Portland Maine’s Union Station


I grew up travelling. Before World War II, My father worked for the Standard Oil as an expatriate businessman. In the Far East, he’d travel through Shanghai, Burma, Saigon, Mumbai, and Manila. We families travelled less, but lived in Shanghai, Manila, and Honolulu.

When home leave came, we crossed the Pacific to Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles on The Empress of Japan or a Matson Line ship; the Lurline, Matsonia, or Mariposa. Then, we took the train and lived in a roomette as we crossed the US to the New York office. The steward would pull our berths out of the wall at night, and push them back up the next morning.

World War II came, and gas rationing along with it. We lived in New York City—a hub for train travel, where cavernous Grand Central Station provided an impressive beginning for every trip.

After the war, ships and trains gave way to trucks and planes. It happened gradually. My father retired to Maine and I took the train from Portland’s Union Station to college in Western Massachusetts.  Union Station was not Grand Central for sure, still, the station’s Victorian elegance created a dignified start to any journey.

When they tore down Union Station and replaced it with a seedy downtown strip mall, enough angry people formed a nucleus to begin Portland’s historic preservation movement. America has finally  learned to appreciate its past.

As for me, I avoid that strip mall. Train travel has returned to Maine via Amtrak, but today’s  utilitarian terminal is no Union Station.

6 responses

  1. Hi Paula,
    Me, too-I was very familiar with Union Station in the 40s when my father used to arrive every Saturday morning, on The State of Mane express from Penn Station in NYC.
    He came up for weekends. He knew all the porters and conductors.
    My mother and I would drive in from Gray, in the early dawn to meet him in the elegant, cavernous station.
    On the way back home, we’d stop at a bakery in Woodfords’ corner, for doughnuts. On late Sunday afternoons, back we’d go to Union Station..Bye for another week.

  2. AH – THE TRAINS! Tiny Richmond (565 residents) had three stations — Furnace, Depot, Summit. Those traveling from Pittsfield to NYC thought this very funny on the timetable! For 11 cents I could ride the 12 miles to high school, to a movie, to shop in the “city.”

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