Friday, February 24, 2017

The Trains in Buffalo

Trains and the freight they carried once crisscrossed Buffalo like blood vessels circulating from the heart. In the early 1900s Buffalo had more railroad tracks than anywhere else in America with the exception of Chicago and the city was an important stopping point for major railroads like the New York Central. Most people living in Buffalo are aware of this history as it is embodied in the Buffalo Central Terminal however Buffalo had dozens of other major terminals and freight stations throughout the city. In fact, many of the city's passenger and freight terminals were located near the downtown waterfront, well away from the Central Terminal. Since it has been far too long since the last Preservation Studios blog post lets take a trip through some of Buffalo's lost train architecture.

Taken from
The majority of Buffalo's train stations and railroad tracks were located downtown in a rough wedge between Front Park and KeyBank Arena with Exchange Street serving as the major axis of downtown railroad traffic. The stations built along Exchange Street and around downtown Buffalo started out as simple and utilitarian structures, however as railroad companies grew more powerful they began to invest in more expensive and ornate train stations. These stations have unfortunately been lost as have most of Buffalo's railroads. Currently the downtown streetscape that was once filled with railroads and stations is now full of big entertainment venues like KeyBank Arena and the HARBORCENTER. These venues, along with the innumerable pay to park lots that surround them, have completely transformed both the look and utility of downtown Buffalo. Formerly a buzzing center of railroad activity, the area is now a major entertainment venue with more focus on music and Stanley Cups (Next year we've got it) than timetables and train schedules.

It is lamentable what happened to the beautiful stations that once graced downtown Buffalo, but unfortunately their demise was largely inevitable. Once the highway system was developed and Americans were connected to each other by asphalt and automobiles rather than railroads the major rail companies were sunk. Freight, formerly hauled in boxcars was handled by long haul truckers and the railroad companies began to desperately consolidate, trying to stay afloat. The giant terminals of the early 19th century were no longer sustainable as the railroads lacked the customer base to pay for the upkeep of such large buildings. Sadly, the size and grandeur of these buildings, features that would make them highly sought by real estate developers today, made them liabilities in the 1960s and 1970s. With preservation still largely in its infancy there was nobody to stand up for these old terminals. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century Buffalo's terminals were demolished leaving buildings like the Central Terminal as sad reminders of the gorgeous terminals once dominated the city.

The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Terminal at South Park and Michigan (Demolished) from Forgotten

The Lehigh Valley Railroad Passenger Terminal on Main Street (Demolished) from

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