Amtrak serves this vibrant city from a facility adjacent to the former Southern Pacific Sunset Station. Founded in 1718, San Antonio is at the heart of Tejano culture and tourism.
San Antonio, Texas
350 Hoefgen Street San Antonio, TX 78205
- Annual Station Revenue (2013)
- Annual Station Ridership (2013)
|Facility Ownership||VIA Metropolitan Transit|
|Parking Lot Ownership||VIA Metropolitan Transit|
|Platform Ownership||VIA Metropolitan Transit|
|Track Ownership||VIA Metropolitan Transit|
|Accessible Payphones||Accessible Platform||Accessible Restrooms|
|Accessible Ticket Office||Accessible Waiting Room||Accessible Water Fountain|
|Baggage Storage||Bike Boxes||Checked Baggage|
|Dedicated Parking||Enclosed Waiting Area||Help With Luggage|
|Quik Trak Kiosk||Restrooms||Shipping Boxes|
- Sunset Limited
- Texas Eagle
(202) 906-3918 (ph)
Local Community Links:
- City of San Antonio, TX
- Amtrak Texas Eagle
- VIA Metropolitan Transit
- Texas Transportation Museum
- Fiesta San Antonio
Amtrak’s current San Antonio station is a small building, reminiscent of San Antonio’s neighboring Sunset Station (Amtrak’s former location), one of the most impressive train stations in the South. It is located between the historic Sunset Station and the Alamodome. Amtrak moved operations to the newer depot in 1998 due to the then-deteriorating condition of the Sunset Station. Consideration is being given to a larger space, since passenger volumes have exceeded the capacity of the 1998 building and due to a pending commuter rail plan.
Sunset Station was built in 1902 for the sum of $115,000 by Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad architect Daniel J. Patterson. Other reports credit John D. Isaacs, an architect whose official title was Assistant Engineer of Maintenance-of Way for the Southern Pacific Company in San Francisco, along with his assistants D.J. Patterson and W.E. Milwain. The depot opened to the public on January 31, 1903, following an elongated period of construction that began in November 1901.
Long before the route through San Antonio reached from Los Angeles to New Orleans, the line was known as the Sunset route. Its origins of the name are somewhat lost in the mists of time, along with how the first Sunset logo was created. The very first train to arrive in San Antonio was called the Sunset Limited, and the name grew with the route, extending all the way to California and still operating today under Amtrak.
The station design is Spanish Mission Revival Style, featuring broad, unadorned stucco walls, an arcade, and low-pitched clay tile roofs. Sunset Station Group, L.L.C. was formed in 1995 to redevelop the building, which was too large for Amtrak and was increasingly expensive to operate.
With VIA Metropolitan Transport as the new landlord, it would experience something of a rebirth, a new purpose and new popularity as an entertainment complex.
In the north end of Sunset Station, a 16-ft window fills the hall’s grand staircase and vaulted ceilings with light. It is thought in some quarters that a Southern Pacific CEO removed the original window and had it shipped to his home in California. Upon his death, the window passed to his sister, who stored it in a warehouse in the Northwest, where it is said to remain.
Sunset Station was known as the “Building of 1,000 Lights” or “the Crown Jewel” because of the many electric lights installed during its construction. On February 26, 1907, a fire started (possibly due to the lights) and badly damaged the roof and southwest corner of the station. The station was reopened seven months later.
In 1956, a 2-8-2 Baldwin “Mikado” steam engine, #794 that once belonged to the SP was donated to the city of San Antonio and now sits on the grounds of Sunset Station. It served as a freight locomotive since from 1916 to 1956.
In 1972, Sunset Station was featured in the film, The Getaway, with Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw. In 1975, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and described as “a depot as handsome as can be found in the South.”
San Antonio’s central location in Southwest Texas made it an ideal spot for the crossroads of several railroads. SP, Missouri Pacific (MOPAC), Texas & Pacific, and Missouri Kansas Texas Railway all ran through San Antonio, along with many smaller railroads. Of the three major depots built in San Antonio, only the Sunset Station and the awe-inspiring MOPAC depot are still standing.
An example of the Spanish mission style architecture, the MOPAC station was built by the International & Great Northern (I&GN) Railroad at a cost of $142,000 in 1907. Architect, Harvey L. Page, whose main office was nearby, was greatly influenced by the architecture of San Antonio's Spanish missions, in particular the San José Mission. The stained glass windows on the north, south and east sides are representative of San José's "Rose Window" with the I&GN logo inside them. Page referred to this building as his "Taj Mahal." The building's copper dome rises eighty-eight feet from the ground and is topped with a bronze statue of an Indian shooting an arrow. The I&GN was acquired by MOPAC in 1925 and the building was sold by MOPAC in 1970, a year before Amtrak took over intercity rail passenger service.
Several efforts to turn the building into other things, such as a library, a museum, a restaurant and a center for the Veteran's Administration, all failed. Meanwhile, the building fell into decay. The copper and brass from the dome was stripped away by scavengers, leaving the interior exposed to the weather. Nearly all of the building's windows, including the decorative stained glass windows, were broken out. Vagrants took to living in the building, starting at least one destructive fire during their stay. The plaster on the interior columns was cracked and destroyed and termites attacked just about all of the wooden furnishings. The final degradation was the theft of the Indian statue on top of the dome in 1982. He was found soon afterwards in an abandoned railroad yard near the station with a broken bow, missing right leg and head-feathers, a damaged posterior and multiple holes, courtesy of a BB gun.
The San Antonio City Employees Federal Credit Union was about to purchase a new building only a few blocks away when city officials approached them about using the old depot. Receiving no external funding or grants, the credit union restored the building with all of the stained glass windows restored by using photographs and shards of the broken glass found inside the building as a reference. An addition was placed on the west side of the building where the railroad tracks run, but it was built to match the brick of the original structure. The bronze Indian statue, which was kept in storage after its abduction and subsequent rescue, was also restored and returned to its position on top of the dome. The restoration was begun in 1987 and completed in 1988. At $3.1 million, the restoration came in under budget and was less than the purchase of a new building for what is now known as Generations Federal Credit Union.
The Missouri Kansas Texas (“Katy” depot), a stunning Mission style building with Moorish southwestern patterned tiles lining the interior walls, was torn down. In its place stands a hotel.
Rail service began in San Antonio on February 16, 1877. The celebrations that occurred in the city were magnificent. City leaders knew the future of the city depended on the railroad. The decline in San Antonio's population had been precipitous. Most developments were happening in the coastal cities and San Antonio's fortunate position as a crossroads on routes to the north, south, east and west would fade if the railroad could not amplify its significance. More than 8,000 people turned out to welcome the arrival of the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad, the predecessor to SP. Gov. Richard B. Hubbard and Lt. Governor, Wells Thompson, along with the mayors of San Antonio, Austin and Galveston attended the event and spoke. It was noted during one speech that San Antonio was perhaps the largest city on the continent that had remained for so long without rail connections.
As the former capital of the Spanish province of Texas, San Antonio has a vibrant history and culture. When Spanish explorers began expeditions 1691 and 1709, the Yanaguana Indians were occupying the area. San Antonio was given its name because it was discovered on the feast day of St. Anthony. The city was founded in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares, who established the Mission San Antonio de Valero, which would become known as the Alamo. Soon, four more missions were built in the city. During the Texas Revolution, San Antonio was the site of many battles, including the Battle of the Alamo.
Attracting 26 million tourists each year, San Antonio is the heart of Tejano culture and tourism. The city is known for the Alamo, Spanish missions, the River Walk and the Tower of the Americas. The Tower opened in 1968 as the centerpiece for San Antonio’s World’s Fair and Exposition, better known to locals as HemisFair. While the Alamo put San Antonio on the map, HemisFair and the Tower forever changed San Antonio’s skyline.
San Antonio is home to the four-time NBA champion Spurs, Sea World and Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It is also home to the first modern art museum in Texas, the McNay Art Museum. For visitors interested in San Antonio’s rich railroad history, the Texas Transportation Museum.offers a wealth of information, some of which is quoted in this article. Every April, the city celebrates the Fiesta San Antonio, a 10-day festival honoring the city’s diverse cultures. Visitors can also experience the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, a staple of Texan cowboy culture, each February.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this station. San Antonio is served by two daily trains, as well as the tri-weekly Sunset Limited (Westbound: Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday; Eastbound: Tuesday, Friday, Sunday).