DL&W - Table of Contents  .......................................  Buffalo Waterfront

DL&W Train Shed / NFTA Depot and Repair Shop
Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad / Niagara Frontier Transit Authority

History Beneath 2016 Photos

1917, by the Erie Railroad
Kenneth M. Murchison, NYC
Location: South Park Avenue at the southern end of Main Street on the Buffalo River between Michigan Avenue to the east and the Skyway to the west in downtown Buffalo, New York.
The DL&W’s property extended all the way to the present day Erie Basin Marina where a large coal trestle and loading dock was located.
Served rail passenger & freight traffic as well as lake ships that would dock alongside.
Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad merger
October 17, 1960.
The new railroad  - the Erie-Lackawanna - was a 3031-mile route between Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo and New York.
Partial Demolition:
1979 (Waiting room, passenger concourse, railroad offices)
First year of reuse:
1982 (Train shed; storage and maintenance facility for Metro Rail system.)
"The terminal's double deck train shed, attributed to Lincoln Bush, is considered to be significant as an early example of the innovative use of reinforced concrete." - HABS (online July 2016)
Eligible for Inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.

Historic Photos and Postcards

View of DL&W complex from across Buffalo River. Two passenger buildings are at center - DEMOLISHED in 1979 -  with train shed extending toward right -
The NFTA Depot and Repair Shop
Photo source: HABS (online July 2016)

Top: Breakwater
Top rectangular area:  Times Beach Nature Preserve
Upper middle grain elevator:  Connecting Terminal Elevator
Left: General Mills
Photo source: HABS (online July 2016)

Photo source: HABS (online July 2016)

Signal Tower/Boiler Room brick structure at eastern-most border of DL&W property to left of Michigan Avenue between Buffalo River and South Park Avenue.
Photo source: HABS (online July 2016)

Waiting room
There were waiting rooms on the ground floor and on the second floor.

Passengers arriving by boat entered the station from the south side which fronted the Buffalo River. The building was three stories high and built of brownstone.


"DL&W had the shortest passenger route between New York and Buffalo. Erie's was the longest. In 1960, passengers could reach Erie Lackawanna's passenger terminal at Hoboken by bus from Rockefeller Center, ferry, or tube (now PATH). The line's famous PHOEBE SNOW left at 10:35 a.m. and arrived in Buffalo 7:15 p.m. Passenger service was eliminated 1970 and most equipment was scrapped." - Erie-Lackawanna Historical & Technical Society: Erie-Lackawanna (online July 2016)

"In 1949 Phoebe Snow returned to the Lackawanna. In the early part of the century she had been Lackawanna's symbol. Hers was the gown that stayed white from morn till night upon the Road of Anthracite -anthracite was much cleaner-burning than the bituminous coal used by other roads. Phoebe Snow's return to the road was in the form of a diesel powered maroon and gray streamliner for daytime service between Hoboken and Buffalo." - Erie Lackawanna Historical Society, Inc: Lackawanna Railroad (online July 2016)

"Obviously, because the Lackawanna was not a large railroad it likewise did not have a large, notable passenger train fleet. However, its premier passenger train between Buffalo and Hoboken, the Phoebe Snow should most certainly be mentioned (the train would replace the railroad’s former flagship run, the Lackawanna Limited). This train was a marketing sensation (to promote the train’s clean ride because of its use of anthracite coal, prior to the days of diesel motive power) and the use of an artistic-rendition of a woman as its centerpiece was also a hit (the railroad would even go on to hire a model to promote the train and she became one of the most popular in New York City at the time!)."
- American-Rails.com: The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad: The Route of Phoebe Snow (online July 2016)


The Famous Central Wharf of the Buffalo Waterfront: Part II
By John H. Conlin
Western New York Heritage, April 5, 2016

In the 1830s all the lots in that area of the waterfront that would eventually be called the Central Wharf were occupied by wooden buildings. In 1837 the city rebuilt the wooden wharf as a public thoroughfare. The wooden buildings were gradually replaced with brick structures.

Built about the time the Central Wharf received its name, the four-story brick Hazard Block at the foot of Main Street had frontage on both the Central Wharf and Main Street. The Hazard Block was the most distinctive and refined piece of architecture on the wharf.

RAILROAD TRACKS: A 1909 photograph of tracks and sidings in Prime Street and on the site of the demolished Hazard Block. (Photo courtesy of Ronald Dukarm and Harvey Holzworth)

In 1882 the Board of Trade built a new building uptown on Seneca Street making way for the railroad to take over the entire old Central Wharf. In 1883 the railroad took the public by surprise with a well-organized conspiracy, laying a track bed down the center of Prime Street in the middle of the night. Over 200 workers were used to accomplish the feat, which was organized like a military operation. Morning found a locomotive in the street where there had been no track the day before.

THE HAZARD BLOCK: The triangular-plan anchor block of the Central Wharf, The Hazard Block, built in the 1840s, fronted on both Main Street and the Buffalo River.

In 1883 the Hazard Block was also demolished by the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad to lay multiple tracks. The railroad takeover marked the end of public access to the waterfront in that area. A suit was brought by the City against the D.L.&W. claiming that the dock had always functioned as a public thoroughfare.

Powerful, well-connected lawyers (John Milburn, Louis Babcock, Franklin Locke) prevailed in court for the railroad. But the damage had been done and the historic wharf was gone.

2016 photos - Looking east

Left: Sabres Arena
Center:  DL&W Train Shed
RightGeneral Mills

Right background: General Mills

Reinforced concrete column: a significant early example

View east along South Park Avenue ... Michigan Avenue Bridge  in background

Signage: 29 South Park ... NFTA-METRO South park yard and Shops

South Elevation

Photo taken from the Michigan Avenue Bridge looking west
: General Mills
Center: Buffalo River with Skyway
Right: DL&W train shed

Far right eastern end of the complex adjoins the Edward M. Cotter  berth

Skyway in background    

Reinforced concrete  columns

Flemish bond brick pattern

If you are to visit the site today, a two-story reinforced concrete train sheds is all that remains of the Lackawanna Railroad Terminal in Buffalo. Built in 1917, the complex served rail passenger & freight traffic as well as lake ships that would dock alongside. The DL&W’s property extended all the way to the present day Erie Basin Marina where a large coal trestle and loading dock was located.

A long wide portico protected those going to and from the station. Passengers arriving by boat entered the station from the south side which fronted the Buffalo River. The building was three stories high and built of brownstone. There were waiting rooms on the ground floor and on the second floor. The ground floor had one ticket office and checking counter with benches along the sides. A double stairway led to the second waiting room which was fitted with accommodations for about 200 persons. There were long rows of seats back to back with shaded lights on the back.

... [In October 17, 1960?] , the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad merged with the Erie Railroad. The new company, the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad abandoned the majestic terminal at the foot of Main Street soon after. The head house with its grand staircase was finally demolished in 1979 during construction of Buffalo's light rail rapid transit system. Although passenger terminal was razed, the terminal's brick train sheds were converted into servicing facilities.
-  Excerpts:  Forgotten Buffalo: DL&W Terminal (online July 2016)
The two-story reinforced concrete train sheds on the Buffalo River at Washington St. are virtually all that is left in Buffalo of the old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

The sheds, completed in 1917, were part of a passenger, freight, and commodity complex that gave the railroad practical control of the inner harbor from the westernmost point of Erie Basin to Ohio and Michigan streets, a distance of almost three-quarters of a mile. The rights of way, and previous DL&W warehouses on the site, dated from the 1880s.

Train tracks were actually elevated, with freight storage and a Railway Express office located in the ground-level entry into the train shed basement, which currently serves as a storage and maintenance facility for light rail rapid transit cars. A brick addition by the NFTA dates to 1982.
-  Excerpts:  Buffalo's Waterfront: A Guidebook, by Timothy Tielman
The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company (DL&W or Lackawanna) was a railroad connecting Pennsylvania's Lackawanna Valley, rich in anthracite coal, to New York City, Buffalo and Oswego, New York. It merged with the Erie Railroad in 1960, forming the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, and was absorbed into Conrail in 1976. During the 30's and 40's the Lackawanna was the eastern connection for Nickel Plate trains between Chicago and New York. The Nickel Plate limited became the New Yorker at Buffalo and traversed Lackawanna rails to New York. It carried both Pullman sleepers and coaches. A second train, primarily a mail train, also carried Pullman sleepers from Chicago to New York, with coach passengers exchanging cars at Buffalo.
- Richard Parks, A Chicago Train Connecting Railroad - 1930's - 1940's: Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad:  Lackawanna Railroad (online July 2016)
The Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western. Railroad Terminal Complex was a regionally significant structure within the context of transportation The D.L & W, was the oldest railroad station existing in Buffalo in 1979. It was also the last of the five stations which operated in Buffalo in 1923 at the city's zenith as a major rail center. Set on a prominent riverfront site, it retained its integrity of design.

The 8.1 acre site, which was sold by the City of Buffalo and Conrail to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in 1979, is bounded on the north by South Park Avenue, west by the Skyway, south by the Buffalo River and east by Michigan Avenue. The terminal complex consisted of four structures, the train shed and attached ticketing and terminal buildings to the west of the shed and a brick signal tower/power house at the easternmost site boundary.

Erected in 1917, the terminal was the work of architect Kenneth M. Murchison, with its double-deck train sheds, which are considered to be a significant early example of the use of reinforced concrete, attributed to the D.L.& W. Railroad's Chief Engineer, Lincoln Bush.

Architect Kenneth Murchison designed the shed and adjoining passenger terminal to handle both train and steamer passengers. The upper level tracks rest on a reinforced concrete deck supported by concrete columns. The six upper level tracks accommodated passenger traffic and the three lower tracks were for express shipments.


The Bush train shed was an important development in twentieth century railroad facility technology and represented an innovative use of reinforced concrete. Patented in 1904, this type of shed presented an economical alternative to the large span glass train shed. Each shed unit, composed of steel arched girders carrying reinforced concrete slabs, spanned two lines of track and half a platform on each side. The roof contained skylights for light and deep slots for the escape of fumes. The D.L.& W. in Buffalo is among the oldest surviving examples of the Bush train sheds.

The first floor of the two-story rectangular train shed (600' X 125') consisted of various walls and reinforced concrete columns (on an approximate 27 X 27' grid) that supported the second floor of the shed. The exterior walls were brick with long rows of windows alternating with wide bay track bed and elevated concrete loading platforms. The western end consisted of two large rooms and several small rooms separated by concrete block and wood-plaster walls.

The second floor was a reinforced concrete slab with exterior brick walls between steel column on the north, south and west faces. The semi-weather-protective roof consisted of arched concrete slabs supported by arched steel beams with an extensive network of skylights along the peaks. The entire second floor was open with concrete platforms between track beds.

The ticketing and terminal buildings had steel frames with various types of masonry and architectural finishes. The two buildings consisted of several large waiting areas, surrounded by smaller utility and office areas. The waiting areas were of marble and plaster finish with cathedral ceilings and the smaller rooms were generally marble, ceramic tile and plaster finish.

The brick building constructed as a combination boiler room and signal tower dated from the same origins as US companion D.L.& W. structures, and was 36 feet wide by 55 feet long and 31 feet tall at the upper track level of the train shed. From ground level adjacent to the Buffalo fireboat location, the building was approximately 65 feet tall.


The then Erie-Lackawanna Railroad abandoned use of the D.L.& W. complex in 1962. Six and a half acres of property was eventually acquired by the City of Buffalo through non payment of taxes with the remainder going to Conrail. In the years between 1962 and 1979, the structures deteriorated badly through an unfortunate combination of neglect, vandalism, and systematic scavenging. In the terminal buildings, marble and plaster had cracked and fallen from the walls and ceilings. Also, marble had systematically been removed by scavengers for salvage. Door and window frames were broken, and the-marble steps from the main staircases had been removed. In general, the ticketing and terminal buildings had been gutted, with the floors being covered by rubble from the walls and ceilings.

A December 15, 1974 article in the Buffalo Courier Express' Sunday Magazine stated that:
"The rails and crossties have been removed from its six-track, elevated train shed, many of the tiles have fallen from the high arched ceilings of its waiting rooms, vandals have broken almost every window, weeds have grown through the cracks in its roof and pigeons have become the building's principal inhabitants. Even the majestic marble staircase which curved from the main floor con-course to the second story waiting room has been reduced to rubble."
As for the signal tower, the interior, lower portion of which once served as a boiler room, had been gutted by fire and was badly deteriorated.


In 1977, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) settled on the D.L.& W. complex as the most appropriate yard site for the maintenance and storage of rail vehicles for the Buffalo Light Rail Rapid Transit (LRRT) system. A major reason for this decision was the unique opportunity for covered storage that would be offered by the rehabilitated train shed.

However, the NFTA proposal required demolition of the ticketing and terminal building portions of the D.L.& W. site, in order to construct a complex ladder track switching area to facilitate turning trains from their mainline alignment to the individual storage bays of the train sheds. Due to the local confinement of the site caused by the Skyway, river, train sheds and South Park Avenue, these switching movements would have to be made directly beneath the ticketing and terminal building. The permanent underpinning of complex structures this size and in their deteriorating condition and in an area requiring pile foundations, was not considered practical or economically feasible.

Likewise, in order to construct the yard and shop site, it was necessary to demolish the signal tower power house as its location would interfere with the placement of a necessary loop track.

In the two months following approval of the final EIS for the LRRT in December 1977, a local landmark designation for the D.L.&W. was conferred and then rescinded by municipal authorities following a public hearing. The historic question lingered, however, and in November 1978 the terminal complex was declared Eligible for Inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.

Subsequently, the NFTA advertised nationally for prospective developers for the terminal and solicited all levels of government for prospective uses for the buildings. As no proposals were forthcominq, a Memorandum of Agreement was executed and concurred in by UMTA, the NFTA, and the SHPO, with final approval granted by ACHP by June of 1979.

The Memorandum contained permission for the NFTA to demolish the two passenger buildings and the signal tower in return for assurance that the train shed would be rehabilitated and preserved in accord with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
- Excerpts:  Historic Structures: Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western RR. Lackawanna Terminal (Buffalo Boat Depot), Buffalo New York  (online July 2016)

Photos and their arrangement 2007, 2016 Chuck LaChiusa
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