The Other Way out of Town

In Seattle, the Milwaukee Road called Union Station home.  The famous trains named Columbian and Olympian called there until 1961 when the passenger trains were cut back to Deer Lodge.  Eventually the last Hiawathas would never make it further west than the Twin Cites.  Union Station still served the Union Pacific, but there was another way out of town as well.

Just across the street from Union Station, the NP and GN called King Street Station home.  Famous trains called here as well, and to some extent, at least one still does.  The North Coast Limited and Empire Builder were just some of the top of the line passenger trains that left from the sheds of King Street.  Unlike the Milwaukee Road, UP, and NP, the GN left town heading north out along the Pacific coast.  At Everet the line to the Midwest turned east and headed over the Cascades and Stevens Pass.  It was there that the GN had a small electrification project of its own, and varnish like the Empire Builder was headed by powerful electric locomotives until the advent of dieselization.

Amtrak's Empire Builder still leaves King Street on a daily basis, still in close proximity to Union Station and the haunts of old Olympians.  Just like the original Builder, she heads north and the modern streamliner rolls through the ever expanding Seattle area and small coastal towns along the shores.  In the photo above at Mulkiteo, a beautiful winter morning is at hand along the old GN main.  The air is crisp, the leaves have turned, and fresh snow tops the distant mountains.  This is still the other way out of town, although for rail passengers heading to the Midwest for holidays and family, it is also pretty much the only way out.  How times change.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Author's note:  it is possible to leave King St. on a southbound Coast Starlight or Cascades for points south, and eventually east, if desired. 


SDP45 said…
Beautiful picture to go with the nice words.

Ole M. Amundsen, Jr. said…
We were at King Street Station several weeks ago as our Cascades train from Vancouver to Portland stopped for a break. The major rebuilding of this beautiful station is going full blast after several years of delay. Never did visit Union Station. Thanks for the great photo and info.
Oil-Electric said…
Many people do not realize that the same architectural firm, Reed & Stem, who designed Grand Central Station, designed the King Street Station, largest passenger station in the Pacific Northwest.

As you say, the station was a joint occupation, funded by the Northern Pacific and Great Northern, completed in 1906. Nearby Union Station (1911) was home to the Milwaukee Road, and "freeloader" Union Pacific. (UP never laid rail up from Portland to Seattle.)

Along with the Great Merger (BN) came "modernization."

Most apparent to the casual observer, obscene microwave dishes began to grow out of the most prominent feature, the clock tower, a reproduction of the famous tower in Piazza San Marco, in Venice, Italy. The tower clocks seized up and not fixed. In the "modern" digital age, who knows how to read a clock face?

A "modern" roof that reportedly leaked replaced the original Terracotta tile roof, which successfully warded of the alleged Seattle rain for almost half a century, without leaking.

Finally, the beautiful ornate waiting room ceiling was hidden behind a wire supported false ceiling, lowering the apparent room size to one considered of "modern" proportion.

(Lights dim, scene change)

In a rare display of vision, the City of Seattle bought the station from BN, now BNSF, in 2008 for $10.00. Then began reversing the "modern" look; what I would call retro-vation.

The four-faced clock was restarted in 2009.

That was followed by the recent infusion of Obama Administration Funding to national rail passenger service projects, with $18.2M (USD) approved to completely renovate King Street Station to her original historic splender, worthy of her place as a National Historic structure.

A leak resistant Terracotta tile roof will replace the modern roof. The interior false ceiling will be removed, to reveal the beautiful ornate original ceiling. Cut 'n paste:

The Seattle Department of Transportation has a rich website, with a ton of information on the various projects involved in the retro-vation of King Street Station:

Finally, those hideous gray fiberglass microwave dishes are "history!"
SDP45 said…
King Street station once had an impressive HO scale railroad in the former dining room. I saw it once about 1986, and recently saw a diagram and pictures of what it looked like.

Anonymous said…
Amtrak conductors, for some reason, announce when the eastbound Empire Builder is leaving King Street Station that the "Empire Builder is now leaving Union Station." The first time I heard it, I assumed she had Chicago and Seattle a bit mixed up, but I've heard it announced that way five times now.

Best regards, Michael Sol
wnrr said…
I have recently discovered this blog and since have been pouring through it, going all the way back to it's beginning. Beautiful writing and excellent pictures only enhance the fascinating subject matter. Having grown up near the Milwuakee transcon, I share many of the feelings expressed in this blog. My highest compliments.
LinesWest said…
Thanks for the comments and feedback to all - I've noticed that my updates have declined in frequency some this year because of a pretty nasty work schedule, but I'll keep 'em coming. Still plenty of pictures to share.


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