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Chapter 6

1852 was a banner year for the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad. After much argument and debate, the railroad decided to relocate their outbound tracks to the west side of the Erie Canal. The railroad also found that it had advanced enough to have the need for a grand depot. Located on Erie Street, the enormous Italian style brick structure ran parallel to the Erie Canal and featured an enclosed train shed -- something new to the industry.

The Erie Street Station as seen from Erie Street. Note the police call box located right in front.

It was a very elaborate building for what had become a serious railroad. The Buffalo and Niagara Falls was no longer the horse-car line its ancestor had been. Its route was heavily used on a daily basis and it was making money. Ed Patton strengthens this point by saying; "The railroads as a whole between 1850 and 1870 were starting to generate significant amounts of money and anytime you have a place where the public gathers for transshipment, or meeting and greeting people, you will see large buildings."

"That's why these elaborate railroad depots were being constructed. Commerce was power and money, and the outgrowth of that fact was the building of larger and larger buildings that the railroads could use to give the public confidence in investing their hard earned money in shipping on the railroads."

This litho shows just how busy it was on Erie Street in front of the new railroad station. Once the station began handling freight as well as passengers, the Erie Canal began to suffer increasingly from lack of business.
The Erie Street Station was located in the heart of the infamous Canal District. With the Erie Canal on one side and the Evans Ship Canal on the other, the station was built right in the middle of the land - water transshipment route. Much to the dismay of the businessmen who ran freight operations on the canal, the railroad was drastically cutting into the canal's profits that were at one time unchallenged.

Since the route of the Buffalo and Niagara Falls ran directly parallel to the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Tonawanda, travellers were more apt to ride the railroad and arrive at their destination in a few short minutes rather than hours. When the B.& N.F. was absorbed into the New York Central railroad in 1855, freight transference began at the station. This was the beginning of the end for the Erie Canal in the Buffalo area.

This photograph was taken to show some maintainence work being done to the bridge that carried Erie Street over the Canal. Looming in the background is the Erie Street Station.
The Erie Street Station continued to serve the needs of the public riding the New York Central railroad from Buffalo to Niagara Falls and all points in between until 1873 when the Central connected their tracks at Exchange Street, which arrived in 1842, with the tracks at Erie Street. Now there was a complete route that circled the City of Buffalo and it became known as the Belt Line. The Central then abandoned operations at Erie Street and relied solely on the station at Exchange Street and a small wooden clapboard station that they built on the Terrace.

The Grand Trunk railroad, a Canadian run company, took over operations of the station and continued to use it for many years. However, the Erie Street station had the proud distinction of being Buffalo's first elaborate passenger stations. Many more would follow.

This photograph from the 1870s shows the view of the Erie Canal as seen from the Erie Street Station. The canal is so crowded with canal boats that you could almost walk across without getting your feet wet. This scene would change dramaticaly once the railroad started carrying frieght as a major fare.