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Curriers, New York
Photos by the author
Among the earliest railroads of western New York were various schemes for building southward from Attica through the rural Tonawanda Valley. A proposal was made as early as 1836 for a line to be called the Attica and Sheldon railroad. For whatever reasons the line never got off the ground. Some years would pass and then other plans were put forth in late 1852 for a railroad to be called the Attica and Allegheny. This was to be built as a three foot narrow gauge operation from Attica, through Arcade to the Pennsylvania State line in Cattaraugus County. Local backers enthusiastically raised construction capital but the project died stillborn. Finally in 1880, with financial backing from the Erie Railroad, the Tonawanda Valley Railroad was incorporated. The TV would be a three foot narrow gauge line. Narrow gauge rails were still quite common at that time. The construction costs were lower than standard gauge, and ideally suited to back country routes.
The right of way for the Tonawanda Valley would utilize most of the route of itís "paper ancestors". Some grading work had actually been completed between Attica south to the tiny farming center of Curriers Corners. On September 11, 1880 a special train departed Buffalo for Attica where the connection to the Erieís new Tonawanda Valley affiliate would be made. The lineís official opening was accompanied by the customary civic celebrations, speeches by prominent officials and two concert bands. At North Java a large banner was placed over the tracks and a picnic was held in a nearby grove. Some 3000 were reported to be in attendance. Almost at once railroad officials predicted the line would prosper and that it would be re-laid to standard gauge. September 27, 1880 saw the issuance of the first public timetable. Two trains from Attica to Curriers were scheduled daily, except Sunday. The nineteen mile trip took a leisurely one hour and 20 minutes. The slower train required an additional 20 minutes.
The bucolic rural countryside was immediately charming and at once indicative of the lineís future problems. Revenues were not up to expectations and in 1884 the line entered receivership. After a series of complicated financial and operational maneuvers that would last some ten years, the railroad was reorganized and became the Buffalo, Attica & Arcade in 1894. The new company proceeded at once to standard gauge the road. The cost of freight handling in Attica with the standard gauge Erie Railroad was finally apparent. New rails were laid and a general rebuilding of the right of way occurred. Service improved, but was still quite leisurely. A story is told about an interesting race between a North Java storekeeper on his bicycle and the daily train to Attica. The prevailing grade from North Java to Attica is downhill most of the way. The bicycle rider left town about the same time as the train, and he beat the train to Attica! Another such humorous item appeared in a Buffalo newspaper:
The wind was high, The steam was low, The train was heavy, And
hard to tow,
Arcade, NY would hit itís high point of railroading in 1906 when the Buffalo & Susquehanna opened its Buffalo, NY extension. Running generally northwesterly from Wellsville to Buffalo, the B&S connected with the B.A.& A. The little road received a much needed boost. Some years before, the Pennsylvania railroadís Olean to Buffalo line passed the western edge of the village. The B&S would construct a depot on Park Street in Arcade (still standing as a private home) and would purchase the B. A. & A., which continued to operate independently. Alas, the Buffalo & Susquehanna never realized itís potential. The western New York railroad scene was just a bit too crowded, and the B&S too expensive to operate. In 1916 the B&S gave up itís Buffalo line for good. For the Buffalo, Attica & Arcade, the future looked bleak. Once again local interests would have to come to the rescue. The B&S line to the PRR interchange was acquired, assuring a connection in Arcade. The traffic base, while small was stable. The little railroad made up in old fashioned spunk and hard work what it did not have in a huge traffic base. In 1917 the new company acquired the line and renamed it the Arcade & Attica railroad.
The Curriers depot, built 1886, is a typical wood frame country station. Similar to many Erie railroad structures, the station remains in remarkably good condition, very close to itís original appearance. The picturesque location at the Chaffee Road crossing retains a branchline charm to it, from the traditional crossbucks to the hand thrown switches on the run around track at the depot. Nearby farm houses and barns complete the throwback in time. A & Aís passenger excursions have been a fixture of railroading for two generations of little boys and their fathers. Steam has been a fixture of the summer excursions starting in 1963. The coaches too are unique, 1915 vintage cars, having come off of the Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western.
Itís the Sunday before Christmas 1999 and the Arcade & Attica is operating a festive Santa Claus Special to the Curriers depot. Notice the Christmas wreath on A&Aís center cab diesel. It will be a "white Christmas" in the small village as the Arcade & Attica continues a railroad tradition into the new Millennium.
In the distance the lonely whistle sounds for one of the few farm road crossings between Arcade and the tiny village of Curriers. The steady rumble of the locomotive gradually grows louder until at last the little center cab unit screams for the Chaffee Road crossing and hustles to a stop at the station platform. Happy revelers troop off the train and loiter around the depot. Then, just as quickly, the engine backs around the station and couples up to the train. Two hoots from the whistle and an "All Aboard" signal the return to Arcade. With a whoosh of air, a blast of the horn and a low growl, the short train clanks over the crossing and disappears into the woods.
A moment of silence begins. In the distance the air hornís cry echoes in the valley. Tranquillity and peace returns once more to Curriersís depot.
Curriers, NY on a brilliant but cold December 19, 1999
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