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U.S. Train Stations Have Surprises in Store

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By Victor Block

Betty Condon and Tom Butler are checking out a beautifully furnished room that was created for the use of U.S. presidents. Roger Price and Paul Beatty are enjoying a spirited game of tennis. Brothers Charles and Ted Brawner are sharing and comparing tastes at a state-of-the-art brew pub.

While none of these experiences might seem to be much out of the ordinary, where they're taking place is. The locations are train stations in different parts of the United States.

Some railroad terminals are more, much more, than just places where passengers board -- or depart from -- a train. They can double as art museums and examples of magnificent architecture, places to shop and sip, and in some cases locations of hidden surprises.

Even if you're not planning a train trip, especially at this time of limited travel, a station where you live or not far away could provide enough in the way of appeal and attractions to warrant a visit. People are often pleasantly surprised to learn that what they had viewed as an unexciting edifice they entered only when on the go offers a welcome choice of things to see and do.

For Betty Condon and Tom Butler, who live in Washington, D.C., that meant inspecting a room at the city's Union Station that replicates the world-famous Oval Office in the White House several block away. After the assassination of President James A. Garfield at the railroad station in 1881 a presidential suite was installed to provide security. It has been used by several presidents to welcome world leaders and dignitaries. Currently it's available as a private event space.

 

Roger Price and Paul Beatty were battling it out at the Vanderbilt Tennis Club, which is perched on the fourth floor of Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The place where the Brawner brothers were bonding is the Imperial Western Brewing Co. at the Los Angeles Union Station. It combines an authentic brew pub ambience and a choice of house-brewed beverages with sausages and other traditional fare.

The visual diversion can begin even before entering a building. Stations around the country feature touches of architectural styles that range from Art Deco (Cincinnati) and Beaux Arts (Chicago) to Spanish Revival (San Diego) and Streamline Moderne (Los Angeles).

Indoors, some stations double as art galleries. While people rushing to catch a train or return home after a trip don't often pause to admire the paintings, sculptures and other creations that surround them, those with more time on their hands might wish to do so. The offerings cover the full range of artistic expression with something-for-everyone diversity.

Among decorations in Chicago's Union Station are sculptures of a figure holding a rooster, which represents day, and another clutching an owl for night. They depict the fact that people are on the go around the clock.

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