Visited on: Monday 11th June 2018
This is a really good combination for me, a very good bar located within a classic railway station. The station is Denver Union Terminal and the bar is the Terminal Bar. The railroad first arrived in Denver in 1868 and of course it got its first station.
Within a decade there were four railroads serving the city, each with its own station. The Union Pacific Railroad proposed a Union station. A Union station is where two or more railroads share a common terminal and share the cost of its operation.
The proposal of the UP was accepted and work commenced on the new building which was opened in 1881. However most of it was destroyed 1894 when a fire that started in the ladies’ restrooms spread throughout the building. In fact only the wings survived. A new central section was created and opened in the same year. As traffic increased a new main building had to be created. The old was demolished in 1912 and the new opened in 1914. This is the magnificent station building we see today.
The golden era of the railroads was during the 1930s and for a very brief period following the Second World War. No one could have predicted the rapid fall off of traffic during the 1950s and into the 1960s as private car ownership exploded and airlines expanded rapidly. The railroads lost a lot of money transporting a few people. As a result passenger trains in the USA were nationalised with the introduction of Amtrak who took them on from the railroads after 1st May 1971. However, they still operated these trains over the existing tracks.
Three railroads did not join Amtrak and one of these was the Denver & Rio Grande Western. Prior to Amtrak it operated the middle portion of the California Zephyr between Chicago and Oakland, for a ferry to San Francisco.
The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad handled the train from Chicago to Denver and from Salt Lake City it was handed over to the Western Pacific Railroad for the run to Oakland.
When I first visited the city in 1980 was that there was the Amtrak Chicago to Oakland San Francisco Zephyr that ran from Denver to Salt Lake City via Cheyenne on the Union Pacific Railroad.
The only other passenger train was the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s truncated Rio Grande Zephyr from Denver to Salt Lake City. What an impressive train that was.
I watched it leave Denver in the morning of 4th October 1980. Four diesel locomotives built in the 1950s led a long train including a dining car painted in the railroad’s orange, black and grey livery. I was in Denver for a special train over the Union Pacific to Sterling in the northern part of the state and had come down to Union Station a bit earlier to see the Rio Grande Zephyr depart.
When I arrived in Denver Union the day previous (3rd October) on the San Francisco Zephyr it was about three hours late because of a problem on the host railroad Burlington Northern between Fort Morgan and Denver. It had to reverse from Fort Morgan to Union over a Union Pacific branch. After another reversal, this time at Union, we continued to Denver via Canton over the Union Pacific We travelled over this line again the next day with Union Pacific steam locomotive 844 to Sterling. The line has now closed.
I had to visit a bank to exchange some money. So I started walking into the city on a very hot day, over 30° C. It was not even midday, so when I saw a bar on the corner just a block from the station, I decided to pay a visit. Its name was not important as long as it had beer, and it did. However, I now realise this was the Terminal Bar & Café. Only the name was the same and it has no connection with the new Terminal Bar. It was a basic bar in a run-down area yet it was a pleasant place to have a beer. It closed with the gentrification of this district.
There is a massive program by the city of Denver and the surrounding cities to develop an extensive transportation system that includes express buses, rapid transit light rail lines and heavy rail suburban rail routes. The epicentre of all of this is Union Station. From 2014 when it reopened it handled all of the above forms of modern transport along with the Amtrak Chicago-Oakland California Zephyr.
If you’ve been bored by this transport information them I’m sorry, but I don’t get the chance to reminisce very often and the details are relevant to the renaissance of Union Station. It reopened in 2014 in all its glory. The station itself now has a many food and retail outlets including the Terminal Bar. It is to be found in the area occupied by the old ticket offices. It has a serving counter for the concourse: the other side serves the inside of the bar. It is worth noting that anything purchased at the bar can be consumed anywhere in the main hall.
You’ll be pleased to know that it is impossible to go into a lot of detail regarding the draught beers sold as they change quite often. Suffice to say that they all come from Denver or elsewhere in Colorado. That is no less than 28 beers on offer plus two ciders. These are displayed on a very large board positioned above the bar counter. See photo above. This is a full bar so wines, cocktails and other drinks are available.
My apologies again for the excessive emphasise on history in this article. The Terminal Bar is a fantastic place to drink beer. You should make it part of your itinerary in Denver even if you are not travelling from the station. Also, please note the opening hours, good for early and late drinking.
The Terminal Bar, 1701 Wynkoop Street, Denver 80202. Tel +1720 460 3701. Web: terminalbardenver.com
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10.00-02.00
Denver Union Station is the centre of transportation in the city and the following modes operate in and out: Amtrak runs the California Zephyr from Chicago via Denver, continuing to Emeryville (San Francisco).
RTD Suburban lines A to Denver International Airport and B to Westminster.
Line G to Golden is coming soon.
RTD Light Rail Rapid Transit lines C, E and W operate from the Light Rail Station.
RTD FF1 and FF2 Flatiron Express Bus routes to Boulder run from the lower level bus station.
Many RTD local bus routes start, finish and stop at Union Station, mostly at the lower level bus station.
Mallride and Metroride bus routes running through the city centre to Civic Center Bus Station.
These are free.