New Orleans, LA – Union Passenger Terminal (NOL)
Opened in 1954 to consolidate the city's passenger rail operations in one central facility, the station features a series of colorful murals depicting the history of Louisiana from the age of exploration through the mid-20th century.
New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal
1001 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70113
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2022): 99,672
- Facility Ownership: City of New Orleans
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of New Orleans
- Platform Ownership: City of New Orleans
- Track Ownership: City of New Orleans
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please visit Amtrak.com or call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (NOUPT) opened on January 8, 1954 to consolidate passenger rail operations from the city’s other railroad’s stations and reduce the number of dangerous grade crossings throughout the central city. When it was built between 1947 and 1954, NOUPT was an ultra-modern facility with a stone facing. It was originally built at a cost of $2,225,000 and replaced the city’s five scattered passenger depots. At the time, this 53,600 square-foot structure was the only air-conditioned station in the country and served 44 passenger trains and seven railroads (although a partner, Gulf, Mobile & Ohio terminated passenger service to New Orleans just prior to the opening of NOUPT). Although the terminal was owned by the city, it was built and paid for by the railroads themselves.
This stub-end terminal consists of a modern waiting hall and covered platforms; its freight and express houses are now the domain of the New Orleans Arena and main post office. The NOUPT waiting hall contains the famous 2,166 square-foot fresco murals painted by Conrad Albrizio, a renowned professor of art at Louisiana State University, assisted by James Fisher. The murals depict the history of Louisiana in four panels representing the ages of exploration, colonization, conflict and the modern age. These murals were recently restored by the New Orleans Building Corporation (NOBC), a public benefit corporation charged with managing and developing city properties.
In summer 2019, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, joined by representatives from the Office of Transportation, Amtrak, the NOBC and the Regional Planning Commission, announced a $6.6 million funding package to undertake upgrades to the platforms at Union Terminal. The funding includes a $3.7 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under its State of Good Repair Program designed to help repair and rehabilitate railroad infrastructure around the country. The federal investment was matched by $2 million from the City of New Orleans and the NOBC, and $943,000 from Amtrak.
The project will include modifications to make platforms accessible to all travelers and provide level boarding for the Sunset Limited and City of New Orleans – making the surface of the platform the same level as the threshold of the train doors for easier boarding and detraining. The platform canopy will also be extended and lighting, air, electrical and water systems updated. Work should begin in 2020 and last two years.
While rail has been in and around New Orleans since 1831 with the opening of the Pontchartrain Rail Company, the city never quite became a rail center, because of the strength of the river trade. Through 1850, it had only a few short intra-urban passenger lines to carry racing fans to various tracks in the vicinity. There were failed attempts to build out to Nashville between 1830 and 1860, as well as to the rest of the South and Southwest. The Civil War interrupted New Orleans’ commercial empire and shattered what railroads had been built, so that it was not until the 1870s that rail construction could be completed.
By the 1880s, a number of passenger freight railroads were serving the city. The Louisville and Nashville had a passenger station at the foot of Canal Street, and provided service to New Orleans through Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile. The Southern Railway terminal was constructed at 1125 Canal Street in 1908. The Texas Pacific-Missouri Pacific stood on Annunciation Street, and was completed in 1916, serving that western railroad. Eventually, seven railroads had the Crescent City as a terminus, thanks to its strategic position as the gateway to the Gulf Coast; however, practically no through-car passenger service was operating until the first Union Station was built in 1892.
The New Orleans Union Station was designed by Louis H. Sullivan for the Illinois Central Railroad. Fronting on South Rampart Street, riverwards from the current New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, it opened on June 1, 1892. The station was used primarily by the Illinois Central Railroad as the terminus for its main line from Chicago but, over time it also served a number of other lines, including the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. By the 1940s, a total of 13 passenger trains arrived and departed from the station daily.
New Orleans Union Station was the only train station architect Louis Sullivan designed. It was constructed in the architect’s well-known ‘Chicago School’ style and decorated with his iconic ornament. Adler and Sullivan’s head draftsman Frank Lloyd Wright was involved in the final work under Sullivan’s supervision. Union Station was a three story hip-roofed structure with a cupola, including office and waiting areas, with a broad portico with central columns and arched entryways at each end of the entrance. Union Station and the other stations were demolished in 1954 and replaced by the current New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal.
NOUPT was built next to the old Union Station. Parts of the station property also are over what once was the turning basin for the New Basin Canal. The main lead track to the terminal follows the path of the old canal (which was filled in) and the Pontchartrain Expressway/I-10. In the late 1960s, tracks 7-12 were shortened to half tracks in order to accommodate Greyhound Lines in the terminal, sharing the terminal with the remaining passenger trains and later, Amtrak. This helped to create an intermodal facility.
Amtrak operates the New Orleans maintenance facility northwest of the station. It services and performs light overhauls for Viewliner and Heritage cars used for the Crescent. This facility also performs running/turn around maintenance on all of the long-distance equipment and locomotives serving New Orleans from the City of New Orleans, Crescent and Sunset Limited.
New Orleans is a city so storied it is mythic, along with American cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. It began in 1718, founded by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, and named for Phillip II, Duke of Orléans, who was Regent of France at the time (Orléans is a French city). The French colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire in the Treaty of Paris of 1763, and remained under Spanish control until 1801, when it reverted to French control. Most of the surviving architecture of the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) dates from this Spanish period. Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
The Haitian Revolution of 1804 not only established the second republic in the New World, but also brought a large number of immigrant refugees to New Orleans, including French Creoles, enslaved people, and free persons of African descent. During the War of 1812, the British sent a force to take New Orleans, led by Sir Edward Pakenham, whom the Americans defeated in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.
As a principal port, in the nineteenth century, New Orleans saw a huge amount of trade in goods. Agricultural and natural resources were exported from the interior of the country while manufactured goods were imported for trade up the Mississippi River Valley. Part of this trade involved the buying and selling of enslaved people. Ironically, the city also had the most prosperous community of free persons of color in the South, who were often educated and middle-class property owners.
New Orleans is home to music, the arts, and many celebrations including both: Mardi Gras, Southern Decadence, the French Quarter Festival, the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the New Orleans Voodoo Music Experience, among others. The inimitable Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, on August 4, 1901. Armstrong gained fame as a horn player, and then later became better known as a bandleader, vocalist, musical ambassador, and founding figure in much modern American music. Shortly before his death he stated, “I think I had a beautiful life. I didn’t wish for anything that I couldn’t get, and I got pretty near everything I wanted because I worked for it.”
The NOUPT escaped major damage following Hurricane Katrina. As one of the few intact and centrally accessible city buildings, the station served as both the temporary criminal justice center and the jail, as it is on relatively high ground and did not flood. An Amtrak locomotive was used to power the building.
The facility has been improved in the recent past and will continue to undergo major renovations during the next several years. Federal funds were used to plan and upgrade the NOUPT, including a track reconfiguration that will support evacuation as part of the City Assisted Evacuation Plan, and increase intercity rail capacity. By early 2013, various projects had been completed to bring the station’s public areas into ADA compliance, including the installation of new doors at the entrances and improvements to the public restrooms. The Amtrak ticket counter and other related support were also been refurbished.
In January 2013, NOUPT became the terminus for the new mile-long Loyola Avenue-Union Passenger Terminal Streetcar Line connecting Canal Street with the Central Business District and destinations such as the Superdome. The $52 million project was largely funded through a $45 million Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant awarded to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- No Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- No payphones
- No accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift