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Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas have long been close neighbors and friendly rivals. In the early days, the two Kansas Cities were an important focal point of the Texas and Oklahoma cattle trade and later the oil trade. This is also a key point on the Rock Island / Southern Pacific Golden State Route, for the Santa Fe line via Tucumcari to Los Angeles and various routes to Denver. As the western and southwestern rail nets solidified, Kansas Cities became a focal point for the Prairie region. By the turn of the century, tracks radiated in all directions.
This illustration courtesy David C Davis, C&A Historical Society
In the early days, Kansas Cities focused heavily on the Texas trade, bringing trainloads of cattle up from the southwest bound for the Chicago stock yards. At that time, the California trade was concentrated on the Overland Route to the north and the locally based Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe was aiming off to the southwest with long range designs for San Diego. With the growth of the cattle industry in Texas, grain from Kansas and later oil, the southwest soon became a major travel destination in its own right.
Kansas Cities is where the Santa Fe links with the assorted roads radiating from St Louis and the regionals northwest of Chicago (as well as receiving traffic directly at Chicago). As befitting such a center of travel, Kansas City, Kansas (then the more important of the two) received the first Union Station (pictured above) in the 1880s. However, the explosive growth of the West and of the rail net serving that region soon outgrew this modest brick structure and plans were made to replace it early in the dawning 20th century.
Even after the new KC Mo Union Station was built, this facility continues in service (almost forgotten in the shadow of its more spectacular neighbor) serving the Union Pacific and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific. (In both cases, being a secondary stop after departing KC Mo.)
In 1902, KC Mo got the jump on their neighbor with this monumental Federal styled depot.
For what, at the time, was still something of a frontier cattle town, Kansas City, Mo had some pretty grandiose ideas of what a fitting municipal terminal should be.
This is understandable, however, considering that KC Mo's true rival is not KC Ks, but their northern neighbors: Omaha and Council Bluffs.
By the turn of the century, the Midwest rail net had consolidated into two great corridors- from the Mississippi River to San Francisco and to Los Angeles. Just as Chicago and St Louis contest for traffic from the eastern half of the continent, Kansas Cities and Omaha battle for the traffic heading west from the Mississippi Line. This grand new depot gives the Kansas Cities a solid competitive position, drawing traffic from as far north as Chicago and as far south as Little Rock.
For sheer diversity, there are few places in America that can match Kansas City Union Station. No less than a dozen railroads (plus some local traction lines) pause here. These include:
This aerial view from the 1950s shows that Kansas City Union Station is a through track facility with the terminal building along one side of the concourse and accessed through an overhead passageway that emerges from the rear of the building.
This view of the platform area shows that Kansas City uses the "butterfly" platform awnings, the latest in terminal construction engineering.
The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe has a large rail yard on the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas, which includes a modest passenger depot. While this might technically be included in the Kansas City operations, it is better known by its Santa Fe reference as "Argentine".
Chicago Great Western and Missouri Pacific share a local station about a mile from KC Ks Union Station.
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