Denver's Transportation Hub
—1881 - Present —
"Without railroads, Denver would be too dead to bury."
Thomas Durant, Vice President
Union Pacific Railroad, 1867
A survivor of fire and floods, Union Station is at the head of our railroad history. Landlocked, Denver needed reliable transportation to the outside world to survive. Railroads provided that conduit, carting valuable ore from mountain mines and delivering the materials and people who transformed the city into the largest metropolitan center in the Rocky Mountains.
Since the first train arrived in 1870, lower downtown has been the hub of the city's railroad network. By 1880, Denver was home to seven competing railroads, which consolidated and built Union Station in a dusty field near the South Platte River. It opened in 1881 and was soon joined by warehouses, saloons, and hotels on nearby streets. After a disastrous fire in 1894, a new roof and elegant clock tower rose in the center section. The waiting room was enlarged in 1914 to give Union Station its present appearance.
Trains remained the country's primary form of transportation through the mid-1940s. By the late 1950s, airplanes and automobiles had surpassed passenger railroads and trains had stopped running in Colorado, except for Amtrak and the beloved Winter Park Ski Train.
late 1980s, a plan surfaced to move the passenger trains to the stockyards and turn the station into a convention center, but citizens rallied to save their station. In 2004, voters' approval of the Regional Transportation District's FasTracks transit expansion project revived Union Station and Denver's old rail networks. The building is shaping Denver's transportation future, while remaining a powerful reminder of the past.