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Happy 100th Birthday Union Station! 1916-2016

Dallas Union Station turns 100 years old this month!  The first passenger train arrived on October 8, 1916 with official dedication of the station on October 14.  The Museum of the American Railroad was proud to be part of the host committee that planned Union Station’s Centennial celebration.  Working with Hunt Consolidated and Woodbine Development Corporation, Texas Rail Advocates, Hyatt Regency Dallas and Wolfgang Puck Catering, the Museum participated in the planning process that culminated in Monday’s Centennial celebration event. 


Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was the master of ceremonies to a standing-room-only crowd.  His presentation was followed by remarks from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Gary Thomas Executive Director of DART, Ambassador and former Mayor Ron Kirk, and Karl Ziebarth of Texas Rail Advocates and former Executive Vice President - Finance for the M-K-T Railroad.    


Over 250 invited guests attended the midday event, including former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and other dignitaries.  The presentation was followed by sumptuous offerings from celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck, who provides exclusive catering for the station’s repurposed second floor facilities.  The Grand Hall, once a stage for the comings and goings of millions of travelers in Dallas, was a dramatic backdrop for the 100th anniversary celebration.  One couldn’t help but give pause and think about those who stood in the same space 100 years prior, and reflect on the optimism of the period. 


As part of the event, Museum staff created nine 7-foot-tall exhibit panels chronicling the history of Union Station.  They were displayed in the second floor Grand Hall which served as the general waiting room.  The first panel covered the genesis of the station, when five predecessor depots and a web of tracks gridlocked downtown Dallas.  Subsequent panels trace the City’s solution to the congestion and the creation of the Union Terminal Company.  The exhibit follows construction of the station and its peak years, followed by decline in the 1960s and rebirth in the 1970s.  The panels were well received by visitors and were featured in print, radio, and television coverage.  We had countless inquiries about where the panels could be seen following the event.  They are currently located on the first floor of Union Station to be enjoyed by visitors.  They will return to Frisco at some point, with three additional panels to be created.   


The Museum’s CEO, Bob LaPrelle, was the official media representative for the event. He provided numerous interviews to local news outlets, including KERA, KRLD, CBS 11, FOX 4, CW 33, and NBC 5.  Hayley Enoch of Trains Magazine was also on hand.


Museum volunteers Bob Palka and Clint Tennill served as conductors during the event, faithfully and authentically carrying out their duties of marshalling guests and staying on time with activities.  Guests enjoyed getting selfies with the pair in their uniforms.   


Guests also marveled at an O-Gauge train display created by Ban Bywaters, which depicted activity during the station’s heyday of train travel.  Nearly every name train, including the Sunbeam, Sam Houston Zephyr, and Texas Eagle were represented along with a dramatic backdrop of the station.  Ban Bywaters is the founder of the Trains at Northpark and a long-time friend of the Museum.  Amtrak placed two Superliner cars on display.  Guests enjoyed guided tours of the cross-country dining car and sleeping car. 


Thanks to the City of Dallas, Hunt Consolidated, Texas Rail Advocates, and Hyatt/Wolfgang Puck Catering for supporting the event.  Our appreciation also goes to Woodbine Development, Dallas Public Library, DeGolyer Library Special Collections at SMU, Dallas City Archivist John Slate, UNT Portal to Texas History, and Amtrak for providing select images for the exhibit panels.  Special thanks to Vicky Riley and Becky Mayad for their tireless devotion to the event.

Event professional photography was provided by James Edward Photography

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