Union Station: A classic on both big screen and small

This is the fifth of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that we are running this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3. 

With its dramatic angles and dark corners, Union Station is a black-and-white noir fantasy. Yet like a character actor who is aging well, the building has played many types of roles over the past 75 years in hundreds of films, TV shows and commercials.

If you were watching TV during the December holidays you probably caught the Mercedes Benz commercial posted above. Shot in the beautiful Union Station Ticket Room, it’s decked out as Santa’s garage and it looks stellar. And the cars? Amazing!

A few months ago in the TV series “Agents of SHIELD,” hacker Skye (Why does everyone think she’s so hot?) is kidnapped and taken to Union Station so her abductor can escape by train. (Go to minute 35.) She emails SHIELD her longitude and latitude, although she probably could have just said she was at Union Station. No matter. The agents catch up with her in the gorgeous Ticket Room and finally all advance to the East Portal where the SHIELD crew rescues Skye so she can live to hack and be hot again.

In Paramount’s beautiful 1950 noir film “Union Station,” starring William Holden, the station doubles as Chicago Union Station. It does not look much like its Chicago namesake but it does look incredible. And it’s amusing to see a few amenities that no longer exist, like phone booths and a luggage check room in the main concourse. No more phone booths, of course, and no more baggage checking in these days of increased security. You’ll love the trailer:

All areas of Union Station have been backdrops for films but the massive Ticket Room has played significant parts in dozens. In Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller “Blade Runner,” set in 2019, the Ticket Room is a police station and Harrison Ford looks like Indy. “Pearl Harbor” contains a romantic farewell in the Ticket Room. In the latest Batman adventure, “The Dark Knight Rises,” the Ticket Room is site of the kangaroo court overseen by Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow:

What will future roles be for this versatile performer? Stay tuned. The station is also frequently used for music videos — the subject of our next post.

For more Union Station films credits check metro.net (yes, we know the list needs updating!). For Union Station booking guidelines, click here. For more information on booking the station as a shooting location, please contact Jeff Cooper at Hollywood Locations jcooper@hollywoodlocations.com.


Metro Motion celebrates beautiful Union Station’s 75th anniversary

Union Station: a grand opening

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen celebrates the opening

How Harvey House restaurants changed the West

Union Station: a man worthy of respect

Union Station: A man worthy of respect

This is the fourth of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that we are running this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3. 

Amtrak conductor Irv Hirsch

Amtrak conductor Irv Hirsch. Photo by Kim Upton/Metro

He’s an Amtrak conductor based at Union Station and has been since 1974. But among his fondest memories is his time as a porter on the trains between L.A. and Chicago.

“I still have my old card that says I’m a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Sleeping Car Porters – the historic Black union,” he recalled. “If you were a Pullman sleeping car porter you were a man worthy of respect.”

As a porter, Irv Hirsch was in charge of one car. Each cubicle was a seating room during the day. It was converted by the porters to sleeping berths at night. A porter in those days was bellman, maid, upstairs waiter and concierge to the travelers in his car, in Hirsch’s case, on the Amtrak Southwest Chief’s 43-hour trip between Los Angeles and Chicago. The African American porters were men of distinction, Hirsch said, who would have thrived in any career. They were proud of their positions and he was proud to be among the few white porters at the time.

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Officials and a dinosaur teach drivers: How to spend less on gas

With pump prices more than $4 a gallon again and more than 50 cents a gallon higher than they were in January, Metro and the Automobile Club of Southern California today joined forces to help teach drivers how to spend less on gas. They were joined by representatives from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, including Hunter the T. rex.

Standing on the platform of the Metro Expo/Vermont Station, with some of the finest museums in the world just steps away, Metro urged L.A. residents to maximize their spring break and summer vacation dollars by picking up a $5 Day Pass and making easy-to-reach destinations on the Metro system part of their plans.

Drivers were reminded by the Auto Club that gas prices have jumped 82 percent in the last decade while the median household income for Californians has risen just 16 percent. But the good news is that many drivers can save up to $1,000 or even $2,000 a year on fuel at today’s prices by consistently following a few good habits, including slowing down and adopting a smooth, even driving style.

For inspiration, Simon Adlam, Director of Exhibits at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, invited vacationers to explore the many new and exciting exhibits at the Natural History Museum and he brought along Hunter the T. rex to make sure everyone paid attention.

Union Station: Here’s how Harvey House restaurants helped change the West

This is the third of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that we are running this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3. 

When English immigrant Fred Harvey opened the first of more than 80 restaurants serving rail stops from the Midwest to California, he could not have imagined the contribution he was making to a social movement that would outlive the restaurants themselves. Nor could he have understood how those restaurants would influence the character of the West.

But Harvey waitresses — made famous by the 1946 Judy Garland movie “The Harvey Girls” — contributed more than labor to what some call the first restaurant chain in America. They helped gentrify the West and took part in a movement of young women away from the home and into self-sufficient employment.

“The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound” — a terrific documentary by L.A. filmmaker Katrina Parks — tells the story of the women who worked as wait staff for Harvey House restaurants, including the one at Union Station, beginning in the 1870s.

Unlike other diners near rail, Harvey House restaurants were clean and sold good, reasonably priced food on table linen and china. For 75 cents (in a 1943 menu) customers could dine on broiled fish almandine, potatoes O’Brien and Hawaiian slaw. A slice of apple pie was 15 cents. And the restaurants guaranteed that patrons would complete their meals before their trains — often loading up on water and passengers — were scheduled to depart.

The restored Harvey House restaurant in Kansas City's Union Station. Photo by Kevin C., via Flickr creative commons.

The restored Harvey House restaurant in Kansas City’s Union Station. Photo by Kevin C., via Flickr creative commons.

At first, the Harvey company hired men to serve as waiters, since women were in short supply in the West. But the men — both customers and waiters — could be rowdy. So Harvey began advertising in Eastern and Midwest newspapers, offering employment to clean-cut, well-mannered and attractive women between 18 and 30. The pay was $17.50 a month plus tips. Room and board were free. The Harvey Girls wore distinctive black-and-white uniforms, worked long hours and had to abide by strict rules, including curfews. But for many, it was the first taste of freedom and freedom can be delicious, as the above clip suggests.

For more information about the Harvey Girls, visit the Harvey Girl Historical Society at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum in Perris, Calif. Or watch the Katrina Parks video. The old Harvey House restaurant space at Union Station is currently vacant, but frequently used for special events and filming. Metro, the owner of Union Station, hopes to one day see another restaurant occupy the space although considerable and expensive work will be needed to rebuild the kitchen.

A recent view of the Harvey House restaurant. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A recent view of the Harvey House restaurant. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.


Metro Motion celebrates beautiful Union Station’s 75th anniversary

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen celebrates the opening

Union Station: a grand opening

Metro Motion celebrates Union Station 75th anniversary stories

In this edition of Metro Motion the focus is on beautiful Los Angeles Union Station, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary on May 3. The 1939 opening was an amazing party and half a million spectators turned out to explore the last of the great railway stations and see the parade of bands, floats and massive steam engines.

From the beginning, Union Station has been Hollywood’s train station and like any great Hollywood star it has appeared in hundreds of films, TV shows and commercials. Find out which ones and why the beguiling but aging star still appears frequently in movies … even as she moves toward her golden years.

In another segment we visit beautiful Harvey House restaurant in Union Station and find out about the women who waited tables there – the Harvey Girls – and how they were part of the settling of the West. We also tour a luxurious private rail car – the Patron Tequila Express – that is sometimes parked in Union Station’s private rail car yard. We meet some of the early settlers of L.A.’s Chinatown, whose parents were residents of the original Chinatown located where Union Station now stands.

We talk with the head of the Union Station planning team who tells us what’s in store for the iconic building as it develops into the hub of transit for our region. And finally, we meet fourth graders from Utah Street Elementary School who draw pictures of what they want the Union Station of the future to look like. Some will surprise you.

Metro Motion is co-produced by Metro and Santa Monica City TV.

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen recalls the opening

This is the second of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

In this video interview with Seymour Rosen, a member of the Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council, Rosen talks to Metro Community Relations officer Rich Morallo about attending the opening of Union Station in 1939.

Rosen was a teenager when his father took him to the Union Station opening parade on May 3, 1939. They went early to try to secure a good vantage point and ended up standing right in front of Union Station. He and his dad were among the half-million onlookers.

What Rosen remembers most was the crowds. He had never seen so many people in a single location.

“You have to remember that Los Angeles in 1939 was not New York City. This was a major thing. There were so many people. And to see such a grand structure. It was an exciting moment in my life,” Rosen recalled.

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Union Station: A grand opening

Click on a photo to see a larger version or click on the first version to begin a slideshow-type display. Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Collection.

This is the first of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout April. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal finally opened to the public on May 3, 1939 and it was celebrated with a massive parade down Alameda Street. The theme was the history of transportation and the parade included covered wagons, stagecoaches, Pony Express riders and several massive steam-powered locomotives.

The station’s grand opening was a huge deal for what was still in many ways an unsophisticated western town, albeit one whose population mushroomed since 1920 to about 1.5 million people in 1939. The city finally had a central passenger terminal. The L.A. Times reported that people hung from trees to get a better look at the festivities. Some fainted from the heat.

The parade was followed by tours of the station and a 45-minute production called “Romance of the Rails.” The free show along the tracks inside Union Station was subtitled “California’s Story of Transportation,” and the program notes that it was adapted and directed by John Ross Reed. No one now seems to know who John Ross Reed was. Was he a famous Hollywood director of the time?

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Say cheese


DTLA Cheese Shop opened earlier this week at Grand Central Market and, lucky for the cheese lovers among us, it’s pretty close to the Metro Red and Purple Line north Pershing Square Station. DTLA Cheese is the most recent of the new spots at the Market that are tilting the downtown L.A. icon in the international direction.

Some will bemoan the evolution of a place that for decades has been a slice of Latin America. Some may argue that the addition of espresso shots and French pastry is detrimental to the character. But if you glance around the aisles you’ll see a blend of establishments serving … a blend of people, as well as a blend of foods. Isn’t that among the things that makes L.A. compelling?cheese 1 photo

DTLA has premium cheeses. They also have salads (beet, brussels sprouts) and baguette sandwiches (prosciutto, raclette and tapenade and mozzarella with roasted tomatoes and balsamic).

At Grand Central you still can grab a great taco from Ana Maria, pupusas from Sarita’s Pupuseria and chow mein from China Café. But you also can order a cappuccino, macchiato and a spritzey cold tea with hops at G & B Coffee. Or you can stop by Egg**** for an egg salad sandwich, and to find out the full name.

What’s the connection between Ice Age creatures and the Metro Purple Line?

Metro’s popular quarterly cable television show this winter tackles the often asked question: What does the Metro Purple Line have in common with Ice Age mammoths? Hint: Location. Location. Location.

We meet a woman who wrote a book about a formerly forgotten Hollywood star … while commuting to work on the Red Line. And she tells us “how to.”

We learn where the traffic hot spots are in our region and what Metro is doing to make them better.

We pedal through downtown Los Angeles on a scary/busy week day to explore some of the best and safest bike routes and how they connect with beautiful Union Station, L.A’s transit hub. While we’re in the neighborhood, we stop to energize at a few bike-friendly locales … one of which uses pedal power to create its food.

We dine on a delicious and discounted breakfast before we hop on the Blue Line to Long Beach for a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific (discounted) and to a historic (and discounted) dining spot. Did we mention that everything is discounted for Metro patrons?

Metro Motion runs quarterly on cable stations throughout Los Angeles County. It is co-produced by Santa Monica City TV.

Metro speaks freely

Tired of sitting in traffic? Trying to save money? Interested in getting around our wonderful but traffic-clogged region more easily? The Metro Speakers Bureau can help.

The Speakers Bureau will provide free presentations throughout Los Angeles County on a variety of transportation topics, including jobs at Metro.

Please email us at metrospeaks@metro.net to book a speaker.