Buffalo Railroads - Table of Contents

History of Railroads in Buffalo, NY

The text below is an excerpt (pages 12-14) from
The Beginnings of Buffalo Industry
By Robert Holder
(online August 2013)

Railroads Reach Out From Buffalo

The nine-day trip from New York to Buffalo on the Erie Canal satisfied most Buffalonians. However, a number of residents looked ahead to railroad transportation and did their best to foster it.

In a Buffalo Journal dated September 6, 1831, this announcement

Railroad ... At a numerous and respectable meeting of the citizens of Buffalo, held at the Eagle Tavern on the 6th of September, for the purpose of taking into consideration the subject of railroad communication between this place and the Hudson River, Bela D. Coe was called to the chair, and James Stryker was appointed secretary.

On April 14, 1832, two railroad companies were incorporated. One, called the Buffalo and Erie Railroad, was to run from Buffalo through Chatauqua County to the Pennsylvania line. The other, the Aurora and Buffalo Railroad, was to connect Buffalo with the area that is now called East Aurora. The money panic of 1837 caused these roads to fail before even a foot of track had been laid.
A horse-powered street railway was opened in 1834, joining Black Rock with Buffalo. But the first railroad on the Frontier to be operated by steam was the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad which was built in 1836.

The Buffalo and Attica Railroad which was completed in 1843 joined the Queen City - through Syracuse, Utica, and Schenectady - to Albany. In 1851, when the Hudson River Road was opened to Albany, and the New York and Erie Railroad pushed its way through to Dunkirk, there were two direct rail routes between Lake Erie and New York City.

One of the noted railway pioneers was William Wallace. Prior to the time of his death, in 1887, Wallace had something to do with seven out of the nine different railroads built. In a typical pioneer way he was at different times a promotor, engineer, superintendent, railway surveyor, and civic publicizer of the many railroads in which he was interested. His last project was a railroad, running from Buffalo to Washington, which later became a branch of the present Pennsylvania Railroad.

Buffalo's Street Railways

Buffalo had a street railway system in which the cars were drawn by horses. Although this method of transportation was established as early as 1834, it was not until the year 1860 that lines were constructed to serve residents who had built homes out Main Street and along Niagara Street towards Black Rock.

An outstanding figure in streetcar transportation was Stephen Van Rensselaer Watson who - with    G. R. Wilson, Charles T. Coit, and Andrew J. Rich - incorporated  the Buffalo Street Railway Company in 1860.

The first horse cars were 12 feet long. They were mounted on four-wheeled trucks, and each car cost about $700. The rails, made in ten-foot sections and bolted together to prevent spreading, were made of cast iron overlaid in wood.

By 1863 Buffalo boasted streetcar lines on its best streets. There was a total of 11 miles of double track and 60 passenger cars. But the street railways were poorly patronized. Many citizens preferred to walk rather than pay five cents for the questionable privilege of riding the horse cars.

On March 11, 1888, the horse car had a rival - the electric trolley. Despite the protests of many Buffalonians who feared electrocution from falling trolley lines, the first overhead wires were strung from Cold Spring to Delaware Park on July 20, 1889. The last horse car ran on November 19, 1894. After that time, all streetcars were electrically powered. Two years later the Buffalo trolley system tapped into the Niagara Power supply and became one of the first users of this electric energy in Buffalo.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2013
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