Amtrak sets return to Union Depot

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More than 42 years after the last intercity passenger train left St. Paul’s Union Depot, Amtrak’s Empire Builder service to Chicago and the Pacific Northwest will return to the beautifully refurbished 1920s historic landmark in Lowertown on May 7.

Twin Cities access to Amtrak’s most popular long-haul route will switch from the utilitarian Transfer Road station in the St. Paul Midway with the 10:03 p.m. westbound arrival from Chicago on May 7, departing at 10:10. The first eastbound train is scheduled to arrive at Union Depot at 7:52 a.m. May 8 and leave at 8.

Passengers can get to the trains via the 240 E. Kellogg Blvd. entry. Priority parking for Amtrak and intercity bus passengers is available at Lot B on N. Sibley Street between Kellogg and Warner Road.

The Transfer Road station will close after the May 7 morning departure.

In addition to the Empire Builder’s northern tier destinations, the depot offers connections to hundreds more places via Greyhound, Jefferson and Megabus intercity buses, Metro Transit and the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority. In June, the Green Line light rail line to downtown Minneapolis will begin service at the depot’s front entrance on Fourth Street.

Amtrak says Union Depot’s revival as a transportation hub follows a national trend. In 2002, passenger trains returned to Kansas City’s Union Station and this year they moved back to Denver’s Union Station as well. In the 1920s, up to 20,000 travelers a day thronged Union Depot.

“These historic buildings can be saved, be made more relevant to the transportation network and serve as ‘front doors’ to their communities and the future,” Amtrak’s Mark Murphy said in a news release.

The Amtrak switch comes just in time for a National Train Day celebration on Saturday, May 10, at the depot. The free event sponsored by Amtrak and the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority will include indoor and outdoor activities, exhibits and a railfan picnic area. Schedule details will be posted later at uniondepot.org

As air and motor travel have lost luster, it’s nice that measures of elegance and comfort have been restored to America’s long-neglected passenger train network.