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HDC News 2020

News Updates - 2020

January 2020

New Accessions
By: Stephen Kocsis - Director of Collections

The Western New York Railway Historical Society is always looking to add items that document our Railway Heritage. At our November 2019 Greater Buffalo Train and Toy Show, we were astounded when Mark and Eric Coffed showed us a framed photograph of a diminutive 4-2-4 locomotive. At first glance, I knew we were looking at something special. This 19th century photograph was of an early steam locomotive design that was soon replaced by the 4-4-0 American type locomotives. How special and its connection to Western New York would not be revealed until after I had dipped into our budget and acquired it for the WNYRHS.

The locomotive is Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway's number 190, named "Reindeer" and was built in 1859 by the Danforth, Cooke & Company of Paterson, New Jersey for the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad. She spent her first decade running lines Erie west.

Donations of artifacts continue to arrive every week. In mid November 2019, the City of Buffalo donated the original number plate off of the Chesapeake & Ohio "Kanawha Class" 2-8-4 locomotive #2701. Donated to the city by the C&O Railway in 1954, it was placed on display on a short stretch of track in LaSalle Park in downtown Buffalo. #2701 had been on display for only one week and all of the glass was broken and everything that could be removed without a torch was stolen.

Souvenir hunting vandals wrecked her so bad that #2701 had to be scrapped after being on display for only a few months! What a shame it couldn't have been saved. Stop by the Heritage DiscoveRY Center Buffalo to see the new display and read the story of this locomotive. Unfortunately, all that remains is this artifact and newspaper articles now on display in the museum.

We also just received a large donation of pre-war Lionel and American Flyer trains. Many are still in their original boxes and are in mint condition. We will have more information about this generous donation and the donors in our next issue of the Railway Flyer as we continue to catalog and document this vast collection. It will go on display shortly.

With all these latest accessions, we will be very busy cataloging and caring for these items. We look forward to displaying them within the next few weeks for all to enjoy.


  • HDC Research Library Corner - by: Donna M. Shine

      of New York Central Employee Records

  • The Buffalo Irish Genealogical Society, "BIGS"  is very proud to announce the public release of Index - 5 they created based on actual employee cards of the New York Central Railroad bringing the database to over 4,600 New York Central Employee Records that they have compiled from the archives of the WESTERN NEW YORK RAILWAY HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Click the link to look at the index and see if you can find any relatives. The collection of discarded cards, represents the 4,654 employee cards that were rescued from the Buffalo Central Terminal by members of the Western New York Railway Historical in the 1980's.

    Our Research Libary has also amassed a huge collection of books on railroading, maps, full volumes of  ,  photographs, photo negatives, slides and many, many prints in various formats. For a more comprehensive discription of what we have to offer click "here".

    The excerpts on this card are of Irish interest. All nationalities of employee's of the New York Central railroad from the Western New York region are included in the main index.
    If you would like a detailed report about an employee that appears in the database, BIGS will be glad to do the research for you by clicking this link:  "Railroad Employee Cards & Records"  to open and print an order form.

    Information on New York Central Railroad employee cards may include the following:
    • Name (some with variants)
    • Birth & Death dates, if known
    • Places of Birth 7 Death, if known
    • Social Security numbers
    • School attended
    • Residence
    • Railroad Location worked
    • Railroad Occupation
    • Railroad employment beginning and end dates
    • Leave of Absences
    • Military Leaves
    • Notes may list changes or discrepancies of dates and/or names or other various personal information.
    • PUBLICATION: Patrons wishing to use scanned photographic images from the collection must seek permission first. A user fee is charged per image for one-time use and is established on a case by case basis.
    • COPYRIGHT: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, US Code) governs the reproduction of copyrighted material. Requestors assume all responsibility for any considerations pertaining to copyright infringement that may arise in the use of the reproduction(s).
    • PRINTS: Unless specified otherwise, all photos will be actual size.
    • SHIPPING: Shipping rates may be higher for out of country orders.
    • QUESTIONS: Email:

    March 2020
    by: Joe Kocsis

            Since the last issue of the Flyer, we have been doing a great deal of cleaning and reorganizing spaces at the Heritage DiscoveRY Center. As new podium was placed in the main display room to hold the guest register. Last month a new display was put in place to highlight the donation of the number plate from the C&O #2701 which was once on display in LaSalle Park many years ago.

    We have also cleared out the desk and file cabinets in the main Conference Center to make room for several new display cases that were acquired by the HDC last year. They are currently in storage in one of the boxcars and will be moved in place later this coming month.

    We completed the inventory of the large donation of American Flyer and Lionel trains we picked up last December and are now waiting for the donor's appraiser to complete his valuation of the collection. We have already placed a small portion of the collection on display in the Display Room next to the front lobby so be sure to stop by to view this fabulous collection of Pre-war Standard Gauge, Lionel© and American Flyer© trains.

    It was decided to convert Ron Dukarm's office space into a Research Reading Room dedicated to Ron's memory. You may recall Ron passed away last summer leaving a tremendous void here at the HDC. Ron's expertise at facilities management gained with his many years at the IRS, were put to great use managing the day to day operations of the HDC building. However, Ron's passion was researching and writing about the history of the Lackawanna and Erie Railroads. This month the family donated the first batch of Ron's research materials which filled 60 file boxes full of some amazing information into the histories of his two favorite railroads.

    In cataloguing the materials, Ron was very meticulous in his organization. His notes, research materials including maps, drawings, newspaper articles and photos for the most part that are segregated by topic in 3" binders. We have also uncovered at least three unpublished books that Ron had been working on for several years and are nearly complete. We plan to complete the editing of these manuscripts and work to raise the funding to have them published in Ron's memory.

    To accommodate these binders, we recently purchased five new bookcases which will be delivered to the HDC. After assembly of the shelving, the binders will be placed in order on the shelves. These materials will be available to re-searchers later this year once we have received the rest of his research work from the family. We want to thank Maria Dukarm and her sons, Nestor and Benjamin for preserving this most valuable research and donating it to the Society.

    As for the rest of the Heritage DiscoveRY Center, on February 5th, after a year of negotiations, we finally closed on the sale of our two-acre parking lot on Elk Street to Medaille College. We had acquired this former parking lot from Buffalo Color back in June 2011 as part of the purchase of the Lee Street property. With no further use of the property, the Board of Trustee decided to offer it for sale. At the same time in November 2018, the college purchase the adjacent property on Elk St for the construction of their planned athletic center which included an indoor athletic center and a full-size outdoor soccer field which opened this past summer.

    With the success of this first phase, Medaille decided to expand the footprint of the project to include an additional baseball diamond and other outdoor facilities. With the need for additional parking, the college approached us to acquire our parking lot. We reached an agreement to sell the parcel to them for $130,000. After paying off the mortgage, legal and closing costs, we walked away with just over $60,000 in net proceeds.

    However, this doesn't mean we are going on any spending spree. Quite to the contrary the Finance Committee has met and is drawing up a list of priority projects at the HDC that need funding. One major repair that has been long put off is stopping our constant roof leaks. We are now securing quotes on this work as well as quotes on fencing to se-cure the property, HVAC work in the Hospital Building, plus improving building security. Once all the quotes are on the table, a final decision will be made on the most pressing projects.

    Work is also continuing finalizing the development plans for the 10-acre Area A parcel located across South Park Avenue from the museum. The Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper organization expects to finish the design work on the Kay-ak Dock and Fishing Pier shortly and expects to begin contraction of the $1.3 Million project this summer. As you may also recall, last fall we entered a long-term lease with Buffalo Riverbend LLC to develop the remaining 9 acres of the Area A site. Their plans include developing a 20,000 SF restaurant/entertainment center along the river as well as looking at additional development of retail and perhaps residential on the site along with parking for 400+ cars for special events and concerts.

    LIBRARY - HDC Research Library Corner
    by: Donna M Shine
    Random Railroad Employees from the Archives in the HDC Research Library, 100 Lee St, Buffalo, NY 14210

            Mr. John Driscoll, born June 22, 1873 in Ireland, worked on the New York Central Railroad from January of 1918 through January of 1929 as a car inspector at the West Seneca Yard and died December 10, 1931. He started working at a rate of thirty-five cents per hour and within ten years, more than doubled his rate of pay to seventy-four cents per hour, and eventually was able to buy his own house on 46 Ashton Place.

    John had immigrated to Buffalo, New York about 1888, according to the 1910 Federal Census. He and his wife, the former Ellie Spellman, first lived at 765 Elk Street with a Thomas Conway who also worked on the Steam Railroad (New York Central Railroad) as a switchman. Tom more than likely was able to get John a position with the railroad. John married Ellie in Buffalo on August 16, 1909, and had two sons, William John (b. 4 Sep 1910) and Harry Edward (b. 4 May 1914).

    Both sons registered with the military during WWII and it was easy enough to find their registrations cards to verify birth dates, addresses and family members. Son Harry was listed as an employee of Bethlehem Steel Company and living on Ashton Place with his brother William, a good cross reference of family ties.

    Determining the exact DRISCOLL line in Ireland was very difficult to trace due to the fact of having such a popular name, although there was a John Driscoll who came to Buffalo from Crookhaven, County Cork in 1891 as a sailor. Either he was not cut out for sailing by the time he reached the USA and was offered a more secure job with the railroad, or this is not the same John Driscoll but was born in the same year. His identity is very questionable.

    John's wife Ellie, however, did not come to Buffalo until 1906 which made it very easy to find her in the 1901 Census of Ireland living with her entire family. Her father and mother, Patrick (b. 1840) and Ellen (b. 1854) SPELLMAN lived in the townland of Sroove, Election District of Coolavin, Poor Law Union of Boyle in County Sligo. It did not list the maiden name of the mother. Their eleven children were: Joe (b. 1888); Willie(b. 1889); Richard (b. 1892); Harry (b. 1895); Ellie (b. 1884); May (b. 1886); Katie (b. 1890); Teresa (b. 1893); and Lucy(b. 1896). It must have been a hard life with such a large family and Ellie, being the oldest living at home at that time and must have decided to immigrate to America. Perhaps farming was not Ellie's cup of tea.

    More information can be determined with further research. Records such as these and more can be found in the HDC Research Library, 100 Lee Street, with the assistance from BIGS volunteers. Please check our web site for library dates and times when volunteers will be present.

    Visit the Buffalo Irish Genealogical Society Website

    May 2020
    by: Joe Kocsis


            I certainly hope that you are well and staying safe in these unprecedented times and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. With the issuance of the stay-at-home order by the Governor on March 15th, the Heritage Discovery Center has been closed to the public for the past two months. Our core staff continues to stop by on a regular basis to check on the building status and do some miscellaneous maintenance as needed. We are looking to changing up some of the displays and complete some remodeling projects while the building remains closed to the public until the "stay-at-home" directive gets lifted.

    We started the conversion of Ron Dukarm's office space to house Ron's vast amount of research materials. If you recall from the last issue of the Flyer, we had just picked up nearly 60 boxes of his research materials. The bookcases were delivered to the HDC and assembled by Stephen Kocsis. He has almost completed organizing the materials on the shelves.

    As I wrote in the last newsletter, before his untimely passing, Ron had several books and articles in draft format that we want to complete and publish.

    We have nearly completed the renovation of the second floor office space that is intended to allow the Erie Lackawanna Railway Historical Society to expand their space so they can consolidate the vast archives of the society in one place. We have removed a wall that formed a small office to open up the spaces for easier access and installed two new doors to allow them to secure access to the area.

    We just need to complete some minor drywall work and painting once our volunteers can access the building when "social distancing" restrictions are lifted. No timetable has been set for the move of the ELRHS archives, but we expect it to happen later this summer.

    Another casualty of the government shutdown is that development work for Area A has come to a virtual halt. The Buffalo Niagara Waterkeepers however continue to refine their plans for the Paddlesports Dock & Fishing Pier Installation and hopefully the actual construction can proceed later this year. The Buffalo Riverbend Project for the restaurant/entertainment center is still in the planning stage, but no appreciable progress has been made over the past month. We expect the project to get back on track once the non-essential work restrictions begin to be eased.

    In the meantime, we will continue to work as we can to complete the minor renovations, organizing and cataloguing the archives, freshening up the displays, and developing some fundraising plans for the future. We have implemented some cost savings measures at the building by reducing our utility costs by turning down the heat to 63 degrees while the building is closed. With the longer spring daylight, our solar panels will be generating additional cost savings as well by reducing the electric bills.

    As a non-essential business, our museum, the Heritage DiscoveRY Center Buffalo is closed to the public. Although as we are a non-profit organization, we depend on the extra revenues that visitors to the museum donated to keep our doors open. We continue to pay the needed electric, gas and security bills to keep our buildings safe.

    We know these are hard economic times, but if you can, take a few moments and make a donation to the Society to help pay the ongoing expenses. The WNYRHS is a 501(c)(3) organization and your donations are tax deductible.

    Also, although most folks don't itemize on their taxes due to the recent tax law changes, there is a special provision in the COVID-19 Relief Bills that will allow taxpayers to take up to a $300 adjustment on their 2020 tax return for charitable donations made this year even though you don't itemize.

    Please consider making a much needed donation to the Society to help us through this economic hardship. Thank You!

    June 2020
    by: Joe Kocsis

    HDC Updates

            As you know, The Heritage Discovery Center has been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, as New York State and Western New York slowly begin its re-opening, museums such as ours fall under Phase 4 of the re-opening plan. We expect that shortly after the July 4th holiday we will be able to open the building to the public once again.

    However, we will be following all the NYS & CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of our tenants, volunteers and visitors. We will be requiring that facemasks be worn when social distancing cannot be maintained. Hand sanitizer will be available as well as a thermometer to take temperatures as needed. We will follow these rules as long as there is any threat of a future rise in infections.

    As for projects at the HDC, we need to continue cataloguing the collection. Volunteers are needed as this is an immense task that needs to be undertaken. If you want to help out, please send an eMail to our curator,  Stephen Kocsis
      to see how you can help.

    Other projects include work on the two cabooses currently on display at the museum site. The N&W caboose needs a new cupola window to be installed, plus work on a door locks that was damaged during an instance of vandalism a couple of years ago. It also needs a general cleaning on the inside and we need to construct a wood stairway for easier access for the public.

            The second caboose, our BR&P Ry. "Bobber" wooden caboose again needs a good scraping and repainting on the exterior. We also need to install the cupola that was removed for its move from Texas and make several new windows as well. It also needs a general clean-out to organize the large quantity of wood sheathing to be used in the interior restoration. If you are interest in helping with this project, please eMail me at   Joe Kocsis.

    We always need volunteers for regular outdoor maintenance such as cutting the lawn and weeding the gardens. We also need to install about 300 feet of chain-link fencing to prevent access to the site from unwanted visitors. If anyone out there has any contacts with a fencing contractor, please contact me so I can connect with them. In the meantime, we look forward to reopening the property and getting our volunteers back to work. There is a long list of things to do at the site and summer will be over before we know it. Check out our Facebook page for updates on our re-opening. Stay safe and we'll see you soon.


    - 6/13/20 - Re-opening of the Heritage DiscoveRy Center will be sometime in July during Phase IV of the state's timeline. In the meantime, we're sprucing up the exterior, cutting the grass and weeding the gardens.

    On a beautiful Saturday June 13th, volunteers Erica Wanecski from the Steel Plant Museum and Don and Barbara Owens from the WNYRHS worked on re-planting the garden outside the main entrance. Thanks to their hard work, the front entrance is looking great again! Stay tuned for additional guidance on our opening later this summer.

    July 2020
    by: Joe Kocsis

    HDC Updates

            With the reopening of the Heritage Discovery Center under Covid-19 restrictions, we continue to upgrade our displays and exhibits.

    On July 8th, we were pleased to to accept the donation of this wonderful piece of local history. Our heartful thanks go to Marcus Gillebaard for donating this large scale replica diesel locomotive. Marcus and Gregory Lund built this locomotive to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman, Locals 421 & 382. It was used as a parade float by members of the union all over New York in May, 2013. Thank you Marcus!

    We've made some changes to the museum with the addition of a store area just off the main meeting room. It's just now being stocked with model trains that are surplus to our needs. All proceeds go to benefit the HDC. We are also taking consignments of railroadiana and model trains which we will take a small commission when sold. Stop by the HDC to see the new setup.

    August 2020

    HDC Museum Donations by: Stephen Kocsis

    Three small collections of railroadiana were donated to the museum this week. First, a collection of 40 or so timetables was received in a box mailed from Texas. Apparently, a relative was cleaning out the possessions of Donald Gilliam who had passed away and was a life-long resident of Buffalo. He came across these timetables and contacted us last year to see if we were interested in them.

    We advised Mr. Furness that we were and he would send them up. We had no idea of the age of the timetables, but when we opened the package, we were thrilled to find so many vintage timetables from 1910 from our area railroads and trolley lines. This will be a great addition to our archives.

    Second, the Railroad Museum of New England was rationalizing their collections and decided that materials from outside the area were not pertinent and contacted us to see if we wanted the have the materials from New York State railroads. So a box arrived this week with employee rule books and employee timetables that need to be sorted and cataloged.

    Finally, The Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society, Inc., which houses their archives in the HDC decided to put this collection of Car Builders and Locomotive Cyclopedias on permanent loan to our research library. Another wonderful addition to our library, Thank you!

    September 2020
    by: Joe Kocsis

    August and September have seen much outdoor activity at the HDC. Thanks to some hard work, sweat, and landscaping knowledge, the Lee Street side of HDC is showing a new, improved look!

    Louie C. Sardo Jr. and Luke Topolski have volunteered their time and ‘work equity’ to help improve the current landscaping. Both Lou and Luke are Financial Professionals with Equitable Advisors (AXA Advisors). You may have seen their friendly faces at our Train Shows, where they have a table representing their Company. They have a great interest in learning about, promoting and preserving Railroad History.

    By the end of August they edged the lawn, trimmed bushes and helped create a long term plan for sprucing up the Lee Street gardens. Last year they helped clear out the overgrown brush around the Hospital Building.

    We are grateful to others who have contributed their time and efforts to beautifying the outdoor gardens. Don Williams, President of the Steel Makers, used his master chain saw abilities to trim off dead tree limbs and remove old and out dated bushes. Trustee Stephen Kocsis has helped significantly with trimming the trees. A longtime gardener, Erica Joan Wanecski, Steel Museum and WNYRHS member, has spent the past few years planting perennials, weeding, and maintaining the flower beds. Trustee and Treasurer Barbara Owens has utilized her green thumb to produce a spectacular annual flower bed at the entry of 100 Lee Street that is a profusion of color!

    Trustee Cindy Timmel has joined the Landscaping Staff recently to help weed, plan, and mulch, as well as organize this new venture between Equitable Advisors and the Heritage Discovery Center. The next step will be to spread the bark chips being donated by Caryl Youngers and Bellaterra Greenhouse.

    Movie Night at the HDC

    On September 25th, a small group of classic movie enjoyed a fantastic evening outside for our special outdoor movie night at the Heritage DiscoveRY Center Buffalo. Our featured movie was "Emperor of the North" which is a classic film about Hobo's in the great depression.

    We also had a dinner of Hobo Stew over mashed potatoes and of course some popcorn. This was our first meeting since January and we hope to have some other small events at the the HDC later this year.

    December 2020
    by: Joe Kocsis

    I certainly hope that you are well and staying safe in these unprecedented times. With the current spike the museum will remain open to the public with reduced hours for now. We are open every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday from 10am to 2pm.

    Although as we are a non-profit organization, we depend on the extra revenues that visitors to the museum donated to keep our doors open. We continue to pay the needed electric, gas and security bills to keep the building safe. We know these are hard economic times, but if you can, take a few moments and make a donation to the Society to help pay the ongoing expenses. The WNYRHS is a 501(c)(3) organization and your donations are tax deductible if you can itemize.

    So please consider making a much-needed donation to the Society to help us through this economic hardship. Just use the safe and secure PayPal "Donate" button below. You do not need a PayPal account to donate. Thank You!

    Over the Summer and Fall, our curator Stephen Kocsis has continued to catalog our archives and to process several new donations that have come through the door. A set of prestine New York Central dining china and a group of four assorted railroad locks.

    One interesting piece was a donation made though a message to our FaceBook page. Chuck and Jennifer Booker were cleaning out their basement and came across a badge that belonged to her Grandfather Alphonso Vitello when he worked at the Schoellkopf Power Plant in Niagara Falls. The badge is made of pewter metal and includes his photo and employee number. It’s a great piece of local history and given the ties to our museum site were the Schoellkopf Family founded the dye works that once occupied the site.

    The museum also received many other interesting pieces including a well preserved Lehigh Valley lantern, a full bag of assorted railroad uniform buttons and many local railroad history books that will be added to our library

    We continue to negotiate with Norfolk Southern to gain rail access into the site, however the many layers of red tape to gain approval for the switch to be installed off the Prenatt Street siding are proving frustrating. The board has allocated funding for a mechanical engineering firm to draw up a track plan for the site that will meet current NS specifications. In the meantime, we just need to be patient to work through their system.

    One project that has progressed in the conversion of the old powerhouse located next to our museum site into a conference center and offices for Ontario Specialty Contractors. The work began this spring and is nearing completion. The installation of the new windows has dramatically changed the appearance of the building and the surrounding area. The whole Elk Street Corridor is slowly changing with our museum site, the powerhouse conversion, the Medaille College Athletic fields and the final cleanup of the former Standard Oil refinery property nearing its completion as well.

    Contact Us: Orchard Park - 716-662-7002     Williamsville - 716-633-7002
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