WAS was quite the experience! WAS is train talk. Yah, I speak train.
WAS means Washington DC Union Station. So last post when I mentioned JAX to WAS, I meant I traveled from Jacksonville FL to Washington DC. Then I traveled west from DC through Chicago to just over the California border.
So what is a train station like? Depends on the train station.
Some traits train stations have in common:
- There are train tracks.
- There are safety measures to follow near the tracks.
- There are trains that come and go.
Hmmm, that’s about all the similarities I can picture. Everything else depends on the station:
- When it was built.
- Where it was built.
- Why it was built.
- Who built it.
- And how many people use it.
I could get lost in a whole study of train stations – wouldn’t that be fun!!! – but for the purposes of this post, let me tell you a few differences that could affect your trip.
You are thinking of taking a train trip, aren’t you?
JAX to WAS to CHI to NDL
That’s train speak for Jacksonville FL to Washington DC Union Station to Chicago Union Station to Needles CA.
JAX: Jacksonville FL
Built in 1974. Basic building. Bathrooms. Vending machines. Staff. Baggage services. Enclosed waiting area with pretty comfortable seats. Everything you need in a train station. Just a little bland.
That was the 1970’s, though.
Beauty, who needs it?
How grand it must have been to pull out of the original station downtown! Sadly, it closed to passengers in the 1970’s.
Thankfully, other large cities have cherished the grandeur of the past …
WAS: Washington DC Union Station
DC’s Union Station was built in 1907.
Wow, the architecture! History upon history upon history.
They have modernized the building to meet the needs and tastes of the current generation. The station offers:
- Lots of shops, some overpriced, some quite reasonable.
- Food court (I didn’t know it was downstairs until my return trip.
- Bathrooms, not many but they are there.
- Staff on site. (Surprised I mentioned it? I was surprised to learn not all stations have humans on hand.)
- Baggage services.
Union Station DC is super-super crazy-crazy busy-busy at rush hour especially since the Metro station is in the same building.
Not too plentiful with the seating areas, I don’t recommend getting there 6 hours early. What was I thinking???
CHI: Chicago IL
I was prepared after my rush hour arrival in DC for a crazy connection in Chicago.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the station very, very calm and quite quiet, except for the fantastic Sinatra music playing.
Amazing architecture and history, the station was completed in 1925, the same year my mom was.
I think I saw a shop or two and there is a small food court. Bathrooms I’m sure they had for the general ridership, but I paid the extra $20 so I could rest in the comfy Legacy Club with all the amenities.
Staff is super, especially in the Legacy Club, which offers you priority boarding. Another bonus of paying a wee bit more.
Seating for the general public is lovely, but isn’t so comfortable (hardwood pews). They have a little cozier spot for disabled travelers and really nice seating in the Legacy Club. Yep, another perk.
Yah, I liked the Legacy Club.
NDL: Needles CA
Yes, that Needles. Home of Spike, relative of Snoopy. My arrival at this train station has a story all it’s own (which is why I forgot to take pics) but here are a few tidbits of info:
- Newly constructed (2016) enclosed waiting area.
- No staff. None, nada, zippo. Come prepared with your ticket in hand.
- No baggage services (hence all suitcases must conform to carry-on policies).
SUPER IMPORTANT TIP: Have someone meet you at the station, if you are traveling alone. You arrive and depart in the wee hours. And tell them you will meet them at the gate to the building by the tracks. Right, my big sis, Annie?
I’ll leave you at the NDL station for now while I ponder my next post.
While I am pondering, you might be interested in reading more about America’s Great Train Stations.
I saw some unique stations out west, like this one in Las Vegas, New Mexico, but sadly we can’t get off the train at every station to take pics. That would make the trip reallllly long!