Portland Union Station

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Portland Union Station
Location800 Northwest Sixth Avenue
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Coordinates45°31′44″N 122°40′36″W / 45.529°N 122.6768°W / 45.529; -122.6768Coordinates: 45°31′44″N 122°40′36″W / 45.529°N 122.6768°W / 45.529; -122.6768
Owned byCity of Portland
(Prosper Portland)
Platforms1 side, 2 island platforms
Bicycle facilitiesYes
Disabled accessYes
Other information
Station codePDX
Passengers (2017)597,127[2]Increase 1.19% (Amtrak)
Preceding station BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak Following station
Oregon City Amtrak Cascades Vancouver, Washington
Salem Coast Starlight Vancouver, Washington
toward Seattle
Terminus Empire Builder Vancouver, Washington
toward Chicago
Union Station
Portland Union Station is located in Portland, Oregon
Portland Union Station
Portland Union Station is located in Oregon
Portland Union Station
Portland Union Station is located in the United States
Portland Union Station
LocationNW 6th Ave., Portland, Oregon
Coordinates45°31′45″N 122°40′32″W / 45.52917°N 122.67556°W / 45.52917; -122.67556
Area7 acres (2.8 ha)
ArchitectVan Brunt & Howe
Architectural styleRomanesque Revival
NRHP reference #75001595[3]
Added to NRHPAugust 6, 1975

Portland Union Station is an Amtrak train station near the west shore of the Willamette River in the Old Town Chinatown section of Portland, Oregon, United States. The station building also contains offices on the upper floors, as well as Wilf's Restaurant and Piano Bar on the ground level. It also has Amtrak's first Metropolitan Lounge[4] (reserved for first-class sleeping car passengers and business-class passengers[5]) on the West Coast.

Southeast of the station, the tracks make a sharp turn and cross the river on the historic Steel Bridge. To the northwest, they follow the river, passing through rail yards before crossing the river again on the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1.

The station is owned by the city of Portland and operated by Prosper Portland, the city's urban renewal agency. The city earns $200,000 a year from nearly 30 tenants. Amtrak, the main tenant, has a lease through 2010 with a renewal option through 2015.[6]

Transit services[edit]

Union Station serves as a major intermodal transportation hub for Portland and Oregon. Portland's Greyhound bus terminal is the next building to the south, having moved to a new building there (from a location in the center of downtown) in 1985.[7] Union Station connects to TriMet MAX Green and Yellow Line trains at the nearby Union Station/Northwest 6th & Hoyt Street and Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan Street stations, as well as local bus service provided by TriMet. Located at the northern end of TriMet's transit mall, Union Station is also only a short walk to both lines of the Portland Streetcar, in the Pearl District.

The station is one of two western termini for the Empire Builder, Amtrak's major long-distance train to the Pacific Northwest. The train splits at Spokane, with one section continuing to Portland by way of the Columbia River Gorge and the other continuing to Seattle. It is also a stop for the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight, Amtrak's long-distance West Coast train. It serves as the southern terminus for two daily Cascades trains from Vancouver, British Columbia and four daily Cascades trains from Seattle, and the northern terminus for two Cascades trains from Eugene.

As of 2018, Union Station is the sixth-busiest Amtrak station in the Western United States (behind Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle and Emeryville) and the 21st busiest overall.[8]


Union Station in 1913

The initial design for the station was created in 1882 by McKim, Mead, and White. Had the original plan been built, the station would have been the largest train station in the world.[9] A smaller plan was introduced by architects Van Brunt & Howe, and accepted in 1885. Construction of the station began in 1890. It was built by Northern Pacific Terminal Company at a cost of $300,000, and opened on February 14, 1896. The signature piece of the structure is the 150 ft. tall Romanesque Revival clock tower. Neon signs were added to the tower in 1948.[10][11] The signs read "Go by Train" on the northeast and southwest sides and "Union Station" on the northwest and southeast sides.

The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.[12]

The neon signs on the tower went dark in March 1971, because the railroads using it, Union Pacific, Burlington Northern and Southern Pacific, were preparing to transfer all of their remaining passenger services to Amtrak.[10] For that reason, the station's then-owner, the Portland Terminal Railroad (itself jointly owned by those three railroads), decided to discontinue operation of the signs.[10] In 1985, two local non-profit groups, the National Railway Historical Society (Pacific Northwest chapter) and the Oregon Association of Railway Passengers, led a fundraising campaign for public donations to enable the signs to be restored to operation.[10] New neon tubes, in place of the old, were installed in July,[13] and the signs were switched back on and returned to regular use in September 1985.[14] The "Union Station" signs remain illuminated continuously, while the "Go by Train" signs flash on and off,[13] in a sequence of "Go", then "Go by", then all three words, then off and on and repeat.

The clock tower with its blue and gold neon signs

In 1987, ownership of the station and surrounding land was transferred from Portland Terminal Railroad to the Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland) as part of the Downtown/Waterfront urban renewal district.[6] Shortly afterwards, Union Station underwent a renovation. It was rededicated in 1996.

In 2004, the roadway in front of the station was reconfigured, providing a new connection to the northwest and a forecourt. In addition, the area is being redeveloped, including new housing where railroad tracks once were.

A panoramic view of the interior of Union Station

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maps of the Union Pacific. Portland Detail" (PDF). Union Pacific Railroad. August 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  2. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2017, State of Oregon" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  4. ^ Metropolitan Lounge, trainweb.com.
  5. ^ Amtrak Cascades, amtrak.com. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Giarelli, Andrew (May 3, 2007). "Union Station has more needs than funds". The Oregonian. p. B3.
  7. ^ Erickson, Steve (September 11, 1985). "Greyhound depot reaches end of line; new terminal opens in NW Portland". The Oregonian.
  8. ^ Amtrak national fact sheet FY2018
  9. ^ Giarelli, Andrew (May 3, 2007). "A 'pretty scary place' turns around". The Oregonian. p. B3.
  10. ^ a b c d Federman, Stan (May 1, 1985). "Rail clock buffs want to light up your life". The Oregonian. p. 1.
  11. ^ Gorsek, Christopher S. (2012). Portland's Pearl District. Arcadia Publishing. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-7385-9324-1.
  12. ^ "National Register of Historic Places - Oregon, Multnomah County". Retrieved 2007-05-02.
  13. ^ a b McCarthy, Nancy (July 25, 1985). "Train-station signs add color". The Oregonian. p. B6.
  14. ^ "Sneak preview" (photograph and caption). The Oregonian, September 19, 1985, p. 1.

External links[edit]