Winter & The New York Central's Buffalo Central Terminal
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Christmas is that time of the year when the railways work very hard to ensure that their passengers arrive safely home to their families to celebrate the holiday. Nowhere is that job more challenging than in Buffalo, New York, only 50 miles south of Toronto as the crow flies, but often another world given the paralyzing lake effect snow storms that the city often experiences. This photograph by famed New York Central Railroad photographer Ed Nowak shows the NYC's Buffalo Central Terminal in the aftermath of one of those storms.
Central Terminal was familiar to many Torontonians travelling by rail to various destinations in the United States. At the time this photograph was taken in the early 1950's, the New York Central provided through overnight sleepers between Toronto and Boston, New York City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. As well, Torontonians travelling to destinations like Washington and Florida would have changed trains at Central Terminal.
Many of the Canadian Pacific and Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo locomotives serviced at the John Street Roundhouse would have been serviced here as well, although in the latter years of steam, not as fastidiously as at John Street. The Toronto crew often complained of the sorry condition of NYC locomotives that were retired several years before the CPR abandoned steam.
Buffalo Central Terminal had its official opening on June 22, 1929. A luncheon banquet was held in the concourse for 2200 invited guests and among the speakers was Canadian National President Sir Henry W. Thornton. The New York Central Railroad chose the architectural firm of Fellheimer & Wagner to design the station. Dominated by a 15-story Art Deco office tower, the train concourse was located on top of the tracks, similar to the later Central Station in Montreal. F&W also designed the TH&B station in Hamilton and their Art Deco masterpiece, the Cincinnati Union Terminal, opened in 1933.
In order to avoid some of the problems that had plagued Toronto's new Union Station, whose approach tracks and trainshed were still under construction because of disputes over property acquisition and grade separations, Central Terminal was located two miles from downtown on 70 acres of land purchased by the NYC. This would later prove to be the terminal's undoing as it was too isolated from Buffalo's central business district for the convenience of passengers and the facility was difficult to recycle for other uses after the station closed. Up to the last full day of operation of the station on October 27, 1979, VIA Rail's daily Toronto-Buffalo Dayliners serviced at John Street called at Central Terminal.
For many years after, this magnificent terminal was an embarrassing urban ruin, open to the elements and inhabited by indigents. After several different owners, the building was acquired by the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation and is slowly being secured and stabilized by a group of dedicated volunteers whose passion for preserving their local railway heritage matches our own.
Posting by Derek Boles; Image by Ed Nowak