July 15, 2014 by Rob Hurlbut
Amtrak Platform – Union Station In Denver, Colorado
Two months ago we all said, “Goodbye Market Street Station!” when our beloved cave, Denver’s only underground was closed. I was and remain all right with that because it forced me to examine my relationship with Union Station. Back in the day when the light rail opened I’d take the C line out of there and I partied Lotus a few times but I never used it as a train station. I never had to jump onto an Amtrak train as, “All aboard!” was shouted or watched my girlfriend chase my departing train down the platform, blowing kisses at me as she knocked people and stuff over in a way that made it seem like it was in a movie. As she ran along after me I would be smitten with her physically exhausting display of affection for me but as soon as I pulled my head back in the open window, I’d be laughing at whatever comical way she would have finally tripped and collided into something. Without a defining moment like that, do you even have a relationship at all?
I wasn’t sure so the other day I went to Union Station in order to explore this new hub of bus and rail. I was there to take pictures and to see what the station could offer me beyond the light rail. By the way, in San Diego they call it the trolley. As in, “I’m going to take the trolley downtown.” Saying I’m going to take the light rail downtown makes me think of beams of light like a light saber from Star Wars. There is no heavy rail or dark rail or whatever the competition of light rail is. It should be rebranded as The Denver Trolley.
Police On The Platform
For reference, the people you see in the first photo were waiting to board an incoming train so I walked down the platform and was politely stopped by the policeman you see above. He asked if I was catching the train so I said I was not; I was taking photos and was heading to the old looking Pullman in the background. He said I had to stay back past the bridge, also visible in the first photo. There are no signs to that effect but at least he was only concerned with where I was and not what I was doing, which was taking photos.
People Waiting For The Train
When the train arrived it backed into the station and people become to jostle about as the excitement of imminent travel began to take over.
The Timeless Train
Watching a train roll in to a station is a timeless experience because standing on a train platform today is exactly the same experience that it was 150 years ago. If you are in the vicinity of a station and you hear a train whistle you are drawn to it, if you are in a station and you see a train pulling in you are drawn to it. I was. My goal was to photograph the underground portion of Union Station but once I found out a train was arriving I headed over to the Amtrak platform.
Washing The Windows
When the train was parked, window washing caught my eye. I had never thought about train windows being washed before; you never see it happening in any Cary Grant movies from the golden age of rail, where I learned most of what I know about trains so this was a neat thing for me to see for the first time. Also, this is my favorite photo from the day.
People About To Board The Train
There are so many stories going on in the world at any given time and a train station helps bring a bunch of them together in a very small space. This is how I interpret the photo above:
The couple on the right is full of uncertainty; the woman on the phone is explaining to someone that she is literally about to step on a train and leave while the guy she is with is worried that whomever she is speaking to will talk her out of leaving.
The couple on the left have everything worked out so they don’t have a care in the world.
The guy in the peach colored shirt is just a photobomb.
A few minutes later an RTD transit guard and that same policeman from earlier came up to me. The transit guard did all the taking and asked if I was getting on the train, what kind of photos I was taking and told me they are concerned for everyone’s safety. Then he told me something unexpected. He said I could call RTD customer service at 303.299.6000 and get a permit to take photos around the station. He said it’s easy to get and it will allow the security and police personnel in the station to know I was there and what I was doing. I was in the station for just as long as the people waiting for the train so it was ultimately the amount of time I spent in the station that lead to our conversation, not my taking photos. He never said I couldn’t take photos or to put my camera down but getting a permit would just put everyone on the same page. Fair enough, I’ll check it out and report back.
In the meantime I do recommend you check out the station, with or without a camera. I’ll do an entirely separate post on the underground portion because it is rather grand so I need to spend some more time down there and take a few more photos before I present my assessment to the world. Cheers!