Railroads transformed America. In 1829 the first common carrier locomotive ran on American soil. Soon trains took the place of waterways for the transport of freight and passengers. The first stations were merely ticket offices near a shed and some platforms. It wasn’t long, though, before railroad companies erected elaborate Victorian buildings. Ken Fitzgerald’s new book, Train Stations Then and Now, comprehensively tells the story of American train stations.
The book consists of 144 pages choc-a-block with pictures and interesting stories about train stations. Since the book is arranged alphabetically by city name, it is easy to find any station that particularly interests the reader. The stories contain information on the building and destruction of the stations. Fitzgerald points out that General Sherman initiated the destruction of the grand stations when he burned the Atlanta station during the Civil War. The cries of outrage over that destruction of a station were, however, very different from the outrage of the preservationists when many stations such as the New York City Penn Station were destroyed. The demolition of the Penn Station resulted in New York’s first landmark protection law.
There is a two page spread on the Indianapolis Union Station, which was built as the first union station in the nation in 1853. It includes the iconic picture of the scary, speaking, styrofoam Santa Claus from 1949. It a blessing that that particular Santa was chopped up to be used in insulation. The spread on New York’s Grand Central Station includes a picture of the oyster bar that features prominently in many novels.
Train Stations Then and Now is available at Bookmamas, 9 Johnson Ave.
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