St. Paul Union Depot by John W. DiersSt. Paul Union Depot by John W. Diers

St. Paul Union Depot

byJohn W. Diers

Hardcover | April 19, 2013

Pricing and Purchase Info

$46.76 online 
$51.95 list price save 9%
Earn 234 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


St. Paul Union Depot was among the busiest and best-known places in the city—one of the largest depots in the nation and St. Paul’s link to the world. It had nine platforms, twenty-one tracks, and well over 140 trains coming and going each day. At its peak in the 1920s, the Union Depot processed more than twenty million pieces of mail each year. Construction of the new depot began in 1917, among the burned remains of the previous depot, and was finally finished in 1926 as both a monument to St. Paul’s urban growth and its gateway to the Northwest.

Practical rather than pretentious, the Union Depot served St. Paul for more than fifty years—complete with a restaurant, drugstore, infirmary, and playrooms for children. Millions of people bought tickets and walked through its lobby and concourse to board waiting trains. It sent children to summer camps and schools, and young men and women to wars. The depot hosted U.S. presidents and presidents-to-be, international royalty, famous authors, movie stars, and the rich and famous—but it also sheltered the homeless and the troubled seeking a warm place on a cold night. Though it closed in 1971 after years of declining passenger rail service, today the St. Paul Union Depot is once again being revived as a Twin Cities transit and commercial hub, just as rail travel throughout the United States experiences a renewal.

In St. Paul Union Depot, John W. Diers brings to life the sights and sounds and the behind-the-scenes inner workings of what was in its time the most important rail passenger station west of Chicago. He captures an era when competing railroad companies came together and agreed that one depot was better than nine. Of more interest, though, St. Paul Union Depot is about the people—the stationmasters, gatemen, switchmen, ticket clerks, mail handlers, train directors, locomotive engineers, and others who were employed there, as well as the millions of passengers who passed through its doors.

John W. Diers is an independent consultant on transit operations and has worked in management in the transit industry for forty years, including twenty-five years at the Twin Cities Metropolitan Transit Commission. He has written for Trains magazine and is coauthor, with Aaron Isaacs, of Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Min...
Title:St. Paul Union DepotFormat:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 11 × 10 × 0.9 inPublished:April 19, 2013Publisher:University of Minnesota PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:081665610X

ISBN - 13:9780816656103


Table of Contents


Prologue: A Night on the Builder

Railroads Serving St. Paul Union Depot


1. Railroad Avenue

2. St. Paul and Its Railroads

Leroy Buffington

3. A New Union Depot for St. Paul

Milwaukee Road Depot

Great Northern Station Minneapolis

Charles Sumner Frost and the Firm of Frost and Granger

4. Arrivals and Departures

5. Mail and Express

6. Last Call

Epilogue: Whither the Passenger Train?

Appendix: Passenger Train Discontinuances in Minnesota, 1950–1971

Bibliographic Resources

Illustration Credits


Editorial Reviews

The story of the Union Depot is St. Paul’s story. By chronicling the history of this magnificent building from the vantage point of its current renewal, John Diers gives us an insight into how we became the city we are today.
" —St. Paul Mayor Christopher B. Coleman