Our first podcast: filming over the years at Union Station

A scene from the "The Dark Knight Rises" that was filmed in the old ticket room  at Union Station. Credit: Warner Bros.

A scene from the “The Dark Knight Rises” that was filmed in the old ticket room at Union Station. Credit: Warner Bros.

Good morning, readers and listeners! Above please find our first Metro podcast. The subject: filming at Los Angeles Union Station over the decades, a subject that Kim tackled earlier this week as part of her ongoing series of posts on Union Station’s 75th anniversary.

We’re new to the podcast thing and it’s going to take a few of these to completely find our footing in the audio world. If we sound like podcast rookies, well, we are. Please bear with us!

That said, I’m really excited about this. It’s great to post articles on the blog, but I think it’s also important for our riders and taxpayers to literally hear the voice of their government. I hope you enjoy our initial offering and we should have more podcasts soon.


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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Metro Celebrates LA ArtsDay and National Poetry Month


The words of a great poet can transfix the reader. A poem placed in the line of vision of a bus passenger can be a gift; a brief escape from or a complement to the day. For the past 16 years Metro bus riders have enjoyed over 100 poems placed directly in their path in the interiors of Metro buses through Poetry in Motion/LA™.

Poetry in Motion/LA™ is a collaboration of the Poetry Society of America and Metro. Every three months a new poem is selected and mounted on colorful placards in empty advertising space on 2,500 Metro buses to be enjoyed by over one million riders daily. Poems are selected by the Poetry Society of America, which chooses recognized works that are relatively short, upbeat and representative of the demographic diversity of the Los Angeles area. Several of the poems are in Spanish.

Among poets whose works are represented in the program are e.e. cummings, Octavio Paz, and Langston Hughes as well as noted Southern California poets Chungmi Kim, Quincy Troupe, and Michelle Serros. Continue reading

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

Don’t miss free art tour on the Metro Gold Line Saturday, April 26

In honor of Earth Day, take a ride on the Metro Gold Line and explore public art and neighborhood history with Fallen Fruit on Saturday, April 26. The free, three-hour event begins with a street-side lemonade stand at the entrance to historic Union Station and ends with an installation of self-portraits, created by participants, at the Armory Center for the Arts in Old Pasadena.

Meet up on Saturday, April 26 at 11:00 a.m. outside the Alameda Street entrance to Union Station. Participants will receive TAP cards loaded with a day pass. The group will depart via the Gold Line at noon, and the event will conclude at Memorial Park Station/Armory Center for the Arts at 2 p.m. Participants who show their valid TAP card will receive a free copy of the Armory’s Art Throughout Pasadena, an exhibition catalogue produced by the Armory that documents several recent projects, including Fallen Fruit’s collaborative art work, “Public Fruit Jam.”

The tour is approximately 90% walking. There are elevators and escalators in all of the stations. Public restrooms are available at Union Station and the Armory Center for the Arts.

RSVPs are not required by are highly recommended.

Fallen Fruit (David Burns and Austin Young) is an art collaboration that uses fruit as a common denominator to change the way people view the world. The collaboration began by mapping fruit trees growing on or over public property in Los Angeles, then expanded to include various public projects and site-specific installations including  communal jam-making and Nocturnal Fruit Forages. It was originally conceived in 2004 by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. Since 2013, David and Austin have continued the collaborative work.

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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New artist opportunities in Metro’s expanding transit system

Artwork at Soto Station by Nobuho Nagasawa

Detail of artwork at Soto Station by Nobuho Nagasawa

Metro invites visual artists to submit qualifications for upcoming opportunities throughout the expanding Los Angeles Metro system. For more information and details on what to submit, please download the Call to Artists. Questions and answers regarding the Call are posted on the Metro Art page under the “Artist Opportunities” tab.

The application deadline is Monday, April 7, 2014.

If you’d like to sign up for the email list to get information about upcoming opportunities for artists, call 213.922.4ART or visit the Metro Art page and look under “Artist Opportunities.”

Metro looking for riders, non-riders and other stakeholders to take online surveys

Have an opinion about Metro service? Here is a chance to be heard! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Have an opinion about Metro service? Here is a chance to be heard! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

I know that many readers of this blog have strong opinions about Metro and the agency’s transit service and highway programs. That’s great. It’s your taxes and fares that keep Metro rolling.

With that in mind, I wanted to give everybody a heads up that Metro’s Research department is in the midst of creating a group of riders, stakeholders and non-riders who would be willing to take occasional online surveys about specific issues facing the agency (fare changes, route changes, TAP, projects in the works, etc).

If you’re interested, please click here. The survey is also available in Spanish. And, if at any time, you want to leave Metro’s survey panel, simply send an email to research@metro.net with “Remove from Survey Panel” in the email’s subject line.

I think this is a very good opportunity to have your voices heard. Leaving comments here is great, too — and I regularly pass along comments to Metro staff. But the blog comment board is hardly scientific and the new online surveys also hold the promise of being easier to conduct than expensive, time-consuming surveys done over the phone.

Please check it out if you’re interested. As far as I’m concerned, the more public participation the better.