Thursday Doors – Union Station

Main Entrance
Union Station Main Entrance

To avoid any confusion, I should say Hartford Union Station. There are many Union Stations in this country, and I’ve been to quite a few, but almost all of my train journeys pass through this one. While I enjoy the convenience of boarding the train a few miles from my house, I don’t get a chance to walk around the other stations. Last Sunday, I met our daughter in Hartford to begin our journey to New York City. I usually arrive earlier for trains than she does, so I thought I’d get some door photos. I took a little bit of ribbing when my daughter texted me, and my wife, from the platform. Still, I think she understood:


Despite the fact that the city choose “Yard Goats(1)” as the name of their Triple-A baseball team, Hartford isn’t a major rail hub any longer. Sure, a bunch of AMTRAK trains and a few freight trains pass through each day, but 35 minutes farther south, New Haven’s Union Station bristles with activity on 12 active tracks while Hartford struggles with one. One lonely track.

Even back in 1889, when the station served the Hartford and New Haven Railroad, Central New England Railway, and the Hartford and Connecticut Valley Railroad, Hartford Union Station only had four tracks. There were two tracks between the station and a platform and two more on the west side of the platform. The outer two tracks were abandoned years ago, as train travel gave way to cars and planes. The second inner track was abandoned when AMTRAK determined that the underlying structure could no longer be trusted to support two trains at the same time.

Union Station was added to the Registry of Historic Places in 1975. I like the opening description in the application:

Hartford Union Station occupies an entire downtown block adjacent to Bushnell Park. The area Is one of street-level commercial activity and multi-story buildings of various heights. The station consists of a large three-story central mass flanked by two somewhat smaller two-story wings, all rectangular in plan. The whole building is constructed of brownstone from Portland Connecticut, cut into large, rough-faced blocks, and is in the Romanesque style created by H. H. Richardson.”

Like many of the buildings I have selected for Thursday Doors, Union Station was also altered by disaster. A fire in 1914 destroyed the roof and gutted the interior. The original steep gable roof over the central portion of the station was replaced with a flat steel roof to avoid fire damage in the future.

One architectural feature of the station makes me wonder. An octagonal pinnacled tower rises at both corners facing the street on the southern end of the building. None of the articles I read about the station mention any significance to those towers, but I wonder if they weren’t added to echo the two towers of the Memorial Arch in Bushnell Park. You can see the Memorial Arch from the platform, as you look over the octagonal towers.

Union Station has survived by welcoming retail and restaurant business into the wing sections and by making room for other transportation on the street level. CT Transit and intercity buses both operate out of the station and Union Station is the downtown terminus of the CTfasttrak Busway. In the not-too-distant future, a new commuter light-rail service between Springfield, MA and New Haven, CT will also stop at Hartford Union Station.

This post is another entry in Norm Framton’s fun Thursday Doors series. If you visit Norm’s page, you can see his doors, all the other doors and you can even add your own door.

(1) A Yard Goat is a small locomotive used to move rail cars around a rail yard. Kinda like the Little Engine that could.

57 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Union Station

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  1. Dan… this was fuel for my procrastination. How could I resist a lovely train station and… DOORS? :D Loved the colorful shots and the station. Have a thriving Thursday. (I will too, but it might require a second cup of coffee.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll take the blame for your procrastination today Teagan. I’m well into cup #2 but some computer issues are contributing to my procrastination. I think I have them sorted out now. Have a great day.


    1. Ha! Thanks Mary. I don’t know if they’re open yet, but a local BBQ place has been expanding and they recently leased space in Union Station. So, maybe a second visit, later this summer for doors, trains, BBQ and beer. Who knows, maybe there will be a crane around.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John. I would rather see the original building instead of those banners. I think that might be a hold over from our “Gateway to New England” or our “New England’s Rising Star” campaigns. CT has tried just about everything (now, we’re “Still Revolutionary”) but they just don’t seem to understand that central CT isn’t a tourist destination.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice! I love that window with the 1914 block. Indianapolis has a union station, too, and ours was the first in the world! (Crossroads of America and all that.) It only has one platform now, but it used to have many, of course. I actually have no idea what goes on in our union station now. For a long time it was a mall of sorts, but that went bust. Maybe I should look into it. Maybe get some doors! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! The original! that’s pretty cool. You should check it out. I’ve been to quite a few Union Stations. Now you’re making me want to add Indy to the list. Go get you some train station doors.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I can’t help but think of people heading up those grand staircases to board their trains during the heydays of rail travel. Today, there’s only a few administrative offices up there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love old trainstations. There are few great ones in Germany. One of them being the one in Stuttgart even though there has been some controversy because the rail company wanted to modernise it. I have no idea how it ended. Will have to research that :-). Shame there is only offices left but at least the building is saved. That’s something I think :-)


  3. There’s something special about these wonderful old train stations isn’t there? I’m always pulling for them to find ways to keep these places active, open, and relevant in our modern car-centric world.
    And thanks for the Yard Goat definition. I had no idea and was thinking about real goats; as in bahhhhhhhh :-D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norm. I think they will keep finding a way to make this work. The light-rail system will help. It would be more convenient to take a commuter train to New Haven and then hop on Metro North. Way more trains, so you can almost come and go as you please. Amtrak only had two trains to choose from inbound to NYC and only three home – 3:00, 4:30 and 8:30pm. The best news lately is that, in the same time frame as the light-rail to New Haven, Metro North has plans to start servicing The Molly Wee, I mean Penn Station.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a really nice-looking station, Dan, and the doors are impressive, but my favorite shot is the one looking up the tracks. The anticipation, you know? Seeing those tracks retreating into the distance, and knowing the train will be here shortly. Anyway, well done, Dan. You could do your own book soon, I imagine!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The bricks in the warm light look beautiful, and the windows are just as lovely as the doors.
    I really like the many paned entrance door. It reminds me of a ticket window.

    I’m glad the city has been able to maintain the building and it’s still being used.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Deborah. The reason I was late to the platform was that I wanted to get that photo and there were people holding some of the doors open. I had given up on a straight-on shot of the main entrance, because a smoker was out there. I really liked all the little panes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I agree about the towers. Apparently, they are still used for storage. I was hoping for something much more interesting than boxes of records, but at least that means they must be watertight.


    1. Thanks Jean. I’m glad you like the window. I took several shots of that to get a good one. The sun was so bright. Who knew that brownstone can reflect sunlight? I was lucky to be on an early train. The empty station was fun to be in with a camera.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great pics, Dan! It seems like train and bus stations always have such lovely architectural detailing. I’m a big fan of the date being engraved on the outside of the building, right into the stone. (Hmm, have I said that before? Feeling a little déjà vu here…) But it’s kind of like a signature on a painting — it’s nice if you can easily see who or at least when something was made. Also, I’m really liking that cage-y glass enclosure on the city-side main entrance. Annnd suddenly my mind has wandered away from trains and I’m imagining how wonderful it would be to have a home library enclosed like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wendy. Being inside that entrance did feel very nice. If it was a little bigger and had a few bookshelves, it could work well. I really worked hard to get a picture of the window with the date. I’ve discovered, especially with churches, that you have to match that date with the records. Sometimes it’s the day they set the cornerstone. Sometimes, it’s part of an addition and, with churches, it can be the date the congregation was founded (in England) and precede the building by as many as 75 years!


    1. Thanks Lois. The Portland brownstone has a very mellow tone. The quiet side of the station, the old grand side, was very comforting to be in. I love those windows too.


  7. You did a great job of giving a taste of the atmosphere/mood there! I usuall don’t like that kind of brown but like here in combination with lighter colors it’s not so somber. Whoa-1914-the birth year of my late father (sorry that was very random!).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the arched windows most about this building (but the doors are nice too!)
    There’s a post I want to do soon that has an architectural theme to it, so I’ve been on the trail of a lot of architectural details recently and as someone not really up on any of this stuff, my head’s swimming with them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I think a good goal for a train buff would be to visit all the Union Stations. There are so many :)

      I hope this one grows in importance as the light rail project comes to fruition. They keep saying that service will launch in January 2018. I hope they’re on time.


    1. Thanks Diana. It was pretty dingy when I first moved here. My wife and I took a train to Pittsburgh in 1982 and I remember not being in a hurry to get back to Union Station. Next up, A BBQ restaurant is moving into the north wing. That’s always a good sign :)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post. I believe I am seriously going to miss India if I ever move to the United States. I mean to me it seems like a curfew area. Over here train stations are buzzing with so much activity. That lovely bench would be in use 24/7 if it was here. Thanks for the history and pictures of the Union station.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you moved here, you would have to learn how to drive and get comfortable flying. Trains in the northeast corridor (where I am) are the best in the country for intercity travel. That said, they probably pale by comparison to most modern rail systems.


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