Train enthusiasts and history buffs gathered at the re-opening of Union Station yesterday in downtown St. Louis. The newly rehabbed train station and hotel kicked off its inaugural weekend by celebrating National Train Day.
People could see the audio-visual show in the Union Station hotel's grand hall; enjoy a variety of food from area vendors; watch performances by the Muny kids; and see historical displays. But mostly, people could enjoy the romance of model trains zipping about miniature landscapes.
Jim Sanders came to the event from Indianapolis. He’s a member of the Midwest Live Steamers, a model train club that specializes in trains that are steam-powered. He said the engines use use butane gas or alcohol to burn water that makes the steam.
"It's fantastic how they're remodeling and restoring Union Station," Sanders said. "To save the history and teach kids the way it used to be, that's great."
Fred Tennyson came down from Columbus, Ohio, as part of the Mesa Grande Railroad club, which features models of trains that rode across the country and into Union Station in the 1930s. The model trains are larger than the kind you see under Christmas trees.
“This is called G scale. And if you’re familiar with the old Lionel stuff, this is actually twice as big as Lionel," Tennyson said. "Bigger is better in a lot of ways but in some ways it’s not so good, because you have to put the detail in because you can see it. Unlike the little trains there that you don’t see as much.”
Tennyson said the best part of the event was getting to play with model trains in a real train station. Several of the model train enthusiasts said they'd love to celebrate National Train Day every year at Union Station.
Saturday's event was also a showcase of the $52 million renovation by Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM), which owns the facility.
LHM bought Union Station, including the hotel, for $20 million in 2012.