• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

Buffalo: Central Terminal in its declining years

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
18,813
Points
69
Everybody here must know about Central Terminal, the once-grand railroad station on Buffalo's Polonia/Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, that is considered arguably one of the greatest urban ruins in the United States.

There are literally tens of Web sites devoted to Central Terminal online. Most either show the building as it was during its glory years of the 1940s, when young Girl Fridays kissed their boyfriends as they headed off to battle the Krauts, or as it appeared in the late 1990s and this decade, in a state of advanced decay.

I stumbled across a Web site that shows Central Terminal as how I remember it ... in the 1970s, as a still-functioning and sound but mostly empty building, devoid of almost all activity.

http://www.icenine.org/photography/bct.html

What's interesting is that one picture shows a Bee Line diesel rail car. The Bee Line is a little-documented commuter rail line between Buffalo and Niagara Falls until the mid-1980s, I think. Despite the abundance of railfans online, there's very little information about the Bee Line.

The images are haunting, to say the least.
 

Mud Princess

Cyburbian
Messages
4,898
Points
27
Wow. Reminds me of the pre-restoration photos of Ellis Island... Is this building still standing? I've never been to Buffalo.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
14,155
Points
58
seeing these pics reminds me that I should talk to my dad about the Central Terminal

He grewup in the Polonia neighborhood in the 50s and was suprised and slightly saddened by the state of neighborhood when we visited in 1998.

That is one of the most amazing examples of Art Moderne/Art Deco design and archtiecture in the USA.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,922
Points
37
Dan said:
What's interesting is that one picture shows a Bee Line diesel rail car. The Bee Line is a little-documented commuter rail line between Buffalo and Niagara Falls until the mid-1980s, I think. Despite the abundance of railfans online, there's very little information about the Bee Line.

Cool images. I don't think that's a Bee Line rail car though - the masking pattern on the front looks like something the Canadian Pacific used in that time period (referred to as the "Hockey Mask" striping). That train may actually be a CPR (Toronto-Hamilton-Buffalo Railway) service.

[/rail geek]
 

gct13

Cyburbian
Messages
51
Points
4
What a station. Since I don't know anything about it, I'll look for more sites about it.
 
Messages
5,352
Points
31
Is it publicly- or privately-owned? Are they ANY efforts to preserve it or redevelop it? It's sad to see a once fine building go to such waste.
 

jsk1983

Cyburbian
Messages
2,482
Points
24
I'm not sure who owns it, but organizations do exist that are trying to save it. The problem is that it is in high crime area, away from the downtown core. Some have suggested that the new Erie county casion which will owned by the Seneca nation should go there, but they just recently purchased land in Cheektowvegas, so that's out. It a buetiful building but in all reality I don't see much of a future for it. Anyone have any suggestions as to what should be done with it?
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
18,813
Points
69
Tranplanner said:
. I don't think that's a Bee Line rail car though - the masking pattern on the front looks like something the Canadian Pacific used in that time period (referred to as the "Hockey Mask" striping). That train may actually be a CPR (Toronto-Hamilton-Buffalo Railway) service.

Did the TH&B have passenger service to Buffalo during the 1970s and 1980s? I remember seeing the DRC idling away in front of the little Exchange Street Station in downtown Buffalo in the early 1980s. I was told that it just went to Niagara Falls.
 

jsk1983

Cyburbian
Messages
2,482
Points
24
From the center of downtown it is 2.6 miles, or nine minutes. The problem is the area is just rather decrepit, not the kind of place one would want to spend much time in.
 

jsk1983

Cyburbian
Messages
2,482
Points
24
The light rail line goes from downtown to University Heights ending at the south campus of the University of Buffalo. The terminal is located on the east side(east of downtown), while then light rail is in a more northeasterly direction.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
18,813
Points
69
http://www.biniasz.com is a great personal Web site that prominently features the neighborhood surrounding Central Terminal. The Polonia/Broadway-Fillmore neigborhood isn't a great neighborhood, or even a good neighborhood, but it's certainly not unsafe for visitors. The area gets very questionable a few blocks east of Fillmore, or across the railroad tracks that run north of and parallel to Broadway.

Some Buffalo Central Terminal sites:

http://central.terminal.railfan.net
http://rockpile.buffalonet.org/terminal/terminal01.html
http://bct.buffaloexploration.com
http://www.novim.us/terminal
http://www.infiltration.org/abandoned-bct.html (from Toronto!)
http://kittyempire.org/viewy/bct/
http://www.trainweb.org/rshs/GRS Buffalo 1.htm
http://www.buffalocentralterminal.com
http://www.fed-up.com/gallery/bct
http://lucky.phpwebhosting.com/~ah/a/mem/tc.html
http://www.biniasz.com/pages/10/index.htm
http://homepages.wmich.edu/~d9kohrma/buffalo/bct.html
http://www.pbase.com/spencey82/bct
http://www.jinxmagazine.com/urban_mountaineering3.html
http://www.nfcnrhs.com/gallery_Buffalo_central_terminal.htm (nmore rare, spooky 1970s era images)
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,922
Points
37
Dan said:
Did the TH&B have passenger service to Buffalo during the 1970s and 1980s? I remember seeing the DRC idling away in front of the little Exchange Street Station in downtown Buffalo in the early 1980s. I was told that it just went to Niagara Falls.

I don't know, but I can try to find out. I know VIA inherited a Toronto-Buffalo run, which was eventually cut back to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Here's a colour pic illustrating the "hockey mask" striping used on CPR RDC's in the late '60s and early '70s. I even managed to find the exact same unit pictured in the Buffalo Central pic (link courtesly of abpr.railfan.net):

http://abpr.railfan.net/cgi-bin/thu.../cnRDC9108Montreal8-16-72RJVisockisSFcoll.jpg

EDIT: IMG removed and link provided to preserve copyright
 

thestip

Cyburbian
Messages
113
Points
6
The Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration Corp. bought the Terminal from the City in 1997. They have basically been in the process of sealing the building since then so as to protect the interior form the elements. Significant damage was done in the early '90's to the interior from water that was coming in through the roof and broken windows. They had a day last year where they opened the Terminal to visitors and over 4000 people showed up, so there is considerable interest in restoring the structure. Location is the problem. The only way I see there being any decent reuse of the structureis is if MetroRail (light rail) is extended to the airport, which the corridor passes directly under the structure. That corridor is in our MPO's 25 year plan, but until the City's finances are in better shape I really don't see it happening anytime soon. The Restoration Corp. has made the site look better at least, it planted a bunch of trees and keeps the landscaping up, and it did relight and restart the clocks on the tower which can be see from miles around. :)
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
14,155
Points
58
Dan said:
http://www.biniasz.com is a great personal Web site that prominently features the neighborhood surrounding Central Terminal.

Thanks for the link Dan. I sent it to my dad. I hope it triggers some good memories for him.

Those pics of Broadway commercial druing the 50s, shows how retail should have stayed - pedestrian
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,922
Points
37
As a follow-up for Dan, I received the following information via the Toronto-Hamilton-Buffalo Railroad Historical Society:

CP Budd cars were first assigned to the TH&B trains in October 1970. They
were still using the Buffalo Central Terminal as late as the summer of 1977.
That summer I picked up my college roommate there. I not sure when the
Central Terminal was closed in favor of the Exchange Street station.

Kevin Leddy
TH&B Railroad Historical Society.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,922
Points
37
Dan said:
What's interesting is that one picture shows a Bee Line diesel rail car. The Bee Line is a little-documented commuter rail line between Buffalo and Niagara Falls until the mid-1980s, I think. Despite the abundance of railfans online, there's very little information about the Bee Line.

I dug up a little more info, specifically on the bee-line. The following was supplied by Dale Madison of the TH&B hist. society:

The Buffalo-Niagara Falls Beeliners (NYC's name for RDC's) were remnants of
thru NYC-Niagara Falls or NYC-Detroit-Chicago via Niagara Falls
service. RDC's were introduced in the last 1950's in lieu of thru
NYC-Falls trains. IIRC the last thru NYC passenger service that ran via
the Falls was in the early 1960's after which the RDC's made connections
with thru passenger trains in Buffalo. That service stopped altogether
about 1966.
 

Rumpy Tunanator

Cyburbian
Messages
4,473
Points
25
Miles Ignatius said:
Adaptive Re-Use? Rumpy and the rest of you fellow Buffalonians -- All Aboard!!! :-D

There has been all sorts of ideas thrown on the table regarding the re-use of the building. Retail development, the dreaded casino, hotel, etc. The main Buffalo Post Office distribution center abutts the property and I know that CSX, as well as the Canadian RR use the yards, but from my understanding (and little known information gathered;)) the site woud be along the expansion of the LRT line extending to the airport.

You might ask yourself, expanding rail, here? Well because of our position on a major trade route (2nd largest) between Canada and the U.S., funds may be available and the outlook may be possible, setting up the possiblity for the re-use of the Central Terminal. Its a priority (extended line to airport) in the LRP due to the high monthly ridership along the existing line, so who knows.
 
Top