It had all the sights and sounds of a music festival, with bands, booths, buses and of course trains at the 75th anniversary celebration of Los Angeles’ historic Union Station in the city’s downtown.
Despite warmer-than-usual temperatures Saturday, thousands of people turned out to join in the transportation hub’s anniversary celebration. There were displays, tours and entertainment, some harking back to 1939 when the station first opened, also with grand fanfare and a display of vintage trains.
Swing bands, mariachis and rock ‘n’ roll groups entertained from the different stages located throughout the iconic building. Spectators of all ages were drawn to the vintage photos and a vintage train brought in for the occasion.
Union Station was designed by a father and son team whose company, Parkinson and Parkinson, is also famous for its contributions to some of the city’s other famous landmarks, such as the coliseum and city hall.
Kimberly Parkinson-Decambre, granddaughter of Donald Parkinson and great granddaughter of John Parkinson, told EGP that Saturday’s event was a way to share in her family’s history and contributions to the city.
“This is a big party!… this is letting everyone know” about our family’s history, said Parkinson-Decambre, who flew in from Boston to attend the anniversary celebration. “I love the smiles on everybody’s faces, the joy that this brings this [event] to everyone,” she said about all the people taking in the historical milestone.
The transportation center’s architecture is a mix of Spanish colonial and art deco styles, popular during the pre-World War II era. It cost $11 million to build the station that first opened for business on May 3, 1939.
“Even though I wasn’t born during that time … that’s our history, so it’s nice that they [Metro] brought that [era alive] out here today,” said Los Angeles resident Cynthia Moss, who takes public transportation everyday to work.
During World War II, the station was the site of thousands of farewells and reunions for U.S. troops and their families. But with the end of the war came a decrease in daily passengers, with many travelers opting for new forms of transportation made possible by airplanes and cross country buses.
When it first opened its doors, 7,000 train passengers stopped daily at Union Station. That number has today grown to more than 97,000 rail passengers on weekdays, making Union Station the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) purchased the station from the city in 2011 as well as the property’s development rights. It is located adjacent to Olvera Street, often referred to as the city’s birthplace, and is in walking distance of Chinatown, Little Tokyo, L.A. City Hall and a number of County administrative facilities and state and federal courts.
Metro shares the facility with the Metrolink and Amtrak transportation agencies. Buses, Amtrak and Metrolink trains and Metro light rails that travel through the station and connect Southern California residents within the region, and to the rest of the country.
“I’m excited with what’s happening with trains in L.A.,” said Quinn Tang of Los Angeles. “This [event] should be done more often because there’s so much information about the different rails that you can take to all these various destinations.”
Saturday’s event also featured booths with information on Metro’s planned expansion for the site, which is being developed with input obtained through public meetings and forums with area residents, businesses and other stakeholders.
There were fun activities for children and train displays to coincide with National Train Day, as well as other activities to get residents from Los Angeles and beyond to trade-in their cars for Tap Cards, a pre-paid credit card like card to ride the bus or rail transportation in the region.
“I’m surprised with how much is going on, I’m really impressed,” said Highland Park resident Maya Santos about the changes at Union Station and Metro’s plans for the future.
Chinatown resident Amanda Chavez said the entertainment is what attracted her to attend on Saturday. Martha Cruz of Bellflower took her two children to the event to learn more about the different ways to get around on the bus.
“Everything we have seen so far, the music, the booths the activities was well organized,” she said in Spanish. “My children are enjoying themselves.”