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Historian's Corner GIF This page is devoted to some of the many historical articles about railroading in the Western New York area. This installment was written by Society member John Baker as it appeared in our April/May 1985 issue of the "Railway Flyer." Many more past articles will be added as time allows. So sit back, or feel free to print out, and enjoy the rich railway heritage of Western New York.

by: John Baker

       The first recorded attempt to build a railroad through Tonawanda Valley into Arcade occurred in 1836 when a group of local businessmen formed the "Attica and Sheldon Railroad" as a means of serving the area's farming and agriculture industry. This proposed project was a failure and no work was ever done.

In late 1852, the "Attica and Allegheny Valley Railroad" was formed. This railroad proposed to build a narrow gauge line from Attica to Arcade, then south to the Pennsylvania line in Cattaraugus County. Its principal business was expected to be coal, shipped north to Buffalo. The railroad managed to acquire the right-of-way, and grade the property between Arcade and Attica, install bridge abutments, and purchase rail before going bankrupt. Construction was halted in 1856 and the line was abandoned. Early in 1870, the "Attica and Arcade Railroad" was formed. This line proposed a 3 foot narrow gauge running from Attica to Arcade. By 1873, little work had been done and the Village of Attica launched an investigation. Inspection reveled financial wrong doing, and the Attica and Arcade was promptly declared bankrupt. Its organizers had suddenly left the area.

In April of 1880, R.N. Farnham formed the "Tonawanda Valley Railroad" and was incorporated with $250,000 from the "Erie Railroad." This line planned a 24 mile narrow gauge railroad between Attica and Sardinia (Chaffee). A connection with the "Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia Railroad" (now CONRAIL) would be made at Sardinia. The TVRR was officially opened between Attica and Curriers on September 11th, 1880

On October 26th, 1880, the "Tonawanda Valley Extension Railroad" was organized to build the extension between Curriers and Sardinia. However, without legal authority, the railroad was built south to the Village of Arcade. By the 1st of May 1881, the rails had been laid into the Village. By late 1882 the railroad, now know known as the "Tonawanda Valley & Cuba Railroad," was extended south to the town of Cuba. Unfortunately, it could not have come at a worse time as the oil industry collapsed later that year. By 1885, it was apparent that the line was in financial trouble. In December the debt reached $130,000 and the railroad ceased operations for the winter.

Limited service was resumed in the spring of 1886 and the railroad continued to operate until 1889 when new management took over. However, they fared no better and abandoned all operations in the early 1890’s.

There was still belief that rail service could be operated profitably between Arcade and Attica. On October 13th, 1894, the "Buffalo, Attica & Arcade" was organized. The new railroad began at once to change to modern standard gauge operation. In January 1895 service was begun between Curriers and Attica and by December, trains were operating into Arcade.

In 1902, the BA&A announced grand plans to build a branch from Java Center through Wales to Buffalo. No work was started and the idea faded away with the news that the new line was being planned to operate over the same route. In September of 1902, the "Buffalo and Susquehanna Railway" was incorporated and construction begun. The B&S ran from Wellsville to Buffalo passing through Arcade. However, the route to Buffalo operated instead through Springville, not Wales as planned.

Operations began 1906 and the B&S purchased the BA&A for $75,000, thus local ownership was lost. The B&S operated the line until 1916, but losses were so severe that the railroad was abandoned and scrapped later that year. The BA&A was also in serious financial trouble and shut down for the winter 1916-17.

       In the spring of 1917 the BA&A went into receivership. The only way to save service was to have local interests buy the BA&A. On May 23, 1917, the "Arcade and Attica Railroad" was formed and within days, purchased the former BA&A for $79,000. The property was saved largely in thanks to the local farming industry and area businesses. The Pennsylvania connection at Arcade Junction using former B&S right of way was barely saved from the scrappers.

The first years for the A&A were hard ones, but soon the line was showing a profit. This was due in part to the careful management of Mr. Richard I. Cartwright, who was the auditor for the railroad.

       During the depression, the A&A management kept the railroad busy and did not lay off a single employee. However, the need to reduce overall expenses continued. The advent of the diesel locomotive proved to be a means to that end. In 1941 the A&A purchased a brand new GE built 44-ton diesel locomotive #110. Thus, the A&A became one of the first railroads in the nation to conduct all services with diesel power. Number 110 is still in limited service.

       Up until 1941, the A&A rostered a total of eight different steam locomotives, all bought used from other railroads. Its first engine #1, was bought from the "Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway." This 2-6-0 Baldwin Locomotive Company “Mogul,” was built new for the TH&B in 1894 and sold to the A&A in 1917. The railroad did some overhaul work in 1928 to keep it running into the early 30’s. It sat boarded up in many locations around Arcade and was cut up for scrap in 1939.

       By 1941, the Arcade & Attica scrapped all remaining steam engines except for #6. Number 6, an ALCO built 4-6-0 “Ten-Wheeler,” was stored serviceable and even pulled some "fan-trips" during the war years when they still offered passenger service and was not scrapped until 1951.

       The railroad led an uneventful life through the war years. During this time, the stockholders dividend continued to be offered in the form of an annual dinner. In 1947, an early thaw and heavy rains caused soft spots in the track. Engine #110 was seriously wrecked and taken out of service. Steamer #6 was placed into emergency service, but the A&A needed another diesel to replace #110 until repairs were completed. Another GE "44-tonner" was purchased in 1951 and numbered 111.

       In 1951 General Manager R.I. Cartwright, testified that the A&A had carried only 8 passengers in the first quarter, for a total revenue of $1.80. It was decided that all passenger service be discontinued and on August 1st, 1951, the last mixed train made its run. Thus, the railroad was without passenger service for the first time in its history.

Mother Nature dealt the A,&A cruel blow on January 23rd, 1957. As a result of a rapid thaw and very heavy rains, several hundred feet of track was washed out along Tonawanda Creek south of Attica. It was estimated that repairs would cost more than $72,000 which was more than the A&A could afford. It was decided to abandon the road north of North Java. The mainline connection would be maintained at Arcade Junction with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

During the early 1960’s, freight revenues declined and something had to be done to augment this situation. Other short lines had begun to operate steam excursions and the A&A decided to give it a try. By now #6 had long been scrapped and the A&A needed a steam locomotive.

       In 1962, the A&A purchased #18 from the "Boyne City Railroad" in Michigan. Locomotive #18 was a 2-8-0 "Consolidation" built by the "American Locomotive Company" (ALCO) in 1920. Two open steel coaches were purchased from the DL&W and thus the A&A was in the tourist business. The first season began in August of 1962 and lasted only 27 days however, in that short time, the railroad carried over 17,000 passengers!

       With their overwhelming success in the tourist business, the railroad set out to find a second steamer to relieve #18. Mr. Cartwright found a beautiful 1917 "Baldwin" 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheeler" on the Escanaba & Lake Superior Railroad. Locomotive #14 was brought to the A&A in 1963 and several more coaches were added to the fleet.

       During the late 1960’s freight revenue increased dramatically and passenger traffic continued to grow. The Arcade & Attica struck its mark when Borden's debuted the non-dairy creamer "Cremora." Until the facility's closure in 1970. The Arcade facility was the sole production plant in the United States for Cremora. The Arcade & Attica railroad brought in the raw supplies and shipped out the finished product across America. The famous orange & white boxcars, and later blue ones, were used to ship product throughout the country.

       In 1969 the A&A handled more than 2400 freight cars, up from less than a 1000 in 1960. In 1981, its centennial year, the A&A carried more than 30,000 passengers. Also in that year, the A&A was declared to be a national historic site. The determined little railroad with its checkered past is looking to a prosperous future through a combination of its passenger and freight service.

 Updates 2018 - Arcade & Attica Locomotive Roster
  • Arcade & Attica 14: (4-6-0) - Built in February 1917 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia
    Currently in storage as it requires a very expensive overhaul to comply with federal safety standards

  • Arcade & Attica 18: (2-8-0) - Built in 1920 by American Locomotive Company at its "Cooke Works" in Paterson
    New Jersey. Currently out of service undergoing a full rebuild in Syracuse, NY.

  • Arcade & Attica 110: (GE 44-ton switcher) - Built in 1941 by General Electric at its Erie Pennsylvania plant.
    #110 is considered to have "dieselized" the A&A single-handedly; now on static display in the municipal parking lot
    across Main Street from the Arcade depot. (Out of service)

  • Arcade & Attica 111: (GE 44-ton switcher) - Built in 1947 by General Electric at its Erie, Pennsylvania, plant, #111
    was the last new locomotive the A&A purchased. (Under Restoration)

  • Arcade & Attica 112: (GE 65-ton switcher) - Built in 1945 by General Electric at its Erie, Pennsylvania, plant, for the United States Navy. After used in the Navy, 112 went out to Colorado for switching work before being acquired by the A&A in 1988. (In service)

  • Arcade & Attica 113: (GE 50-ton switcher shell with weighted trucks, making #113 an industrial 80 tonner) - Built in 1959 by General Electric at its Erie, Pennsylvania, plant. This locomotive operated at the Consolidated Edison plant on Staten Island before being acquired by the A&A in 2014. (In service)

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