Union Station / the Train, Washington D.C.
Amtrak has its headquarters at Washington's Union Station, and there are many trains starting and transiting through. Destinations and through stations on the routes from Washington include: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami, Charlotte, New Orleans, Savannah and Atlanta. It's a big, busy station that's very central and perfect for tourists who want to stay near the National Mall - it drops you off right at the beginning of it near Capitol Hill.
“Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.”
— Daniel Burnham (1846-1912) architect of Washington DC’s Union Station
Union Station was opened on 27.October.1907 but not completed until 1908; it is ranked as one of the finest Beaux-Arts style buildings in the United States. Its architect, Daniel Burnham, meant that it should be monumental and to serve as a grand gateway to the Federal City.
In the early 20th century the Station covered more ground than any other building in the country and was the world’s largest train station. The total area occupied by the Station and the terminal zone was originally about 200 acres and included 75 miles of tracks. If the Washington Monument was put on its side, it could lay within the walls of the Station’s concourse!
It is recognized that with Union Station’s construction a monumental transformation got underway in Washington, D.C. The classic lines of the Station set the standard that would be followed for the next 40 years. Washington’s most recognizable monuments, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and the Supreme Court Building, reflected classic architectural lines. At a cost of $125 million, including 70 pounds of 22-karat gold leaf to decorate the 96-foot barrel-vaulted and coffered ceilings, the Station was one of the most expensive projects in the land.
Union Station is located just a few blocks north of the US Capitol Building on Capitol Street. It was completed in 1908 and, at the time, was the largest building in the US and the largest train station in the world. It has always served as the gateway to Washington DC for all rail passengers. After the rise of airports in the mid 1900s, Union Station saw less use, and the commercial area was closed for several years. Finally in 1988 it was reopened as a modern shopping center in the heart of the city. More than 25 million people visit Union Station annually.
For transportation, Union Station is still DC's main rail hub. Here you can take the high-speed Acela train up the east coast as far as Boston, ride around the city on the metro, catch a Gray Lines Bus, ride the Virginia Railways Express trains south to Virginia, rent a car, or catch a cab. Be careful after dark around Union Station; it is not known to have the best reputation, and the neighboring buildings are favorite overnight spots for area homeless.
Immediately in front of Union Station is the Columbus Fountain, built in 1912 to honor the man credited with discovering America. Just to the west of the station is the National Postal Museum, which shares a building with the Capitol City Brewery, and to the east of the building's front is the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building. Towards the Capitol Building, you will also find the Robert Taft Memorial, the Presidents Trees (31 trees planted in 1934 to honor the 31 Presidents), a marker showing where George Washing bough tland and built two houses, and a large fountain over the Senate parking garage.
As DC is the Nation's Capitol and is in the most densely populated area of the country, it is thankfully well-serviced by train. Amtrak trains run from DC north to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City.
Union Station was built in 1907 and is an example of Beaux-Arts style of architecture. The station is full of ritzy shops and restaurants, reflecting that these Amtrack trains are not a cheap form of transportation and are largely used by business travelers going between these northeastern metropolises for work.
To the Memory of Christopher Columbus
Whose High Faith
And Indomitable Courage
Gave to Mankind
A New World
— the inscription on the Columbus Monument outside Washington, D.C.’s Union Station
OUR VACATION VOYAGE After leaving New York City from the bowels of Pennsylvania Station, we arrived above ground in the bright sunshine, at Washington D.C.’s Beaux-Arts marvel, Union Station, which was modeled on Ancient Rome’s Baths of Diocletian and the triumphal Arch of Constantine. The train ride was smooth and relaxed … what a civilized way to travel!
In the years following the 1892 quadricentennial celebration of Columbus’s voyage, the Knights of Columbus campaigned to establish a monument to their namesake in Washington, D.C. Daniel Burnham, architect of the station, also designed the fountain/monument in Georgian marble. Lorado Z. Taft designed the 15-foot sculpture of Columbus; the figurehead at the prow of the ship is Democracy.
During our short stay in Washington DC we used the subway to move around the city, once from the Smithsonian Museums station to Pentagon City station to visit Crystal City Shopping Complex and then later back to Mc Pherson Square station only 5 minutes walk from our hotel.
We found the subway system easy to understand, cheap, fast and safe. However we only used the subway during day time.
Washington DC metro system -
Luggage - UGH ! I use the DC metro system every day for work and I see many people STRUGGLE with their luggage and they SOMEHOW manage, they survive (BELIEVE ME). That said here are some pointers -
You will need to purchase a separate ticket for each person in your group, available in ATM-like dispensing machines at each station before you enter the platform. These ATM like machines at the metro are not intuitive at all, but they do work and they accept bills, coins, credit cards, debit cards. You can always seek help from station attendant if needed
At the airport at least, avail of the luggage cart and leave it at the metro station,
Try and limit your self to one large piece per person
Try and avoid rush hour crowded trains ( 7.30 am - 9.00 am and 3.30 - 6.30 pm, not including federal holidays, Saturdays and Sundays)
At the station LOOK for the elevator instead of using the escalator - there is always going to be one, PROBLEM though, sometimes they are not working (welcome to Washington DC metro system)
Do not run after the train - there will be another one after this
If travelling in a group, keep your minors close together
Verify operating hours - avoid early morning departures and late-night arrivals if you are depending on the metro system
P.S. You will do fine !
Metro has a very useful web-site WMATA.COM with trip planner, maps, points of interest, fares, schedules, street details for each stations, etc.
Travel into DC from Northern VA in more comfort and from farther away than the metro, using the commuter train, which costs just a little more than the metro and is faster. Adult Price is normally around $8 each way, but if you buy a 10 trip pass, it is $7.60 each way.
There are good ways to get to DC, but there's also a best way: taking a train. There are quite a few options of trains into Washington DC (like Amtrak) but my personal favorite (the one I always take) is the Virginia Railway Express, which is designed for commuter purposes but is also good for getting from either Fredericksburg or Manassas to DC. VRE has two lines: the Fredericksburg Line, and the Manassas Line. They run Monday-Friday for all non-Federal holidays, and are for commuter use. There are six trains heading north from Fredericksburg between 5:00 and 8:00 in the morning, and six trains heading back south between 3:30 and 6:30 in the afternoon. The fare is relatively inexpensive ($8.80 one way from Fredericksburg, less if you start from Brooke, Quantico, Rippon, Woodbridge, Springfield, or Alexandria), or at least less expensive that Amtrak. What I like so much about VRE, though, are the views along the way. If you sit facing the east, you'll have views of the Piedmont's hilly forests, as well as wide open views of the Potomac River. Sit facing the west, and you'll have a postcard view of Fredericksburg over the Rappahannock, various inlets of the Potomac River, the Masonic Temple, and the Tidal Basin in Washington.
I do love riding trains. So whenever I get the chance I will take the train over other forms of transport in this or any other country.
You can get to Washington on Amtrak from Chicago, NY and Boston, Norfolk, New Orleans, North Carolina and Florida as well as all points connecting in between. The Boston to Washington North East Corridor is not cheap. But other tickets from other places are much more reasonable. Support Amtrak. Take the train. You won't regret it.
both amtrak and marktrain connects DC with most major towns on the US east coast and it´s a nice way to travel the US in my opinion.
marktrain is quite a lot cheaper than amtrak, but amtrak is better, so it´s kinda up to you what you prefer.
If you're visiting Washington, coming from the big Northeastern cities, consider going by rail. Amtrak offers excellent service in this region. Washington's main station is Union Station. It's worth seeing just for itself. The building is beautiful, with a wide array of shops, restaurants, and services.
Completed in 1908, it is a fine example of the Beaux-Arts style, designed by Daniel Burnham. When it opened, it was the largest train station in the world. Unfortunately, it underwent some really bad times after World War II and the advent of cheap air travel. But then it was restored, and reopened in 1988. Today, it's one of the most attractive railroad stations anywhere.
In addition to its shopping, eating, and services, Union Station also has special events and exhibits. Check the website for more.
We didn't rent a car when we visited Washington, D.C., and there is no need to, since we were spending all of our time in the city. We took the train from the Baltimore airport to Union Station. From Baltimore Airport, there are 3 train options:
MARC - cheapest, runs M-F only
Amtrak Regional - runs everyday, slightly more expensive than the MARC
Acela Express - runs everyday, most expensive.
We took the MARC on our day of arrival and the Acela Express on the day of our departure. The trains are a very convenient way to get to and from the city. That Acela Express is very nice. Once you reach Union Station, just jump on the subway to your nearest destination.
Well as always I recommend flying in. Washington can be reached by any of the three major airports around it. Dulles International and Reagan Airport are both in Washington and Baltimore International is only a 30 minute drive a way. Trains, cars and buses are great alternatives if you live within a few hours trip. Amtrak will take you to the Union Station picture to the right. Route 95 will take you in by bus or by car.
Getting around Washington is also easy. The streets can be a bit confusing but the subway system (Metro) is not. Try to utilize it as much as possible and do some walking. It's good for your heart!
Baggage storage (better know in Europe as left luggage) is available in the train terminal at Union Station. The desk is on the right as you are headed out of door A toward the train platforms. I’d recommend calling ahead for details. I don’t know of any Americans airports that have lockers or baggage storage available and I was quite surprised to find this facility in a major American train station.