Happy Holidays! Hope everyone is having an enjoyable Christmas Day. We are exploring Kansas City’s Union Station and the annual toy train exhibit and the
Holiday Express. Plus we’ll talk a little about the history of this local landmark.
Kansas City’s Union Station was built in 1914 to replace the prior rail station that had been destroyed in flood. At the time of its construction, the station was the second largest terminal in the nation. (Only New York’s grand central Station was more massive.) During both World Wars, the station was major crossroad due to the city’s location in the center of the country, both for soldiers leaving to and returning from the European theater.
At the station’s peak year of 1945 over six hundred thousand people moved through the terminal. As air travel began to surpass rail in the 1950s and 60’s, the station started to decline in use until the mid 70’s when only three trains a week would stop in Kansas City.
The Station is massive, and as rail passengers continued to decline, the lack of people in the waiting areas only became too obvious. In time, the station began to fall into disuse and eventually in the 1980’s Union Station closed completely. The building started to deteriorate and became an eyesore. The city passed a bi-state initiative with neighboring Kansas as well as private investment to fix and refurbish the station. A new science museum “Science City” also opened in the western half of the station and quickly became a major attraction. The station also contains an IMAX screen, exhibition space, and a live theater. A walkway was also built connecting the station with the Hall’s Crown Center, Legoland, Sealife Aquarium and several midtown hotels.
Since the station’s refurbishment, Christmas at the station has become a local ritual. The toy train exhibit has become especially popular. Over twenty tracks feature miniature cityscapes and rural scenes both past and present,
There is such attention to detail you could almost envision yourself as Gulliver looking down on the cities of Lilliput. I almost expect the toy people to move.
Another Holiday feature is the arrival of the “Holiday Express” a train that makes several stops throughout the Midwest each December. Presented by KC Southern Railway, the train brings Santa and his Elves to town and is marking its 18th year running. The train features Rudy the smiling tank car, Santa’s sleigh with reindeer, the Elve’s workshop, a gingerbread car, and an old-fashioned red caboose.
For over a century Union Station has been the beating heart of a great city. I hope someday you’ll come for a visit. You can see first hand what makes Union Station and Kansas city just so unique during the holidays.