When Union Station first opened in the late 18th century, thousands of passengers waited on the platform each day with tickets in hand, off to vacations or business meetings. As the largest and busiest rail terminal in the world, Union Station was bustling with energy.

OBC-LHM-no-box-6Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) is bringing that kind of excitement back to the iconic downtown landmark. Since purchasing the property in 2012, CEO Bob O’Loughlin, president Steve O’Loughlin and the LHM team have undertaken a massive multimillion-dollar project to refurbish and renovate the space into a destination for both St. Louisans and visitors. “We had a lot of expectations for Union Station when we started, and some ideas emerged that we hadn’t even imagined, like the award-winning 3-D light show in Grand Hall,” says Todd Hotaling, vice president of marketing.

Bringing back the trains themselves seemed like a natural way to return the landmark to its former glory. Since purchasing historic, old train cars late last year, LHM has offered private excursions for various events and groups. “The cars vary in sizes, and we can accommodate anywhere from five people to 200,” says Cameron Schoeffel, train sales and events manager. “We cater specifically to an event, whether it’s a corporate party or wedding reception.” The cars can remain stationary or take guests on a ride around the city, and unlike a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, the space is intimate, Schoeffel says. “We have two dome cars with second-story observation areas that offer great views of St. Louis during the ride,” he says. There are also standard dining and coach cars and a baggage car that has been completely refurbished into a luxurious lounge. “It features a long bar, cocktail tables and an area where everyone can congregate,” he explains. “And the baggage doors can open for a free-air feel when riding around.”

Schoeffel points out the added benefit of having a four-star, four-diamond hotel available to handle catering services. “Our executive chef at St. Louis Union Station Hotel does a great job of tailoring his menus to train events,” he says. “It’s all very unique, and we operate on very high standards.” While LHM has offered a holiday season Polar Express ride since reopening Union Station, additional train events are planned for the public.

As for overnight stays at Union Station, guests now can book one of the 69 new, fully renovated rooms in Grand Hall. “We wanted to offer choices in addition to the 539 rooms that were available,” Hotaling says. “These are located in an exclusive area that was historically known as the Terminal Hotel. They require private key card access, and each is themed after an old rail line. We really want to bring back the nostalgia and excitement around travel that once was here.” These rooms come with complimentary coffee, snacks and club lounge access. “They have hardwood floors, upgraded sound systems and Waldorf Astoria bedding,” Hotaling notes. He says it’s a great way to impress out-of-town guests, or to extend a fun evening out downtown. “You can catch a concert at the Peabody or a Cardinals or Blues game and then make a night of it,” he says.

LHM is planning to renovate an additional 25 to 30 railroad-themed rooms in Grand Hall for an even more upscale offering, as well as begin development on an outdoor train park with an enclosed-gondola Ferris wheel, and food and drink vendors set up in vintage rail cars and shipping containers.

Union Station is a National Historic Landmark located at 1820 Market St. in downtown St. Louis. For more information on booking a private train excursion, call Cameron Schoeffel at 314.802.3165; for all other information, call 314.621.5262 or visit stlouisunionstation.com.

Pictured: LHM has refurbished historic train cars, which are now available for private excursions and parties.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Photos courtesy of Union Station