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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Behind the Scenes Tour of South Station

Picture Courtesy of BosGuy

Last Wednesday I had a craving for Cheese Boy. Since I wanted a change of scenery, I decided to head to the one in South Station instead of the new one on Washington. I ordered my grilled cheese and as I was walking out of the building I noticed a sign advertising tours of South Station! I checked out the sign for further details. The tour was at 1pm on Thursday. I made a mental note and decided that I’d come back the following day for the tour on my break. Thursday tours are only during the summer and South Station will be doing tours on the first Saturday of every month at 1pm.Did I mention these tours are Gratis? For more info click here:

When I arrived at the station the next day for the tour, I was one of four people in the group to tour. I was the youngest and I was the only girl (aside from our tour guide). We started out the tour by hearing how the station got its start! There was a grand opening on New Year’s Eve December 31st, 1898. The first day of operation was New Year’s Day 1899. Think about that: This station has been operating in 3 different centuries!

After hearing about the grand opening, which was a phenomenal story and Linda, our tour guide told it best so I’ll let you visit and hear it from her, we were brought over to a wall with various china. Before the lovely T-Shirt, souvenirs consisted of spoons, soap dishes, plates and bowls with a beautiful picture of the station on it. Our tour guide has found some of these on her own searches and a prized soap dish she found and bid on and won on E-Bay!

We then get to go outside and cross the street to see the full fa├žade of the station. We are told about the huge eagle that sits atop the station, the original clock that still has to be hand wound, how horse and buggy used to be able to enter the station to bring you to the tracks and last but not least how there used to be a track from South Station to North Station!! Yup, you read right! There was a track connecting the two stations. It was there and had been destroyed during the molasses explosion and reconstructed. However, in the 30’s the track was taken down. Who wants to see that track put back in now days? I can think of many tourists that I have over heard complaining on the orange line that would like that direct track back in.

From there, we were escorted down the escalators to see various Bonds that were blown up and hung on the wall. Back in those days people bought bonds. Now-a-days, when you buy stock, you see it on your computer screen. You don’t get a fancy bond to show you your stake in a company.

We are told fun anecdotes about the station before moving on to one of my favorite parts of the tour. If you aren’t on the tour, you most likely will never see how amazing the original ceiling once was! They were able to keep the original ceiling in the Acela Business Class Lounge. Therefore, if you aren’t traveling the Acela in first class, then you don’t have access to it. This ceiling was amazing. The entire station was once like that. However, due to storms and upkeep, most of it was replaced with a less “grandiose” ceiling similar to ones found in warehouses.  

In the Acela Lounge, we got to sit and listen for a little while about various World War stories and how many troops came through the station. It was neat to be taken back in time for a moment. When you visit a train station, you don’t realize the history that comes with it.

As we wrapped up the tour, the tour guide had one more surprise for us, She took us to the very end of track 13. It’s a vantage point rarely seen. From there, we saw the back of the eagle we started out the tour with in the front of the building! I thought this was very cool to have that sneak peek and from what I hear, they may be building over the tracks so that view may be no longer in the future so if you have a chance, check it out because it’s pretty neat.

So, if you are in Boston on a first Saturday of the month at 1pm, stop by South Station for a tour with Linda and tell her that “Girl About The Train” sent you! ;)

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