Silver Springs, NY
In the heart of Wyoming county lies the small village of Silver Springs, NY. Situated on the former Erie RR Buffalo to Hornell mainline, the depot remains in railroad usage by Conrail. To the east the railroad traverses the deep gorge above the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. Silver Springs lies near the crest of the climb over Attica hill as the line continues west into the Buffalo area.
The Erie was a pioneer railroad, with itsí mainline having been established to Dunkirk on Lake Erieís shore in 1851. The original wide gauge of six foot resulted in a superbly engineered right of way, amply suited to future needs when the rails were eventually changed to standard gauge. Engineering landmarks, like the Starrucca Viaduct in Lanesboro, Pa. were renowned among the great accomplishments of the age. At the time of the roadís construction, backers had gambled on Dunkirk becoming the leading Great Lakes port. Dunkirk had a very fine harbor, and in the middle 19th century did become quite an industrial center. Brooks Locomotive (later part of Alco) was located here. But the arrival of the Erie Canal to Buffalo over 20 years earlier, and the rapid development of railroads across the state soon pointed out the folly of Dunkirk. Buffalo became the great railroad center of New York State. The poor Erie always seemed to suffer from schemes gone wrong.
Silver Springs, NY on a sunny but wintry New Yearís Day, 1999.
Erie RR. Jon Rothenmeyer photo.
In 1852 the Erie constructed a line direct from Hornell to Buffalo by way of Portageville. The high crossing of the Genesee River on a spindly trestle became a tourist attraction in itsí own right. The Portageville trestle and beautiful gorge attracted special trains from Buffalo for passenger summer picnic specials in those early years when a dayís outing by rail was a novel experience. About 1910, the Erie constructed a new station in Silver Springs, replacing a wooden one of similar size. The present station is really only a portion of this 1910 era replacement. Old photos show a depot of almost twice the size, with an additional passenger canopy as well. The villageís other railroad, The Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh shared this depot. Five passenger trains per day in east and west directions provided service at the turn of the century. Never a strong presence in passenger service, the railroad excelled in merchandise freight, often handling high or wide loadings other routes could not accommodate. For once, an earlier mistake with the wide gauge came to the Erieís aid.
In the years before World War II and until the merger with the Lackawanna in 1960, the Erie maintained a top notch freight service. By now the railroad extended all the way from New York tidewater to Chicago. Today, the line still sees a few trains a day. Several years ago, in 1985, a series of memorable June excursions, dubbed the "Glass City Limited" returned steam in the form of Nickel Plate 765 to the route. The sound of 765ís steam whistle echoing in the green valleys as it charged down the neatly groomed right-of-way with a long string of classic passenger equipment in tow filled to the rafters with happy excursionists will not soon be forgotten. More recently, these trips have been repeated with Amtrak power and equipment. The "Friendly Service Route" through sleepy Silver Springs cannot be matched as a great place to spend a day trackside.
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