Union Station Metropolitan Lounge – Historical Trains

Friedman Fine Art and history-donor-walls.com is in the process of developing the art program for the Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station in Chicago. The first class area of the lounge is named the Pennsylvania Railroad Room and the art selected for this area is themed after the PRR. The first three installations included a series of 6 black and white photographs of PRR trains mounted on acrylic float frames installed in a creative configuration. The second piece is a 6 foot by 13 foot photograph of the PRR train printed on fabric and framed in a one piece custom built frame with linen liner. The third piece is a 8 foot by 10 foot photograph of the PRR train along with a 1938 Studebaker both designed by the “Father of Industrial Design” Raymond Loewy. This piece was printed on Lexan and custom framed with a revealed black molding.

Vintage Train Photo Union Station

Old Locomotive Picture

Historic Union Station Train Photos

Photo Credits

6 train photos at Union Station by John Gruber

The Pennsylvania Railroad train – Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society Archives

The Pennsylvania Railroad train with 1938 Studebaker – Collection of Albert J. Giannantonio


Raymond Loewy


After a brief but promising career as a fashion illustrator, Raymond Loewy dedicated his talent to the field of industrial design. Loewy’s creative genius was innate, and his effect on the industry was immediate. He literally revolutionized the industry, working as a consultant for more than 200 companies and creating product designs for everything from cigarette packs and refrigerators, to cars and space crafts. Loewy lived by his own famous MAYA principle – Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. He believed that, “The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.”

A popular lecturer as well, Loewy spoke at institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and the University of Leningrad. He founded three design companies: Raymond Loewy and Associates, New York; Raymond Loewy International, London; and Compagnie de I’Esthetique Industrielle, Paris. His writings include The Locomotive: Its Aesthetics (1937), the autobiography Never Leave Well Enough Alone (1951) and Industrial Design (1951).

A Global Presence

Raymond Loewy launched his career in industrial design in 1929 when Sigmund Gestetner, a British manufacturer of duplicating machines, commissioned him to improve the appearance of a mimeograph machine. In three days 28-year-old Loewy designed the shell that was to encase Gestetner duplicators for the next 40 years. In the process, he helped launch a profession that has changed the look of America.

The Gestetner duplicator was the first of countless items transformed by streamlining, a technique that Loewy is credited with originating. Calling the concept “beauty through function and simplification,” Loewy spent over 50 years streamlining everything from postage stamps to space crafts. His more famous creations include the Lucky Strike cigarette package, the GG1 and S1 locomotives, the slenderized Coca-Cola bottle, the John F. Kennedy memorial postage stamp, the interior of Saturn I, Saturn V, and Skylab, the Greyhound bus and logo, the Shell International logo, the Exxon logo, the U.S. Postal Service emblem, a line of Frigidaire refrigerators, ranges, and freezers, and the Studebaker Avanti, Champion and Starliner.

By 1951, his industrial design firm was so prolific that he was able to claim, “the average person, leading a normal life, whether in the country, a village, a city, or a metropolis, is bound to be in daily contact with some of the things, services, or structures in which R.L.A [Raymond Loewy Associates] was a party during the design or planning stage.”

Changing the marketplace

While Loewy established his reputation as a designer, he boosted his profession by showing the practical benefits to be derived from the application of functional styling. In the book Industrial Design, Loewy notes, “Success finally came when we were able to convince some creative men that good appearance was a salable commodity, that it often cut costs, enhanced a product’s prestige, raised corporate profits, benefited the customer and increased employment.”

One of Loewy’s first major successes, a Coldspot refrigerator he designed for Sears Roebuck & Company in 1934, served as a testimonial to creative packaging. Loewy’s streamlined Coldspot, complete with the first ever rustproof aluminum shelves, sent Sears refrigerator sales from 60,000 units to 275,000 units in just two years. Another Loewy design, the GG-1 electric locomotive built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1936, demonstrated on an even larger scale the efficacy of industrial design. The welded shell of the GG-1 eliminated tens of thousands of rivets, resulting in improved appearance, simplified maintenance, and reduced manufacturing costs. As the first welded locomotive ever built, the GG-1 led to the universal adoption of the welding technique in their construction.

Several years earlier, in 1930, Loewy had been brought on as a consultant to the Hupp Motor Company. He called the Hupp contract “the beginning of industrial design as a legitimate profession,” explaining that it was “the first time a large corporation accepted the idea of getting outside advice in the development of their products.” The Hupp contract also marked the beginning of Loewy’s long and often frustrating association with American automobile manufacturers.

A rocky road

While Loewy introduced slanted windshields, built-in headlights and wheel covers for automobiles, he also advocated lower, leaner and more fuel-efficient automobiles long before fuel economy became a concern. “He waged a long war against the worst extravagances of Detroit styling,” commented Edward Lucie-Smith a Times Literary Supplement. “He could take a production-line monster and make it an infinitely better-looking ‘special,’ with comparatively minor rebuilding. What he could not do was to alter the industry’s fundamental attitudes. Gas-guzzlers remained gas-guzzlers, and no fancy-pants designer was going to be allowed to change that.”

In 1961, while designing the Avanti, Loewy posted a sign that said, “Weight is the enemy.” The Avanti design eliminated the grill, which he argued, “In this age of fuel shortages you must eliminate weight. Who needs grills? Grills I always associate with sewers.”

In spite of the differences that Loewy had with Detroit stylists, several of his designs are now considered automobile classics, including the 1953 Studebaker Starliner Coupé and 1963 Avanti. In 1972 a poll of stylists representing the Big Three automakers named one of his works an industry best. Reporting the results, Automotive News announced, “The 1953 Studebaker, a long-nosed coupe, with little trim and an air of motion about it, was acclaimed the top car of all time.

Raymond Loewy

Visual retention

In addition to his achievements in the transportation field, Loewy was undoubtedly among the world’s most talented commercial artists. He began designing packaging and logos in 1940 when George Washington Hill, then president of the American Tobacco Company, wagered him $50,000 that he could not improve the appearance of the already familiar green and red Lucky Strike cigarette package. Accepting the challenge, Loewy began by changing the package background from green to white, thereby reducing printing costs by eliminating the need for green dye. Next he placed the red Lucky Strike target on both sides of the package, increasing product visibility and ultimately product sales. A satisfied Hill paid off the bet, and for over 40 years the Lucky Strike pack has remained unchanged.

“I’m looking for a very high index of visual retention,” Loewy explained of his logos. “We want anyone who has seen the logotype even fleetingly to never forget it.” Among Loewy’s highly visible logotype designs are those for Shell Oil Company, Exxon, Greyhound and Nabisco.

European appeal

Loewy has also left his mark on the area of store design. One of his early innovations, the first fully climate-controlled, windowless department store, was so well received that the Loewy organization formed a separate division devoted entirely to store design. Under the leadership of Loewy’s partner, William Snaith, the company designed for prestigious clients such as Saks Fifth Avenue, J. L. Hudson, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor.

By the 1970s Loewy’s New York office was engaged almost exclusively in store design. Loewy decided to sell the American company and to transfer the base of his design activities to Europe, because he said store design had “never been my particular field.” Retaining the name Raymond Loewy International, he started a new firm in Friebourg, Switzerland, and accelerated existing operations in London and Paris. He discovered fertile ground for his interests, saying in an interview that, “industrial design in Europe is where it was in the United States 25 years ago.” Loewy’s efforts overseas found great success, and his Raymond Loewy International, now Loewy Group, is the largest firm of its kind in Europe.

Out of this world

A New York Times Book Review critic once commented, “Mr. Loewy has indeed changed the shape of the modern world.” However, after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) solicited his skills, he was able to extend his range of influence even farther.

From 1967 to 1973 Loewy was retained by NASA as a habitability consultant for the Saturn-Apollo and Skylab projects. They needed him “to help insure the psycho-physiology safety and comfort of the astronauts” under the “exotic conditions of zero-gravity.” His innovations, including simulating conditions of gravity and a porthole for vision contact with earth, made it possible for three men to inhabit a space capsule for 90 days. George Mueller, NASA’s deputy administrator for manned space flight, wrote in a letter of appreciation: “I do not believe that it would have been possible for the Skylab crews to have lived in relative comfort, excellent spirits and outstanding efficiency had it not been for your creative design, based on a deep understanding of human needs.”

In Mueller’s estimation, Loewy’s efforts had “provided the foundation for man’s next great step – an expedition to the planets.” Loewy agreed, later citing the work he did for NASA as his most important and gratifying assignment.

A legacy rivaled by few

In 1975 the Smithsonian Institution opened The Designs of Raymond Loewy, a four-month exhibit dedicated to “the man who changed the face of industrial design.” Loewy later commented, “While working closely with the Smithsonian, I was provided with the opportunity to reassess the past.” And what a past it was. Loewy – businessman, educator, illustrator and author – had undoubtedly established himself as one of history’s most famous and influential designers.

Loewy and Viola moved to France several years later, where they enjoyed leisurely travel and a more relaxed lifestyle. On July 14, 1986, after a period of poor health, Raymond Loewy died in Monte Carlo, Monaco. He was 92 years old.

Loewy’s death sparked a worldwide media frenzy over his immeasurable talent and contributions to industrial design. New York Times reporter Susan Heller wrote, “One can hardly open a beer or a soft drink, fix breakfast, board a plane, buy gas, mail a letter or shop for an appliance without encountering a Loewy creation.”

Proven time and again, Loewy’s design principals continue to be relevant years after their inception. Today, he has rightly found his place in history as the Father of Industrial Design.

Union Station highlights

Union Station

One of the two grand staircases, where famous movie scenes, such as in The Untouchables (1987), were filmed.

Rail Map


Union Station now serves as a terminal for all Amtrak trains to Chicago (orange), as well as a good number of Metra lines (green). Thin black lines represent former Amtrak routings.

Chicago Union Station is a major railroad station that opened in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, replacing an earlier station built in 1881. It is the only intercity rail terminal in Chicago, as well as being the city’s primary terminal for commuter trains. The station stands on the west side of the Chicago River between West Adams Street and West Jackson Boulevard, just outside the Chicago Loop. Including approach and storage tracks, it is about nine and a half city blocks in size. Its facilities are mostly underground, buried beneath streets and skyscrapers.

Chicago Union Station is the third-busiest rail terminal in the United States, after Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station in New York City. It is Amtrak’s over all fourth-busiest station. It handles approximately 120,000 passengers on an average weekday and is one of Chicago’s most iconic structures, reflecting the city’s strong architectural heritage and historic achievements. Its combination of Bedford limestone Beaux-Arts facades, massive Corinthian columns, sparkling marble floors, and magnificent Great Hall, all highlighted by brass lamps, create an environment that captures the imagination of passengers and visitors who enter its premises. In addition to standing out architecturally, Union Station has features that reflect its commitment to sustainability. In 2011, its lighting system was replaced with more energy-efficient light bulbs and motion sensors, reducing the station’s carbon footprint by 4 million tons annually.

Chicago Union Station was designated as one of America’s “Great Places” in 2012 by the American Planning Association (APA). The “Great Places” program by APA highlights places streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces around America that exhibit “exemplary character, quality, and planning.” These places are unique in their cultural and historical significance, sense of community, and vision. Other criteria include “architectural features, accessibility, functionality, and community involvement.” Chicago Union Station is considered a “Great Public Space” by APA, for promoting social activity and community cohesiveness. These spaces are safe and inviting, well-maintained, and attractive, both visually and in functionality. In addition, local culture and history are reflected within the space.

Platforms and tracks

Union Station is laid out with a double stub-end configuration, with 10 tracks coming into the station from the north and 14 from the south. Because passenger trains do not pass through Union Station, all passengers traveling through Chicago must change trains to reach their final destination. There are 2 through tracks to allow out-of-service equipment moves between the north and south side, including one with a platform to allow extra-long trains to board. Between the north and south sides of the station is a passenger concourse. Passengers can walk through the concourse to get from any platform to any other without stairs or elevators. Odd-numbered platforms (1–19) are on the north half of the station, and even-numbered platforms (2–30) on the south half. The north tracks are used by Amtrak for the Hiawatha Service and the Empire Builder, and by Metra for the Milwaukee District WestMilwaukee District North, and North Central Service routes. The south tracks are used for all of the other Amtrak and Metra services. Two station management structures (known as glasshouses), one on each side of the terminal, monitor train-to-track assignments and the flow of traffic in and out of the station. Actual oversight and control of switching and signaling is accomplished by two “train director” positions, one for each side of the station, located in the Amtrak control center in the headhouse of the station.

Inside the concourse are ticket counters for both Metra and Amtrak services, as well as three waiting rooms and a baggage claim for Amtrak passengers, a set of restrooms, and offices for Metra and Amtrak. The concourse also has a mezzanine level between platform and street level, containing a food court featuring local vendors as well as national chains.

HeadhouseUnion Station Main Hall

The Great Hall

Located west of Canal Street, Union Station’s headhouse occupies an entire city block. At its center is the Great Hall, a 110-foot (34 m)-high atrium capped by a large barrel-vaulted skylight. Arrayed around the Great Hall are numerous smaller spaces containing restaurants and services, and a wide passageway leading to a concourse. Above the headhouse are several floors of office space, currently used by Amtrak. Original plans called for many more floors of offices, forming a skyscraper above the Great Hall. This was never completed, although the plan has been revived in recent years.


Numerous entrances provide access to Union Station’s underground platform level. The main entrance is on Canal Street opposite the headhouse, but passengers can also reach the platforms directly from the headhouse via an underground passageway. Two secondary entrances are located in Riverside Plaza near the Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street bridges. On Madison Street, directly across from Ogilvie Transportation Center, are a set of entrances to the north platforms.


The current Union Station is the second by that name built in Chicago, and possibly the third rail station to occupy the site. The need for a single, centralized station was an important political topic in 19th and 20th-century Chicago, as various competing railroads had built a series of terminal stations. The numerous stations and associated railyards and tracks surrounded the city’s central business district, the Loop, and threatened its expansion. The various stations also made travel difficult for through-travelers, many of whom had to make inconvenient, long, and unpleasant transfers from one station to another through the Loop.

On December 25, 1858 the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad opened as far as Van Buren Street in Chicago. It built the first station at what would eventually become today’s Union Station on the west bank of the Chicago River.

Union Depot

Old Union Station

The first Union Station

On April 7, 1874 five railroads agreed to build and share a union station just north of the original Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad station site at Van Buren Street. These railroads were:

The Michigan Central, which had previously been using the Illinois Central Railroad‘s Great Central Station, soon decided to back out of the agreement, and continued to use the Illinois Central Depot. The Chicago and North Western Railway, not part of the original agreement, considered switching to the new station from its Wells Street Station but deferred instead. In 1911 it built the Chicago and North Western Passenger Terminal for its operations.

The remaining four original companies used the station when it opened in 1881. The headhouse of the Union Depot, a narrow building, fronted onto Canal Street and stretched from Madison Street to Adams Street. Tracks led into the station from the south, and platforms occupied a strip of land between the back of the headhouse and the bank of the Chicago River. South of the station, Adams, Jackson, and Van Buren Streets rose over the tracks and the river on bridges.


Planning and construction

Growth in passenger traffic, as well as a civic push to consolidate numerous railroad terminals, led to a proposal for an enlarged Union Station on the same site. The second Union Station would be built by the Chicago Union Station Company. This was a new company formed by all the railroads that had used the first station, save for the Chicago and Alton, which became a tenant in the new station.

The architect was Daniel Burnham of Chicago, who died before its completion. The firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White completed the work to Burnham’s designs. Work began on the massive project in 1913, and the station finally opened twelve years later on May 16, 1925; some viaduct work continued into 1927. The construction cost was projected to be $65,000,000. Construction was delayed several times by World War I, labor shortages and strikes. The construction of the station also involved the demolition and relocation of some previously existing buildings such as the Butler Brother’s Warehouse along the Chicago River. It is one of about a dozen monumental Beaux-Arts railroad stations that were among the most complicated architectural programs of the era called the “American Renaissance“, combining traditional architecture with engineering technology, circulation patterning and urban planning.

Union Station was hailed as an outstanding achievement in railroad facility planning. The station’s ornate Beaux-Arts main waiting room, the “Great Hall”, is one of the great interior public spaces in the United States. It has vaulted skylight, statuary, and connecting lobbies, staircases, and balconies. Enormous wooden benches were arranged in the room for travelers to wait for connections, and two specially-designed underground taxicab drives were built to protect travelers from the weather. The station featured a large, open concourse along the river, with massive steel arches holding up the roof, and several stairways leading passengers down to the platform.

Air right

The large amount of land above the tracks and platforms has tempted property owners and developers. Possibly inspired by the “Terminal City” built atop New York’s Grand Central Terminal, Chicago moved to develop the air rights above Union Station’s tracks. The first building to be built was that of the Chicago Daily News in 1929. Designed in the Art Deco style, it was the first structure to add a public promenade along the river, which would be named “Riverside Plaza”. Soon after, in 1932, the new Chicago Main Post Office opened. Also in the Art Deco style, it was a gigantic structure that occupied two full city blocks.

The Great Depression and subsequent World War II halted development, but in the 1960s, work began on Gateway Center, a Modernist complex of five buildings. Only the first four were built, and construction lasted into the 1980s through several economic cycles.

In 1990 the Morton International Building opened. Now named for Boeing, it is the tallest building yet to be constructed over the tracks. It received awards for its innovative engineering. With the construction of River Point beginning in 2013 and 150 North Riverside beginning in 2014, the entire length of the tracks from Union Station north to Fulton Street and south to Polk Street has now been enclosed by overhead development.

Wartime, decline, and resurgence

During World War II, Union Station was at its busiest, handling as many as 300 trains and 100,000 passengers daily, many of them soldiers. After the war, however, traffic both at Union Station and on the American passenger rail system declined severely with the growth of highway construction and private ownership of automobiles. In 1969 the expansive Beaux-Arts concourse at Union Station was demolished to make way for a modern office tower. A new, modernized (but smaller) concourse was constructed beneath the tower. In 1970, Amtrak was formed, it bought out the last partner railroad of the Chicago Union Station Company in 1984.

In 1991, this concourse was renovated by Lucien Lagrange Associates. Included was a renovation of the Great Hall, and the restoration of the skylight, which had been blacked-out during the war and not restored. Restoration of Union Station continues. Numerous spaces within the station have yet to be renovated, and many sit unused, especially within the headhouse.

Due to security concerns following the September 11 attacks, the pair of taxicab drives was closed by Amtrak. Passenger traffic has increased and is exceeding the capacity allowed by the 1991 renovation.] Numerous improvements have been planned to accommodate the expected growth in passengers from the planned high-speed trains of the proposed Chicago Hub Network.

In 2010, Amtrak (the current owners of the Chicago Union Station Company) announced that the Great Hall would become air-conditioned for the first time since the 1960s.That year a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed high levels of diesel soot on the underground platforms of Union Station. Metra established an “Emissions Task Force” to study this problem and recommend solutions to improve air quality in the underground areas.

Union Station remains a busy place: as of 2007, approximately 54,000 people use the station on a daily basis, including 6,000 Amtrak passengers Union Station currently serves all Amtrak intercity trains to Chicago, as well as Metra commuter rail lines – the North Central ServiceMilwaukee District/North LineMilwaukee District/West Line, BNSF Railway LineHeritage Corridor and South West Service.

In June 2015, it was announced that Amtrak would be renovating the station, including opening up previously-closed spaces and replacing the worn staircases, with marble from the original quarry near Rome.

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