Passenger stations and terminals
We have described, in previous chapters, die roadway and die vehicles of the steam railroad. We shall turn now to another part, but an equally important pari, of our great transportation machine.
The tracks and the rolling stock actually do the task lor which our railroads are built; they carry passengers and freight from place to place. But in order to transport people and goods, a railroad must have something more than tracks and trains. It must have places where passengers and freight can be received and put into cars and where they may leave the cars. It must also have places where trains may be made up before starting their journeys, and where trains may be received when their journeys are ended. The facilities which a railroad has for receiving and discharging the burdens which its trains carry and for making up and receiving trains are the station and terminal facilities of the railroad. Often they are spoken of only as terminal facilities.
Strictly speaking, a railroad terminal is the place where the journey of a train begins or ends, or where it is "relayed," that is, where one engine is taken off the train and another put on. But in many cities, and especially in the larger cities, the freight stations, the passenger stations, the "yards" where outgoing trains are made up and incoming trains received, and the various tracks within cities, are spoken of under the general name of "terminal facilities." This is always the case in a city in which a railroad system ends. A passenger station which is the last stop of all the trains which enter it is often called a "passenger terminal," though the trains may really continue their journeys to a "yard" some distance away, after all passengers have been discharged. Likewise, at any point where a railroad terminal is located, that is, where trains begin and end their runs, the facilities for receiving and discharging passengers and freight, and the passenger and freight yards, are usually called terminal facilities. At smaller towns and cities where passing trains make "local" stops, we usually speak only of "station facilities."
In the larger towns and cities the station facilities for passengers and for passenger trains are entirely separate from the facilities for freight and for freight trains. But have you ever been in a small village where the station facilities consist of one little building, with perhaps a single short side-track? Usually one end of a village railroad station building contains a waiting room for passengers, while at the other end is a room for baggage, express and freight. Between the two rooms is a tiny oflice for the station agent.
Though the agent at a small station may not have to be busy all day long, he has many different kinds of work to do. He sells tickets to passengers, checks baggage and gives receipts for freight shipments. He must place out-going shipments in the station building until he puts them on a truck to be loaded into a train, and he also places incoming packages in the station until they are called for. He helps load and unload freight and baggage. He collects the money paid by passengers and shippers, and sends it to the treasurer of the railroad company, and he must keep a careful record and account of all the business of his station. He orders cars for shippers who wish whole cars for large shipments of freight. He is a telegraph operator, and has in his little office telegraph instruments or a telephone—or perhaps both—over which he receives messages for the trainmen who pass through, and sends messages to the railroad officers who direct the movement of trains. A janitor also, he builds the fire which keeps the waiting room warm in cold weather, and cleans the station with broom and duster.
In the big terminals the station work is just the same as in the small terminals, except there is a great deal more of it. The freight and the passenger business are each cared for in different stations, and each requires the services of a large number of men.
When you are in a passenger station in large cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis or Los Angeles, you see waiting rooms, baggage rooms and ticket offices, just as in the small village station.
The only difference is that they are very much larger. You will probably also notice that the station building contains check rooms for parcels, a restaurant, a newsstand, and perhaps several stores. And instead of a single or a double track for trains, there are many tracks, with many trains, so many that a train seems to be arriving or departing every minute. There are two kinds of large passenger stations, the stub and the through station. In the stub station the tracks come to an end in the trainshed, and the trains must pass out in the direction from which they come. In the through station the tracks are continuous and trains can enter and leave in either direction.
In the passenger stations of our larger cities the train platforms and tracks are covered to protect trains and travelers from rain and snow. Most of the large stations built during the nineteenth century had a single huge trainshed, with an enormous vaulted roof, which covered all the tracks and train platforms. These big sheds did not admit much sunlight, and at night they were so murky with smoke from locomotives that even electric lamps could not make them light and cheerful. A passenger leaving a train in a strange city felt lonely and half-afraid in. one of these gloomy sheds, and he was always glad to get out into the open air.
Modern stations do not have these great overhanging train sheds, and most of the old stations which once had them have been remodeled and a new type of shed installed. The roofs of the modern trainshed are low, and usually made of large panes of glass, held in steel frames. Over the center of each
track there is a slot through which the smoke of the locomotives escapes to the outside air. The train platforms are lighter and more cheerful both day and night than the platforms of the old-fashioned trainsheds. All large stations have a platform extending between the waiting rooms and the train platforms. This platform, on
which the passengers walk while going to and from the trains, is called the concourse. In a stub station the concourse runs at right angles to the tracks, and the train platforms extend out from it between the various tracks. In the through station the concourse may be above or below the tracks, with stairways or ramps leading to the train platforms, or it may extend lengthwise between the waiting room and the nearest track. In some of our older through stations the passengers entering or leaving trains on the "outside" tracks, or the tracks beyond the nearest one, have to walk across one or more intervening tracks. Walking across a railroad track is always dangerous, and in some of these passenger stations accidents have occurred because of the unexpected movement of an engine or a train.
Moreover, if one of the intervening tracks is occupied by a train, the passengers are delayed. Many of these stations have been changed by building galleries above or passageways beneath the tracks, connected with the concourse and with each train platform by stairways.
The several tracks of a large passenger station are numbered , and the train platforms are separated from the concourse by gates. Outgoing passengers show their tickets to the attendants at these gates and are told the number of the track upon which their train stands. This practice makes it almost impossible for a traveler to get on the wrong train.
The design of a passenger station depends upon the kind of passenger business it serves. If nearly all the travelers who pass through the station are "commuters"—men and women who live in the suburbs and work in the city, using the railroad to go to and from their daily work—it is unnecessary for the passenger station to have very large waiting rooms The passengers go directly from their trains to their work and they return to the station only a few moments before their trains are due to leave. On the other hand, if a great many of the travelers using a station are men, women and children who enter the station on one train to leave on another, or who come from other railroad terminals to continue their journeys, large waiting rooms are needed. In a union passenger station, used by several railroads, the waiting rooms are used by many travelers. In cities which have a number of railroads connecting with all parts of the country there are many passengers entering the city on one line and leaving on another. Wherever this "through" travel is heavy the passenger stations must be designed for the use of large numbers of people waiting for trains. These stations are likely to have larger restaurants, barber shops, and stores than the stations built chiefly for commuters.
In building their stations the railroad companies do noi forget that they must make travel as safe and comfortable as possible, and they often do more than provide the mere neces sities. Nearly all large passenger stations have small hospitals, where a traveler taken suddenly ill, or a traveler who has been hurt, may quickly be given treatment by skilled nurses and doctors. An interesting feature of the Chicago and North Western Station at Chicago is a laundry room, where waiting immigrants may wash their clothing and bedding. The Union Station at Washington has a feature that no other station in the country has. It is a private waiting room for the exclusive use of our President when he starts upon a journey. During the second World War, however, this room was not in use for the purpose for which it was originally intended. At the request of the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces it was converted into a U.S.O. lounge. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors and marines made use of its checking facilities, its writing desks, and other conveniences. In this station, as in many other railroad stations of the country, there was a canteen for the service men, where they could secure refreshments, tobacco and cigarettes at cost. No other organizations in the United States did more than the railroads to contribute to the comfort and welfare of the millions of men and women in uniform.
It is necessary for the passenger stations that are used by numerous commuters to have large concourses, in order that the passengers may move to and from their trains without 100 much crowding. These concourses are connected directly with the streets, and it is not necessary for the commuter to pass through the station waiting room when he makes his daily trips.
It is very important in the stations where many passengers arrive and depart at about the same time that the concourse be designed to keep the lines of outgoing passengers entirely separate from the lines of incoming passengers. Many ingenious plans are used to divide the two streams of travelers. In the Pennsylvania Railroad station in New York there are two concourses, one above the other, and both above the tracks. Outbound passengers use the upper concourse, passing down long stairways to the train platforms. Inbound passengers use the lower concourse, walking up shorter stairways from the train platforms. The inbound concourse has exits to the streets, to the subway, to the taxicab stand and to the waiting rooms. The exits to the waiting rooms are at each end and lead by stairway to the upper or outbound concourse . Since the exits are at the ends, the lines of inbound travelers going to the waiting rooms do not interfere with the streams of travelers walking across the outbound concourse toward the stairways leading to the train platforms. The station has elevators connecting both concourses with the track level. These elevators may be used by passengers
who because of illness or other reasons can not walk to and from the trains.
Some railroad passenger stations are built with two track levels instead of one. The land in big cities is very valuable, and it may be less expensive to have a "double-decked" station than to buy all the land needed to have the station tracks on one level. The Grand Central Station in New York has two track levels, and two concourses. The lower tracks are used chiefly for suburban trains, while the long distance express trains nearly all arrive and depart on the upper level. This arrangement keeps the commuters separate from the express train passengers and does much to prevent crowding and confusion. An interesting feature of this great station is that the passageways which connect the train platforms with the concourses, and which connect the lower concourse with the upper or street floor of the station, are ramps or inclined walks, instead of stairways. No passenger entering or leaving
a train at the Grand Central Station has to go up or down a stairway. These ramps are a great help at hours when large crowds of passengers are coming or going, for a person can walk much more easily and much more rapidly on a ramp than on stairs. In recent years escalators have been installed in a number of passenger stations to save passengers the effort of walking up and down stairways. An interesting gadget in the Pennsylvania Station in New York is an electric eye for opening doors leading from the lobby between the waiting rooms to the large concourse. By means of this electric eye the passenger causes the door to open without touching it. It takes a large force of workers to look after the needs of travelers in a busy passenger station. There must be many ticket windows, with one or two clerks at each window. Dozens of porters run about helping passengers with their hand baggage. Train callers cry out information about arriving and departing trains
telling upon which tracks they may be found. The large stations have loud-speaker systems, by means of which a single caller may communicate information to all parts of the station. The loud-speaker is used often to "page" individual passengers. The railroads exercise as much care as a radio broadcasting system in selecting announcers for the loud-speakers, who pronounce their words clearly and distinctly. In some stations the best announcers are women. A very large station must have a force of workmen
to keep the station clean, to look after the heating and lighting, and to supervise the movement of trains in and out of the station.
One of the interesting spots in a station is the information desk. It always has a prominent location, sometimes right in the center of the concourse. Around the desk there is always a group of anxious travelers asking questions about trains, requesting time-tables, and inquiring how they can get to certain destinations. The men at the information desk must be able to answer many questions instantly, and if they can not give the desired information off-hand, they must know where they can get it quickly. They must be patient and courteous, though some of the questions they hear now and then may make it a little difficult. Another interesting place in a passenger station is the great blackboard upon which is posted information about incoming trains. The attendant at this board is notified whether incoming trains are on time or late, and he writes on the blackboard the time when the trains are expected to arrive. The blackboard is usually surrounded by a group of people who have come to the station to meet some incoming friends or relatives. When a train nears the station, the attendant writes on the blackboard the number of the track upon which it will stop. Immediately, a part of the crowd about the board melts away, as the people hasten to the proper gate to meet their friends as they enter the concourse .
The attendant at the blackboard usually obtains his information about incoming trains by telephone. In some stations however he gets his messages by means of a "telautograph," an instrument with which a message is written on a pad with a pencil and the same message is written with an automatic pencil at the receiving station. The telautograph is used by many banks and factories as well as by railroads. Since passenger trains carry baggage, mail and express, passenger stations must have several rooms and platforms in addition to those used by the passengers. In some terminals special buildings are erected adjoining the passenger station, for the mail and express business. Where there is no extra building, station rooms which are used for the mail and express service are at one side and well out of the way of the waiting rooms, ticket offices and passenger concourse. The express and mail rooms must have convenient street entrances for the use of motor trucks and wagons, and these entrances must be so located that the arriving and departing trucks will interfere as little as possible with the taxicabs and carriages which transport passengers to and from the station.
It is not unusual to find a post office, either the main post office or a branch office, located alongside the passenger station of a large city. Elevators and underground passages make it a simple matter to secure speedy movement of mail bags between post office and train platforms. There may even be mechanical carriers between the post office and the platforms, much like the carriers which bring your change from the cashier's office in a department store, only much larger. It takes these carriers only a few seconds to whisk the mailbags from the post oflice to the waiting mail cars.
The baggage rooms of a passenger station must also have street entrances for the use of the wagons and trucks which deliver and carry away trunks and other heavy pieces of baggage. They must also have large service windows, with counters, opening upon the concourse or the main waiting room, where passengers may check and receive suitcases and bags and other kinds of hand baggage which the railroads carry for them. Some stations have separate rooms for inbound and outbound baggage. The baggage is carried between the trains and the baggage rooms on four-wheeled trucks. In the small stations these trucks are pushed and pulled by hand, but in the larger stations electric trucks are used. Have you ever seen an electric baggage truck, and watched it whiz along the platform piled high with trunks, bags and boxes? In those stations where the baggage rooms are above or below the level of the tracks the trucks are carried between the platform and baggage room floor level by elevators.
The use of electric instead of steam locomotives has an interesting effect upon passenger station construction. It makes it possible to do away with the train shed and to erect the station building itself directly over the railroad tracks. The use of electric power in the passenger terminal not only makes it possible for a railroad company to save the expense of building and maintaining a trainshed, but what is much more important, it makes possible the use of the air space above the electrified tracks for all kinds of buildings. Electrifying the railroads in a city has almost the same effect as adding more land to the city, and since city land is expensive, electrification may add very greatly to the value of railroad terminal property. The New York Central Railroad passenger tracks occupy a highly valuable strip of land right in the center of Manhattan Island. While the railroad was using steam locomotives to draw its trains into and out of New York City this space could not be used at all for buildings. A few years ago the tracks were electrified and for some distance were placed below the street level. Not only was the new Grand Central Station built over the tracks, but a number of fine hotels, apartment houses and office buildings were also erected in the space which the electric locomotive set free. It was the use of electricity, too, which made it possible for the Grand Central Station to be built with a double track level.
The passenger stations which our railroads build today are not only much more convenient and comfortable than the stations built forty or more years ago; they are much better looking buildings. The two large passenger stations in New York are among the most imposing buildings of the city. The Union Station in Washington is a beautiful building, in keeping with the many handsome buildings of our national government . The new Union Station and the Chicago and North Western Station in Chicago are a pleasing contrast to the older railroad stations of that city. Kansas City has one of the finest stations west of the Mississippi River. A magnificent new passenger station was opened in Cleveland in 1930, the fine Union Station at Cincinnati was dedicated in 1933, and the Pennsylvania Railroad recently completed a large new passenger terminal in Philadelphia. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy's station at Burlington, Iowa, destroyed by fire in 1943, has been replaced by a handsome new structure, distinctive in design, and modern in its layout. One of its features is a large inscription telling of some events, famous in railroad history, with which the Burlington was connected. The Union Station in St. Louis, first opened in 1894, had its "face lifted" in its fiftieth anniversary year, and so completely was its interior remodeled that it was difficult to recognize as the terminal which a half century ago was considered to be one of the finest in America. This station still retains its huge trainshed. The vaulted shed of Boston's South Station, one of the largest ever constructed, spanning twenty-eight tracks with one vast arch, was torn down several years ago, and replaced with the low, individual platform sheds.
Not only in the large cities have the railroads made an effort to build passenger stations of handsome appearance. In the smaller towns and villages also the passenger stations now erected show a great improvement in design and in con
struction. Well-kept lawns and flower-beds add much to the appearance of many of our smaller passenger stations. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, which was the first to operate a Diesel-powered streamlined train, was the first to streamline a passenger station. In 1940 this railroad's station at La Crosse, Wisconsin, was rebuilt, and to have it harmonize with "Today's Trains" the station, like the new trains, was streamlined. Its most striking feature was its waiting room, really a huge comfortable lounge, with plate glass windows, upholstered chairs, and a large open fireplace. It resembled the lounge in a luxurious club; in fact, it was so attractive that some women's organizations in La Crosse sought permission to hold their afternoon teas in the railroad station. The railroad companies are acting wisely in paying more attention to the appearance of their station buildings and grounds. The passenger station is the gateway to the city.
Have you ever noticed how much an attractive entrance adds to the appearance of a country estate? Or how the appearance of an otherwise beautiful home is spoiled by an ugly and illkept approach? A city with an ugly gateway does not make a good impression upon the traveler. In building a beautiful, convenient and comfortable passenger station a railroad company benefits itself, its travelers, and the city which it serves. The larger passenger terminal where passenger trains begin and end their runs, consists of more than the passenger station. It has also the passenger coach "yard," where the cars are stored when not in use. The departing trains are "made up" in the yard and taken to the station for the beginning of their journeys, and arriving trains, after discharging their burden of passengers, baggage, mail and express, move away to the yard to stay until the cars are used again in departing trains.
It is in the coach yard that the railroad company does its "housekeeping." Here the cars are cleaned, inspected and repaired. Cleaning a passenger car is very much like cleaning a room in a house. The carpets are taken out and all dust and dirt removed. Vacuum cleaners suck the dust from the seat cushions. The car floors are scrubbed thoroughly with soap and water, and the car bodies and car windows are scrubbed both outside and inside. In most coach yards the washing of car bodies is done by hand, with brushes and mops and soapy water, but in a few yards the mechanization of hand labor is beginning to show, and car windows and bodies are washed with machines, equipped with swiftly revolving brushes, and with nozzles that direct a powerful spray of water against the sides of the cars. The mattresses and pillows of sleeping cars are cleaned frequently with vacuum cleaners, and when possible are exposed to the fresh air and sunshine.
Many railroads have laundries in their coach yards, where towels, table linen, sheets, pillow cases and other soiled articles are thoroughly cleansed. Once a week the drinking water containers of passenger cars are cleaned and sterilized with live steam. When it is discovered that a passenger on a train has a contagious disease, the car in which he has ridden is cleaned under the supervision of health officers, and it is not used again until all danger of contagion is past.
It is in the passenger coach yard, too, that dining cars are cleaned and their stock of food and drink replenished. Railroads exercise the greatest care to keep their dining cars clean and sanitary. All food is protected from dust, and perishable foods, such as meat, fish, milk, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, are stored in clean refrigerators. At the close of a run the food left over in a dining car is removed, and it begins its next journey with an entirely fresh supply. Some railroads feature their dining car service in their advertising, on the theory that the most direct way to a prospective passenger's heart is through his stomach; and it is well known that the dining car, rather than the sleeper or the lounge, is the car that influences some travelers most in making their selection between trains of competing railroads. The Northern Pacific used to advertise itself as "The Road of the Great Big Baked Potato."