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Great Railroad Stations - East Salamanca, NY

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Great Railroad Stations

By John C. Dahl


East Salamanca, NY

The late Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh station still stands its ground in East Salamanca, NY. Once the heart of a thriving railroad town, today the largely abandoned site sits forlorn and quiet. The workers, trains and their railroad have vanished from the everyday scene.

As its name implies, BR&P connected its namesake cities. Constructed in the late 19th century as a route for bituminous coal to move north and south from the huge deposits of western Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, Rochester and Buffalo, the railroad underwent several changes of name and ownership before becoming known as the BR&P in 1887. Rochester was actually reached before Buffalo, and all three cities eventually enjoyed the benefits of this direct north - south route.

The railroad prospered in the industrial boom economy of pre-turn of the century America. Steel had become the primary manufacturing industry of the age. Pittsburgh and Buffalo had large steel making operations. Coal and iron ore for the steel mills filled the railroads hopper cars and kept the line busy. A fair amount of on line traffic also developed in the rural countryside between the line’s end points. Lumber yards, feed mills, LCL freight and domestic use coal filled out the general ledger. A very healthy passenger business flourished as well, with the railroad scheduling day and night trains in both directions. The railroad’s motto "Safety and Service" set the tone for its passenger trains which pioneered in the use of all steel coaches, parlor and dining cars. Perusal of a BR&P dining car menu of circa 1910 reads like that of the finest hotels in the land.

East Salamanca was an important junction point for the railroad. Trains from Buffalo and Rochester would meet at East Salamanca. The Rochester train was carded to arrive just ahead of the Buffalo train, and passengers would transfer to the Buffalo train to continue the journey south. The Rochester train itself would continue into Salamanca on the short branchline to the downtown Main St. depot. (This neat station is now the home of the Salamanca RR Museum.) The return train to Rochester departed Main St. later that day. Night trains saw the sleeper on the Rochester train being gently uncoupled and moved to the Buffalo train for the remainder of the journey. Mail and express were an important business to the railroad as is very evident from the railroads’ large well built stations.

East Salamanca also had car and locomotive backshops constructed to replaced the outdated Bradford, Pa. shops. Facilities began to be built about 1906 as the railroad was receiving its large Mallet type steam locomotives. These engines required a large modern facility and East Salamanca was ideally positioned on the north end of the line to serve in this capacity.

For many years the little road occupied a stable niche in the railroad world. This excerpt from the railroad’s own 1927 history in the "Railroads that Serve Buffalo" says it best. "The beautiful scenery combined with the comfortable coaches and parlor cars, together with the very excellent a-la-carte meals served, delivers the passenger at Pittsburgh in the late afternoon mentally refreshed and physically rested."

The only constant is change, and as the Crash of 1929 did to so many railroads, the BR&P needed a merger partner or a "white knight" to stay in business. The Baltimore & Ohio eventually purchased the operation along with other remnants of the Buffalo & Susquehanna. The BR&P settled into a sleepy existence as a secondary route of it’s larger parent still providing reliable "Safety & Service". Passenger trains ran well into the mid 1950’s. Steam held out on the line and it became a delight of many railfans to chase. Recent years saw the passage of Chessie freights when B&O merged with it’s onetime rival C&O. A late Autumn passenger special from Orchard Park to Ellicottville featured classic ex-NYC stainless equipment in 1992. Perhaps the lines’ last hurrah was the journey of the Milwaukee Road steam locomotive no. 261 which pulled a passenger special down the line on a sparkling warm early June day in 1996.

In the post Conrail world, the fate of the BR&P line now hangs in the balance. The Buffalo branch has seen it’s last through freight service and may be abandoned. The Rochester line too has been cut back and trackage through Freedom, NY is removed. The East Salamanca shops have long since laid off their last employee, and the depot has become an abandoned monument to the golden age of railroading.

East Salamanca, NY. Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway.
October 1996. Jon Rothenmeyer photo.


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