Buffalo Rochester & Pittsburgh Depot
Orchard Park, New York
by Robert Snyder - Depot Chairman
|The Orchard Park railroad depot at Highland Avenue and South Lincoln Street is not your average small town railroad station. Built in 1911 by the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway and opened to the public in 1912. It was built to replace a small wooden station that was located on Bank Street just south of the present Thorne Avenue crossing in the village. The design of the new depot by H.H. Richardson, was based upon a station built in 1881 in Auburndale, Massachusetts on the Boston & Albany railroad.|
|BR&P president, Harry Yates Jr. used that station on his many trips to play golf there. Mr. Yates, who lived in the village of Orchard Park, was so impressed with the The Auburndale Depot that he commissioned the new Orchard Park Depot to be an exact replica. The only difference is the Orchard Park depot is made of "Tapestry Brick" while the one in Massachusetts was made of stone.|
|It is uncommon for a village this size to have a depot of this stature with a freight house, 100 feet away. Mr Yates, spared no expense, taking care of his little village of 800, as he wanted a more impressive station to greet people traveling by train to Orchard Park. The passenger depot features separate men's and women's waiting rooms, wooden wainscoting, exposed wooden ceiling beams and most of all the original wooden benches.|
|In the 1880's, Buffalo was a large and rapidly growing lake port and the freight interchanges here with lake freighters and the other railroads represented vast new market potential. The management of the Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad realized this and made plans to construct a rail line from Ashford, NY northward to Buffalo. In 1883 the line was completed and the name of the railroad was changed to the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway. The BR&P was shaped like a giant "Y". Its southern terminus was Pittsburgh and the two northern points were Buffalo and Rochester. Although the BR&P had just over 600 miles of track, it was a high quality railroad and took great pride in its motto 'Safety and Service". Freight service on the BR&P was primarily that of hauling coal from the rich mines in Pennsylvania to the northern lake ports. However many other products such as oil, lumber, brick, steel and farm produce were moved keeping the line busy constantly.
Passenger service was always the most modern available. Two sleek trains each day carried passengers between Buffalo and Pittsburgh. One train left early in the morning with an afternoon arrival, the other leaving in the late in the evening with an early morning arrival. In Pittsburgh connections could be made for Washington, D.C., or Baltimore in the East or Cincinnati and St. Louis to the West. In Buffalo, virtually any point could be reached by rail or steamship. Between Buffalo, Orchard Park and Springville, eight BR&P commuter trains were run every day taking shoppers and the businessmen into the City.
This station has several unique features that make it a "gem" of a station and totally different from other BR&P stations or any other railroad stations in the country. Its drive through porticle and covered platform on three sides of the building are very unusual for such a small town station.
When the station was first opened, electric service was not yet available in Orchard Park. So the original fixtures that still remain had the capacity for both gas and electric lighting. Shortly after its official opening in 1912, electric power was introduced in Orchard Park and the BR&P changed over to complete electric lighting. During its first years of operation the station operated its own water and sewer system. The original well is still on the property, however the windmill which powered the system was removed many years ago.
Upon entering the station one finds two waiting rooms. The room on the north side of the building was the ladies waiting room and the room on the south side was strictly for the men and their cigars. This separation of male and female passengers was very common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The waiting room benches are made of oak and are all original. The two rooms are generally as they were built except that the benches were removed from around the great radiators in the middle of each area. All of the woodwork, ceiling beams and interior glass are all original.
The Agent's office and ticket window in the center of the building, were the nerve center of the station. In fact, for many years the line's both north and south of the depot, were controlled from this room. Few passengers ever entered this room, getting only a glance from the ticket window. The train announcement board was located on the wall across from the window.
Stepping out on the platform, the excellent brickwork of the building becomes evident. The wall and platform bricks all came from a local brick yard located in Jewittville just south of Orchard Park. The platform and its covering canopy provided ample protection from the elements for passengers loading and unloading from trains.
The grounds that surround the station and freight house give the area a park-like setting that is seldom found around any railroad structure. When the station opened, the BR&P had two full-time gardeners on duty just to keep the gardens and grounds in beautiful shape.
Passenger service continued through the station until October, 1955 when the B&O discontinued all passenger service over all former BR&P trackage. Service to Rochester had been dropped in 1952, however the railroad kept a freight agent in the Orchard Park station until May 1977 when declining freight business from the Village made the job unnecessary.
The following information is provided by the Key Lock and Lantern Magazine. In 1932 the BR&P was bought by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad thus ending almost 60 years of dedicated service from the BR&P. The B&O ownership continued under the parent Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad until 1961. In 1973, the two railroads ( C&O and B&O ), along with the affiliated Western Maryland, received a new image under the “Chessie System” banner. In 1987, The Chessie System was merged into CSX Transportation, which began to spin off its unprofitable, light-density lines. The Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad (also owned by the G&W) in took ownership from CSX in 1988.
The last B&P train went through Orchard Park in 1997 and abandonment proceedings by the B&P were started. By 2010 the rails south of Jewett Holmwood Road were all gone. Thankfully, due to the very hard work by the WNYRHS and the B&P, STB, NYS Parks and Historic Preservation and Erie County allowed us to keep the tracks on the ground past the depot, as the depot is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.
|East and Westbound views of the Depot in 1965 during the Baltimore & Ohio dynasty. The station still had manually operated upper quadrant semaphore "order boards" up until the late 70's. These blades were operated by the station agent using "armstrong" levers in the Depot.|
|The Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway was taken over by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1932 and later absorbed into the Chessie System in the mid 1970's. Passenger service ended in 1955 but the railroad kept a freight agent at the station until May of 1977, due to a lack of business from the local area. The agent's job was abolished and the station was closed and just used for storage.|
|The depot sat idle for some time up until to early 1971 when Mr. and Mrs. Edmund F. Burke of Burke Realty and Construction Company purchased the building. Mr. Burke had plans to turn the Depot into a restaurant but after several years of negotiations, was unsuccessful in getting village permission. In June of 1982, Mr. and Mrs. Burke indicated their intention to donate the depot complex to the WNYRHS so that it could be preserved and restored. The Depot became officially ours in 1983.|
1911 before opening.
1912 after opening.
4th of July - 1976.
Winter - 1982
|Restoration of the Depot to date is about 95% complete. We are open to the public during the spring, summer and fall every Saturday from 9am - 1pm until Labor Day. During the year we feature events for the whole family enjoy. Many village civic organizations also use the depot as the center for their functions. Events such as the Orchard Park Garden Club Sale, Christmas in the Park, Business Functions and the annual Ice Cream Social, give the public a chance to enjoy a little railroad heritage and for the Society to show off their work and equipment.Below is a small sampling of what the Depot looks like now after many, many hours of volunteer work by our OP Depot Crew.|
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