1907: Washington Union Station Opens for Business

October 27, 1907  

A major transportation hub in Washington, D.C., made its debut when the Pittsburgh Express passenger train of the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad pulled into the new facility at 6:56 a.m. The next day’s edition of the Washington Post reported that “4,000 or more prospective passengers and spectators who crowded up to the cars gave vent to yells and cheers of welcome, which were distinctly audible for many blocks.”

While Washington Union Station was not completed until the following year, the arrival of that first train demonstrated that the building was already very much opened for business and that a new transportation era in the region had begun. “The opening of the new terminal station is the celebration of a turning-point in the history of the National Capital,” noted the Washington Post. “The city is now furnished with transportation facilities on a metropolitan scale.”

Washington Union Station was jointly constructed by the B&O and Pennsylvania Railroads on swampland about a half-mile (0.8 kilometer) from the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 25,000 people visited the station at various times during the day on which trains started traveling to and from there.

Just a few minutes after the Pittsburgh Express had arrived at Washington Union Station, New York express train number 504 departed from there. George W. Martin, superintendent of the new facility, joined a large number of other people in cheering on the train as it traveled down a long track and eventually faded from view. Those on board this train included George Latimer Potter, third vice president of the B&O.

Prior to the train’s departure, Potter sought to make the most of his limited time at Washington Union Station.  The Washington Post reported, “Mr. Potter was at the station only a few minutes, but long enough to take a good look at the surroundings and to congratulate Superintendent Martin on the neat appearance of the place.”   

Well over a century later, Washington Union Station serves as a central location for the Washington Metro rapid transit system; Amtrak; both the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) trains; several bus lines; and parking and rental services for bicycles.

(The above photo of the switch yards at Washington Union Station was taken sometime between 1907 and 1910.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the history of Washington Union Station, please check out https://dcnrhs.org/learn/union-station/ and https://www.usrcdc.com/history/

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