Ogden Union Station gets Google Maps virtual tour treatment

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:39 PM

Mitch Shaw, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — In about a week, people all over the world will be able to see the interior of Ogden’s Union Station without setting foot inside the building.And station officials hope this seemingly impossible truth will encourage people to come see all that the museum has to offer.

Google Inc. was in Ogden Wednesday, filming footage for a new twist on its Google Maps application called “Google Business Photos.”

Essentially, the new program allows Google users to get a 3-D, virtual tour of a particular business.

In Google Maps, a 360-degree panoramic view called “Street View” allows users to look at a home, business, landmark — or almost anything else — like they are standing right in front of it.

The new Business Photos application now allows users to walk right into the front door and see what is inside of any business on the system.

“It’s basically like you are walking right inside,” said Google photographer Marcel De Lima.

De Lima filmed all over the historic Union Station, focusing on the four museums that are there — the John M. Browning Fire Arms Museum, the Utah State Railroad Museum, the Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum and the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

De Lima said Google approaches businesses they think would be of interest to the public.

“We kind of go knocking from door to door,” he said. “We see a place that looks nice and that we think people would like to see the inside of.”If businesses express interest, they are typically charged anywhere from $350 to $1,200. De Lima said filming at the Union Station would take at least eight hours, but most small businesses usually only take an hour or two.

De Lima said the Union Station has been a target for Google for quite some time.

“We’re looking for bigger, more famous places,” he said. “And this is definitely a big landmark in this area. Also, every job I do, I like to learn something. With this, you have the four museums in one place, so it’s very attractive.”

De Lima said there are already many buildings in Salt Lake City on the new Google system and a few in Park City as well, but the Union Station will be the first in the Top of Utah region.

Tracy Ehrig, business manager of the Union Station Foundation, said she hopes the creative new marketing tool will increase gate numbers at the station.

“I feel like a lot of people don’t know what we have in here,” she said. “So by going on this virtual tour of our building, people will be able to see a lot of the details in here and hopefully that will spark their interest to come see us in person.”

When the Union Station footage is placed in the new system, Google users can access it through Google Maps, the Google Plus page or just by doing a Google search for “Union Station.”

And while the Union Station will be the first Ogden business on the new Google system, it likely won’t be the last.

The City Club owner Heidi Harwood met with De Lima Wednesday to discuss bringing the service to her Beatles-themed night club.

“This is really ideal for us,” Harwood said of the Google application. “I think all of Historic 25th Street should get in on this, though. It would be perfect.”

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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