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Great Railroad Stations - Gary, IN

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Great Railroad Stations 

by John C. Dahl

Gary, Indiana

The abandoned hulk of Union Station in Gary, Indiana awaits an uncertain future.  Located on Broadway north of 4th Avenue, the station sits among a multitude of elevated railroad mainlines.  While the adjacent railroad tracks are alive with freight trains, the station itself is a desolate, lonely place, inhabited by silence, dirt, decay and the occasional vagrant.  Vandals have thoroughly wrecked this one time showpiece of stations.  The once magnificent interior has been stripped of anything of value.  What was left was smashed into dust.  Her grand hall is now home to pigeons.  Debris and charred remains of dubious origin are strewn over what was a marble floor.  The ceilings are caving in.  Not a single pane of window glass remains unshattered.

One hundred years ago, Gary was not the decrepit place it now is.  By the early Twentieth Century, Gary was becoming a leading industrial boom town.  Steel making on the south shore of Lake Michigan took advantage of the easy access to a multitude of railroad trunk routes that converged in the area and of lake shipping.  Coal from Midwestern and eastern mines, and iron ore were easily brought together here. United States Steelís Chairman, E.H. Gary was involved in the  decision-making that saw the founding of the planned industrial city of Gary.  In 1910, a new Union Station was erected along the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and Baltimore & Ohioís lines through the city.  The tracks of both railroads were elevated through Gary.  The station was built between the two lines.  Beaux Arts style was still in vogue but construction would utilize the latest in 20th Century cast-in-place concrete.  The concrete was scored to resemble stone.  Even today, the exterior is in remarkable condition, almost pristine compared to the rest of the structure.

Union Station. Gary, Indiana, June 6, 1999. Jon Rothenmeyer photo.

On the west end of the building a porte-cochere protected passengers arriving by carriage and later automobiles.  Classic style details are everywhere, from columns, to corner dentils and ornate sculpture, to keystones above semi arch windows.  The interior featured a huge skylight in a heavily coffered ceiling.  Connections were available to the PRR station further down Broadway via convenient electric trolley.  An ornate railway express facility was also built on the site, east of the station proper.  Brick roadways leading up to the old express building are still in place.  The upper platform areas are now overgrown with weeds and brush.

The station has stood vacant for many years.  In 1999, it was still standing, but its days appeared to be numbered.  Perhaps it could still be saved.  Proposals by the city to acquire the property and restore it as a transportation center and Amtrak stop have so far not come to pass.  The structure itself appears to be sound.  On the elevated rights of way, a multitude of Conrail (now CSX) and Amtrak passenger trains hustle along the old LS&MS and B&O.  Like the mythical Phoenix, perhaps Gary Union Station can rise from the ashes.

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This page was last updated Thursday, December 06, 2001

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