The magnificent Buffalo Central Terminal received a brief mention in this previous article about abandoned railway stations. But the building’s history and character, combined with a wealth of amazing photographs flying around the web, made it a prime contender for its own dedicated post. Come in and explore…
Buffalo Central Terminal is an imposing Art Deco railway station in the city of Buffalo, New York. Opened in 1929 for the New York Central Railroad, it could accomodate more than 3,200 passengers every hour. The station boasts a 225-foot-long domed concourse, a 15 storey office tower plus observation deck, and a 450-foot-long train concourse equipped with 14 high-level platforms (above).
The New York Central Railroad had two stations in Buffalo in the early twentieth century – Exchange Street Station and the Terrace Station. Both were old and plagued by the downtown congestion of a city of 1.5 million people. So New York Central opted to build the new Central Terminal 2.5 miles to the east of the downtown. The rationale was clear: reduced congestion improved station access and made it easier to move trains around, while providing a better location for trains not terminating at Buffalo.
Despite its forlorn appearance today, Buffalo Central Terminal was state-of-the-art when it opened. The vast concourse was less claustrophobic for passengers while the roomier track-side eased the transfer of sleeping cars between trains. At the time, Buffalo was a booming city, and the company believed the distance between the station and the center of the expanding metropolis would soon narrow.
But its luck ran out after World War Two and decreased passenger revenues led to the demolition of part of the complex in 1966. In 1968, the New York Central was amalgamated into Penn Central Transport, which operated the Terminal for three more years until Amtrak burst onto the scene in 1971. Finally, after years of decreasing usage, the last train left Buffalo Central Terminal on October 28, 1971. The station offices lingered on for nine more years, but closed in 1980.
In 1986 Buffalo Central Terminal was auctioned off for the relatively small sum of $100,000 – to the only person to place a bid. Changing hands again, it fell into complete dereliction and saw most of its famous fixtures removed and sold. A famous plaster bison which once stood in the main concourse was destroyed when a careless driver trying to remove ceiling lights reversed a truck into it. Ironically, the only thing that saved the station from demolition was the cost of doing so – around $12 million.
The irritated owner responded to preservationists with the challenge: “If you think you could do a better job, I’ll sell it to you for a dollar.” In came the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation and forked out the princely sum to take over the ailing station. Thanks to these dedicated volunteers, Buffalo Central has been secured and debris shown in these photographs has been removed. The Terminal is no longer abandoned and continues to make good progress on the long and winding road to restoration.
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