Updated: Oct 29, 2022
The dusty, yellowed old New York Central Railroad passenger timetable from 1942 tells a story. America had barely been engaged in World War II says the December 6th, 1942 dateline, and yet, Toledo was seeing 30 trains a day from just the New York Central at a depot generously described as a “dump”. Five other railroads brought their passenger trains into Toledo bringing the daily train total to a staggering 110 trains a day.
Embarrassed by the old station, city leaders lobbied the New York Central hard for a new train station. In September 1950, the $5.6-million dollar Toledo Union Station opened as the last modern station the railroad would build. Over 70,000 people visited the new, three-story, station. Featuring an exterior of glazed stone and Toledo-made glass, it was the gateway a major city deserved.
Skip ahead to 2022 and Toledo Union Station still stands as a gem, though amid a neighborhood trying hard to lift itself up. The station was renovated from top to bottom in the late 1990s by the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority. Its major tenant is the headquarters for the Toledo Metro Area Council of Governments (TMACOG), a relocated Greyhound Bus station, and the USA’s national passenger railroad, Amtrak.
But instead of 110 passenger trains discharging and boarding passengers every day at all hours, Toledo Union Station sees two trains each way daily: Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (New York-Chicago) and the Capital Limited (Washington DC-Chicago).
With Amtrak plans to expand in Ohio and throughout the Great Lakes and beyond, the current condition of Toledo Union Station begs the question: Is it ready to handle more passenger rail service?
The interior of the actual Amtrak waiting room and ticket office is fine. It’s at the trackside where issues arise. Take a look at the station from a nearby walkway and you immediately, there is a lot of potential capacity: emphasis on the word “potential”.
There is only one usable “through track” that’s currently used by the Lake Shore and Capital Limiteds. It would seem there’s a need to restore at least some of the track capacity to handle more trains or at least overnight passenger cars for planned regional trains to Detroit/Ann Arbor and Cleveland. But there’s more.
Platforms need modern lighting and other upgrades. Service expansion will make a full-time presence of Amtrak personnel in the ticket/customer service office.
And a small but significant point: Why doesn’t Amtrak have its logo anywhere on the building where it can be seen? And how about better signage leading into the station from the streets? Even Greyhound has a huge “hound” logo at the top of the station’s roofline. The existing signs are hardly eye-catching for what’s supposed to be a gateway to Toledo.
Toledo Union Station was built because of city pride. We need to help Toledo resurrect that pride once more. The good news is that we have resolutions of support for the Amtrak Connects US expansion plan from the Toledo City Council and Toledo Lucas County Port Authority among others.
Join us at All Aboard Ohio and help us move Ohio’s Governor and General Assembly to officially engage with Amtrak to make these service expansions possible. Go to our new web page at allaboardohio.org, sign our Call to Action, and join as a member or donate.
Let’s this done!