History of Railroads in Erie County, NY
From: History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County
with illistrations and biohraphical Sketches of
some of its prominent men and pioneers.
Edited by H. Perry Smith
Published by D. Mason & Co. 1884


THE first incorporation of a company to build a railroad in Erie county, took place on the 14th day of April, 1832, when the Legislature incorporated two companies. One was the Buffalo & Erie Railroad Company, whose road was to run from Buffalo through Chautauqua county to the State line. The corporators were all residents of Chautauqua county. The movements had no practical results. The other was the Aurora & Buffalo Railroad Company. Its road was designed to run from Buffalo to the village of Aurora, now known as East Aurora, seventeen miles southeast of the former place. Considerable stock was subscribed, and the line was carefully laid out by Mr. William Wallace, who, after a long life spent in his profession in this vicinity, is now a resident of East Aurora. For several years the people of Aurora had lively hopes of the speedy construction of a railroad to their village, and it was not until 1837, that the panic of that year crushed, for the time, their ardent ambition.

The first railroad actually built in the county was the Buffalo & Black Rock Railroad, about three miles long-at least it was called a railroad then, although more like'a modern street-railroad, for the cars were drawn by horses. This road was in working order as early as 1834. The first railroad operated by steam power in Erie county was the Buffalo & Niagara Falls. In the spring of 1836, it was in the course of rapid construction. On the 26th of August, in that year, the first locomotive was put on the road at Black Rock, and ran from that place to Tonawanda, at the rate of fifteen or twenty miles per hour. On the 6th of the next month, the locomotive ran from Buffalo to Tonawanda, and on the 5th of November, 1836, trains began running regularly from Buffalo to Niagara Falls.

The Niagara Falls road was built just in time for the great financial crisis, which occurred immediately afterward and put a sudden stop to all enterprises of that kind in this region. The Aurora road, as we have stated, was crushed by it. In July, 1836, directors of the Buffalo & Erie (Pa.) Railroad Company were elected, but no road was built on that line for over fifteen years. in August, subscriptions to the stock of the Buffalo & Attica Railroad Company were opened, but this enterprise, too, was submerged by the wave of financial disaster, and did not re-appear until several years later.

It was, however, the first, after the Niagara Falls road, to he completed, being opened for travel on the 8th day of January, 1843. The work of railroad-building was then slow in comparison with later achievements, and though the Attica road formed a connection with others, afterward consolidated with it into the New York Central, and though the New York & Erie was creeping slowly in this direction, yet the next road actually constructed in this county was the Buffalo & State Line (now a part of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern), which was opened for travel from Buffalo to Dunkirk on the 22d day of February, 1852, having been already opened from Dunkirk to the State Line, on the 1st of the previous month.

The same year the Buffalo & Rochester Railroad Company, (which had been formed in 1850, by the consolidation of the Buffalo & Attica Company with the "Tonawanda" Company-whose road ran from Attica to Rochester,) opened a new direct line from Buffalo to Batavia, and sold its line from Buffalo to Attica, thirty miles, to the New York City Railroad Company. The latter leased this line to the New York & Erie Company, which built a branch sixty miles long, from Hornellsville to Attica, thus forming a continuous line from Buffalo to New York, which was opened in 1852.

In 1852, also, the Buffalo & New York City Company opened a line from Buffalo to Batavia, (a short distance from the Central track) thence eastward to Avon, and thence southeastward to Corning. In a short time, however, the track from Buffalo to Batavia was taken up, and the road-bed has remained unoccupied to the present time. The line beyond Batavia is operated by the "Erie" Company.

This was an era of railroad-building. The Buffalo & Brantford road was begun in 1851 or 1852, and was completed to Brantford, Ontario, by 1854. An extension was planned to Goderich, on Lake Huron, and the name was changed to the Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railway. It was not opened to Goderich until June 28, 1858. The name was again changed to the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway, and on the 1st of July, 1868, it was leased in perpetuity to the Grand Trunk Railway Company, and it is now operated as a part of the Grand Trunk system.

In 1853, a strenuous effort was made-in fact two efforts were made to build a railroad from Buffalo through Aurora and the southeastern part of the county. In the fore part of that year the Buffalo & Pittsburgh. Railroad Company was chartered under the presidency of the late Orlando Allen. It selected a line running near the village of Willink (now the west end of the village of East Aurora) and thence up the valley of Cazendve creek; the design being to meet the coal-fields of Pennsylvania, and to connect either directly or indirectly with Pittsburg.

Owing to dissatisfaction with the route selected, the Buffalo & Allegany Valley Railroad Company was formed, and began work on a road designed to run from Buffalo through the east part of the village of East Aurora, and thence up the Cazenove valley to a point near Arcade, where it .was to connect with the "Allegany Valley" road running south from Attica to the Pennsylvania line. Both the companies thus organized did considerable work in the vicinity of Aurora, in the year 1853, but neither had sufficient financial resources to accomplish the task it had undertaken. The Buffalo & Allegany Valley Company first succumbed and stopped work, but did not abandon its organization. The Buffalo & Pittsburg Company also stopped work, and at length gave up its organization; nothing more was done on either line .until after the war.

The Canandaigua & Niagara Falls Railroad Company was organized in 1851, and its road was completed in 1854; running from the Suspension Bridge to Tonawanda, and thence eastward through the northern towns of Erie county-continuing in an eastern course to Canandaigua. The name was changed to the Niagara Bridge & Canandaigua Railroad, and in 1858 it was leased to the New York Central Company, by which it is still operated.

In 1855 the Buffalo & Niagara Falls railroad was purchased by the New York Central Company, and the former road made a part of the latter.

The financial crisis of 1857 and the war which broke out in 1861 caused a long blank in railway-building in Erie county. Even before the close of the Rebellion, however, when peace was seen to be approaching, preparations were made for a renewal of railroad work. On the 10th of December, 1864, Mr. Wallace, the engineer already mentioned, having projected a route from Buffalo to Olean and thence up the Allegany river, (instead of down that stream, where previous routes had run), obtained the subscription of six leading citizens of Olean to the stock of the Buffalo & Washington Railroad Company. On the 4th of February, 1865, the company was organized, and on the 14th day of April in that year, it was consolidated with the Buffalo & Allegany Valley Railroad Company, (of which Perry G. Parker was then President, and General Aaron Riley, Secretary,) and with the Sinnemahoning & Portage Railroad Company, the whole taking the name of the Buffalo & Washington. This name was ere long changed to the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia, which has fortunately been spared from further transmutations.

The company selected substantially the line of the old Buffalo & Allegany Valley Road through Erie county, and slowly carried forward the work of construction. It was not until December 22, 1867, that the road was completed to East Aurora, seventeen miles from Buffalo, where it made a long halt. Then it was built to South Wales, five miles further south, where there was another halt until the latter part of 1870. It was then pushed forward with more vigor, so that in July, 1872, it was opened to Olean, and on the 1st of January, 1873, it was completed to its terminus, at Emporium, Pa.

The same year saw the completion of another road terminating in Buffalo, the Canada Southern, which had been chartered on the 28th of February, 1868, and begun soon after, and which was opened for traffic November 15, 1873. It extended from the Niagara river to Amherstburg, Ontario, near the mouth of Detroit river, two hundred and twenty-nine miles distant. In 1878 the ownetship of the road passed into the hands of a new company, organized in the interest of the New York Central Railroad Company, which guaranteed the interest on the bonds of its Canadian associate. During the past year the road has been leased to the Michigan Central Railroad Company, another branch of the same great combination.

The year 1873 was also distinguished by the completion of the "Air Line," or "Loop Line" branch of the Great Western Railway, from Fort Erie to Glencoe, on the main line of that road, one hundred and forty five miles westward. This branch was begun by the Canada Air Line Company, chartered in December, 1867, but subsequently became the property of the Great Western Company. During the winter of 1882-'83 the Great Western & Grand Trunk Railroad Companies were consoli.. dated under the latter name, and the Grand Trunk Railroad consequently has two important branches, (the old Buffalo & Lake Huron, and the Air Line) practically terminating in Buffalo, with .which they cornmunicate by the International Bridge across the Niagara.

A little before the completion of these works a road had been built from Buffalo to the Suspension Bridge by a company organized under the auspices of the "Erie" company, in October, i868. The road was completed in December, 1870, under the name of the "Suspension Bridge & Erie Junction" railroad, but was immediately leased to the Erie company and has been known as the Niagara Falls branch of that road.

The next Erie county railroad enterprise was the Buffalo & Jamestown. This company was organized March 25, 1872. The road was completed from Buffalo to Jamestown, Chautauqua county, in 1875, running almost due south from Buffalo, through the towns of West Seneca, Hamburg, Eden, North Collins, and Collins, and crossing Cattaraugus creek at the village of Gowanda. The company was re-organized in 1877, after a foreclosure, under the name of the Buffalo & Southwesttern, and on the 1st of August, 1881, it leased the road tothe New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad Company, by whom it is now operated as the Buffalo & South-Western division of that road.

Since the revival of business in 1879, after the long depression, there has been apparently a rage for railroad building throughout the country, and, owing to its position at the foot of Lake Erie, this county has been the scene of even more than the usualactivity of capitalists, engineers and contractors. The first of the new roads to be completed was the New York, Chicago and St Louis, running from Buffalo to Chicago, by way of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The company was organized-in this State-on the 13th of April, 1881. Work was begun soon after, and the track was completed (522 miles) in the latter part of 1882-about a year and eight months after its commencement, a fact almost, if not quite, unequaled in the history of railroad building. It was constructed by a syndicate of New York capitalists who, during the winter of 1882- '83, sold it to William H. Vanderbilt and other owners of the Lake Shore Railroad, but the New York, Chicago & St. Louis is managed as a special route, although, of course, in close harmony with. the Lake Shore.

From Buffalo westward to Brocton, Chautauqua county, the track occupied by the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Company was built jointly by that company and the Buffalo, Pittsburgh & Western. This was the first appearance in Erie county of the tracks of the last-named company though they had previously run trains from Brocton to Buffalo, over the track of the .Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad. The Buffalo, Pittsburg & Western Railroad Company was formed on the 20th day of January, 1881, by a consolidation of the Buffalo & Pittsburg Railroad Company (organized September 29, 1880, to build a road from Buffalo to Portland, near Brocton,) with several roads, principally in Pennsylvania. On the 14th of February, 1883, the road in question, together with the Oil City & Chicago and the Olean & Salamanca Railroads were consolidated with the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia, taking the name of the last named road.

The Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia Company is the oniy one of the great companies described which has its headquarters in Buffalo, and we give it a little more extended description on that account. Besides the roads consolidated with its own, as already mentioned, it controls the following leased railroads: The Genesee Valley Canal Railroad; the Rochester, New York & Pennsylvania; the McKean & Buffalo; the Kendall & Eldred; the Olean & Bradford; and the Mayville Extension Railroad. The total number of miles of railroad owned and controlled by the company is seven hundred and eighteen.

In addition to its railroad property the company controls extensive coal mines and coal lands in Pennsylvania, from which it can furnish its roads with an apparently unlimited amount of coal traffic, which cannot be diverted from them. It also controls most of the passenger and freight business of Chautauqua lake, on which it has a fleet of five large steamers. Its branch roads also reach to Bradford, the center of the principal oil producing territory, to Clermont, the seat of the coal mines just mentioned and to other points, whence comes a large and constantly increasing business in the carriage of coal (anthracite and bituminous,) oil, lumber, bark, grain, and numerous other articles.

The New York, Lackawanna & Western Railway Company was chartered on the 24th of August, 1880, for the purpose of constructing an extension of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, from Binghamton to Buffalo, a distance of two hundred miles. The work was pushed rapidly forward and the, track was completed in 1883. This company, however, like some of the others, has still a vast amountof work to do in constructing side tracks, building depots, obtaining facilities on the water-front, etc., etc., in and around Buffalo.

The Rochester & Pittsburg Railroad Company which, as the successor of the Rochester & State Line Company, is the owner of a road from Rochester to Salamanca, Cattaraugus county, determined in the year 1882, to build a branch from Ashford, Cattaraugus county to Buffalo. Surveys were made on various lines, and in August of that year a contract was let for the construction of the road by way of East Hamburg, West Falls, Colden and Springville. The work was completed in August, 1883. As the company is also extending its road into the coal and lumber fields of Pennsylvania, it furnishes another important feeder to the manufactures and other interests of Buffalo.

Last of all in date of completion is the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railroad, the company owning which was ofganized on the i8th of February, 1880. This great work was completed. to Syracuse at the time of the printing of this history, and was to be constructed to Buffalo with the utmost possible speed. it is the most important of any of the new roads through Erie county, having a first-class, double-track line from Weehawken, New Jersey, opposite New York, along the west shore of the Hudson river nearly to Albany and thence westward, almost parallel to and but a short distance from the Central railroad, to Buffalo, a total distance of four hundred and twenty-five miles. It was evidently intended to be a formidable rival of the Central Railroad, but its business achievements are still in the future.

Although the Lehigh Valley Railroad has no track through Erie county, yet the company sends its coal-laden cars hither over the tracks of the New York, Lake Erie & Western, and has acquired vast facilities in the southern part of Buffalo for the purpose of transhipping its coal and sending it up Lake Erie and over other roads. So far as the coal trade is concerned, Buffalo is the western terminus of the Lehigh Valley railroad.

It will be observed that in regard to every road mentioned, Buffalo is the terminus of either a main line or a branch. Not a single road runs through Buffalo. It is the western terminus of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, of the New York, West Shore & Buffalo, and the New York, Lackawanna & Western; also of what is practically the main line of the New York, Lake Erie & Western, besides being the freight terminus of the Lehigh Valley Road. It is the southern terminus of the Niagara Falls branch of the Central, and the Niagara Falls branch of the Erie. It is the northern terminus of the two great divisions of the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia, whose tributary roads spread far and wide through the coal fields, the oil fields, and the lumber fields of Pennsylvania. It is also the northern terminus of what is likely to be the main line of the Rochester & Pittsburg, which is advancing in the same direction, and of the Buffalo & Southwestern branch of the Erie. It is the eastern terminus of three great roads, the New York, Chicago & St. Louis, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and the Michigan Central, (as the lessee of the Canada Southern,) each of which reaches out over 500 miles, to the great city of the West, Chicago. Finally it is the eastern terminus of one great branch, and the southeastern terminus of another, belonging to the Grand Trunk system of Canada, which stretches its mighty arms from the western shore of Lake Michigan to the chief city of Maine, on the coast of the North Atlantic.

In short, a person can travel more than nine thousand miles over the various railroads centering at Buffalo, and their branches, without repeating his journey over a single mile

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