London Development Corporation. The freight house had previously been used by Amtrak maintenance-of-way crews, and before that by the Fishers Island Ferry District.
By this time, many of the 1970s repairs were beginning to wear down. The New London Railroad Company, fronted by historian Barbara Timken and local businessman Todd O'Donnell, bought the station from Union Station Associates in 2002. The pair organized a second full restoration of the station, including a new slate roof, restored brickwork, and restoration of the waiting room to its original configuration. Additionally, mechanical systems were upgraded and various accessibility concerns addressed. The baggage room was restored for Greyhound use. Amtrak and Greyhound rent space from the company for offices and passenger waiting areas.
Shore Line East
In February 1996, a single Shore Line East weekday round trip was extended from Old Saybrook to New London. An additional round trip was extended in February 2010, and 3 more in May 2010 for a total of 5 daily round trips between New London and New Haven. Weekend Shore Line East service between Old Saybrook and New Haven Union Station began in 2008, but no regular weekend trains ran to New London. In July 2012, Governor Malloy announced that 5 weekend round trips would be extended to New London beginning in April 2013. However, the extension was dependent on ongoing negotiations with the marine industry over mandated closings of the Old Saybrook - Old Lyme bridge. Two weekday midday trips were added in May 2013, while weekend service began on June 1, 2013 after the application for additional bridge closings was approved by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Upgrades and Coast Guard Museum
In 2008, the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments (SCCOG) began a study of how to improve the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center (RITC), including Union Station. The study analyzed problems with the RITC - including poor pedestrian connections, minimal bus facilities, and a lack of food vendors - and considered but rejected a move to a Fort Trumbull site. The proposed alternative released in 2010, which would cost around $20 million, would relocate Water Street slightly to the west. The bus terminal would be expanded, with a new building adding onto the existing former baggage office. A pedestrian bridge was to be constructed connecting the Water Street Garage, the main station area, the northbound Amtrak platform, and the ferry terminal. Other pedestrian improvements were to include wayfinding signs, pedestrian-scale lighting, and expanded sidewalks.
Beginning in 2010, Union Station was considered a possible site for the United States Coast Guard Museum, which would have added a glass atrium north of the main station building as well as a pedestrian bridge over the tracks to a second waterfront building. The Coast Guard removed the site from consideration in May 2012 due to opposition from Cross Sound Ferry over use of its property. The station's private owners stated that they would consider other uses for the space.
However, after further consideration, the Coast Guard announced in April 2013 that the museum was to be located at Union Station. The main portion of the museum is to be located east of the tracks, with a new ferry terminal integrated into the four-story, 54,300-square-foot glass-faced building. A pedestrian bridge will connect the museum to the station and the northbound platform, but the section across Water Street to the garage will not be built. The museum, ferry terminal, and pedestrian bridge are expected to open in 2016.
New London has an unconventional platform layout due to the State Street grade crossing and its location on a sharp curve. The two Northeast Corridor tracks (Tracks 1 and 2) are next to the station, while the New England Central Railroad (formerly Central Vermont) freight track (Track 6) is further away. Both NEC tracks have high-level platforms, which were added in 2001 for use by Acela Express trains (which cannot use low platforms). The southbound NEC track is served by a low platform behind the station, which leads to a short high-level platform south of State Street. The northbound NEC track is served by a high-level platform behind the station building; the low platform south of State Street is generally not used except for deboarding passengers from busy trains. The northbound platform, currently a side platform, is designed to be converted to an island platform should passenger service return to the NECR track. The 2010 SCCOG report indicated that Amtrak wished Shore Line East to move its operations to Track 6, freeing the mainline tracks for through trains. In 2013, most Shore Line East trains began using Track 6; a short metal spur on the northbound platform provides accessible boarding for trains using the track.
The southbound platform is adjacent to the station building, and its high-level section requires crossing only a lightly used spur of State Street. However, access to the northbound platform requires crossing both Northeast Corridor tracks. The footbridge to the planned Coast Guard Museum will allow access to the northbound platform without crossing tracks, which will improve safety and prevent passengers from being trapped on the platform by stopped trains.
All Northeast Regional trains that run on the Northeast Corridor east of New Haven stop at New London - about 9 trains each direction daily. The station is also served by a small number of Acela Express trains - one southbound train in the morning, and northbound trains in the morning and evening. Most Acela Express trains run nonstop between Providence and New Haven.
Shore Line East service to New London is limited by slots available over the Connecticut River bridge between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme; service is operated at uneven headways on weekdays and weekends. Multi-ride and monthly Shore Line East tickets are accepted on several Northeast Regional trains as well.
The Central Corridor Rail Line is a proposed regional service which would run from New London north through Norwich, Willimantic, and Amherst to Brattleboro, Vermont over the New England Central Railroad. While locally supported by some towns along the route, the service is not currently funded.
Several ferry services run from docks on Ferry Street just north of the station. The Cross Sound Ferry runs to Orient Point on Long Island with approximately hourly service year-round. The Block Island Fast Ferry, a high-speed catamaran to Block Island, runs several daily round trips during the summer months. The Fishers Island Ferry offers year-round local service to Fisher's Island, about 5 miles offshore, with multiple daily trips.
Greyhound Bus Lines offers limited intercity service from the a stop on Water Street. Current service consists of two daily buses in each direction operating along the I-95 corridor, with transfers available to other routes in Boston, New Haven, and New York City. Greyhound and Peter Pan Bus (which no longer serves New London) previously used the former baggage and express office, a small brick building just north of the main station building.
Union Station is one of four major transfer points for Southeast Area Transit (SEAT) local bus service, with timed connections on a clock-face schedule between several routes running from New London to nearby areas including Norwich, Groton, Niantic, Waterford, and Foxwoods Casino. SEAT buses serving the station stop at a shelter north of the station building on Water Street. The following SEAT routes run from Union Station:
- 1 Norwich / Mohegan Sun / New London - Route 32
- 2 Norwich / Groton/ New London - Route 12
- 3 Groton / New London / Niantic
- 12 Jefferson Avenue / Crystal Mall / New London Shopping Center / Senior Center
- 13 Shaws Cove / L & M Hospital / Ocean Beach
- 14 New London Mall / Waterford Commons / Crystal Mall / New London Shopping Center
- 15 New London / Waterford - Evening Service
- 101 Norwich / Mohegan Sun / New London - Route 32
- 108 New London / Groton / Mistick Village / Foxwoods
The drop-off lane in front of the station also serves as a taxi stand for several local companies. Special buses to Foxwoods Casino, which connect primarily to Cross Sound Ferry services, also stop nearby.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to New London Union Station.|
- Amtrak – Stations – New London, CT
- Shore Line East - New London, CT
- Greyhound - New London, Connecticut
- New London (NLC)--Great American Stations (Amtrak)
- Station Building from Google Maps Street View
- Historic American Engineering Record entry and images for New London Union Station
- 2010 Regional Intermodal Transportation Center study