05.20.18: Station arches

The view of the towering arches of the main hall of Union Station,
the historic train station in Washington, D.C.


Technical information

Sept. 3, 2016,
10:14 a.m.

40°6’51” N,
82°57'49" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (10mm) 


1/1600th second


I have a number of photos of Washington, D.C.’s, Union Station in my files. I’ve been in the building hundreds of times through the years.

But when my wife and I walked into the main hall during a September 2016 visit to the city I stopped and asked myself: “Why have I never shot this beautiful room?” The morning sunlight reflecting off the tile floors under the arched, gilded ceiling made a striking scene.

Then it hit me. The room hadn’t looked like this in the past.

When Union Station reopened in 1988 after major renovations, the center of the main hall was filled with a giant, dark, two-story wooden structure called the Center Cafe. I think it housed a small restaurant and bar and, if I remember correctly, there were gaudy fountains on each end. The structure overwhelmed the space — you couldn’t stand anywhere in the room and see the opposite wall — so I had never noticed the rest of the room.

The decision makers likely had a good reason to place that big, dark structure in the middle of the room in 1988. I’m just not sure what that reason would be.

In spring 2016, the Center Cafe and fountains were removed from the main hall. Our visit a few months later was my first time seeing the main hall “opened.”


I grabbed a number of shots from different angles. I liked them all, but this shot looking east across the hall is my favorite. The symmetry of the arches and the bright arched window above the people walking through the main hall conveys the enormity of the room. The gold octagons on the ceiling, the brown tile diamonds on the floor and the red banners in the background fill the image with interesting colors and shapes, helping to pull the scene together.

The place definitely looks better without that Central Cafe. Bravo to the 2016 decision makers.

Union Station opened in 1907. It is now Amtrak’s headquarters and the railroad’s second-busiest station, with more than 5 million riders annually (Penn Station in New York City is Amtrak’s busiest station with approximately 10.4 million riders annually). 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.