Columbus Ohio Tourism
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The 2nd Union Station in ColumbusUnion Station #2

The 2nd Union Station faced High Street with its front parallel to the street. It was well set back from the street, but there were even more tracks crossing High Street. An effort was made to avoid this dangerous crossing by digging a pair of tunnels underneath the tracks for pedestrians and horse drawn trolley cars. This became a nightmarish problem due to lack of adequate ventilation and lighting and pedestrians avoided the tunnel at all costs.

Union Station #2

Union Station 2 was built 350 east of High Street, but the tracks still crossed High Street. However, compared to the old station, trains spent less time blocking the street. At the time it was built, it was believed this station would take care of Columbus' train needs well into the future. The 3-story depot featured 7 arches where trains could enter the building and unload and board passengers. The arch theme was repeated not only in the windows, but also the buttresses surrounding the windows. This station was devotedly completely for passenger trains. Freight trains were serviced further east.

At the time Union Station 2 was built, it was servicing 42 trains daily. By 1893, there were 118 daily passenger trains, not including the many freight trains that passed through on the way to the freight yards. Even though pedestrian traffic was eased somewhat with the new layout, there were still problems and it was still a dangerous crossing, especially when you consider that railroad crossing gates were still many years in the future.

To help cope with the problems created by the high volume of train traffic and Columbus' main road, a pair of 160' tunnels were built underneath the tracks so traffic could safely pass without fear of being hit by a moving train. However, these tunnels soon became a hazard themselves. They were built without adequate ventilation and only lit with oil lamps. In a short period of time these dark, tunnels became cess pools that even the hardiest citizens would avoid using if at all possible.

North High St. 1890

Looking north on High Street from the viaduct at Union Station in 1890

High Street Today

Same scene today

The first viaduct is built

Despite the new location, train traffic was still creating problems for the growing city. In 1888, the Centennial celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first settlers arriving in Marietta, Ohio in 1788 was being held in Columbus. The Exposition formally opened on September 4, 1888. This also included the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) which was an organization for Civil War veterans who served in the Union Army.


The above photograph shows the first wooden viaduct that ran above the tracks, as well as the two underground tunnels that went beneath the tracks. This photograph was taken looking directly north on High Street and Union Station #2 would be to the right out of camera view.

It was planning for these two major events that city officials decided they needed to do something to ease the congestion on North High Street. The answer was to build a viaduct over the rail lines. This wasn't fancy, but it worked. A wooden bridge was erected across the tracks. This innovative solution was further refined when station #3 was constructed a number of years later.