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Orchard Park Depot 2020

January 2020
by Robert Snyder - Depot Chairman

          The winter season is normally a time when work outside of the passenger depot is not possible, i.e. the freight house, the railroad cars. The cold temperatures and the snow accumulation usually prohibit anything being done. This year was different. There were days when there was no snow and the temperature was warmer than expected. On Saturday January the 11th the depot crew managed to hold a decent morning work party in the freight house and in the baggage car. Our goal has been to open both locations to the public but a major clean up must be done in order to do that.

          We spent the morning moving items out of the freight house and into our recently vacated box-car. A storage cabinet in the baggage car, that was not original to the car and in the way, also needed to be removed. Dave Mallory dismantled the unit with the help of Bob Reynders while Jim Slominski and Gary Ludwig assisted with the cleanup and de-nailing.

          Our collaboration with the Orchard Park library continues with Story Hour. Once a month parents bring their children to the Saturday morning activity in the passenger station where a library activities person reads stories to them. This is a good relationship as it brings people into the depot. Usually they will stay after story hour and ask questions about the depot.

The depot was closed during the Toy & Train Show February 15th and 16th, so that the depot crew could assist with the show and to also raise funds for work at the depot.

March 2020
by Robert Snyder - Depot Co-Chairman

         Beginning Tuesday, March 17th 2020, The Orchard Park Depot will be closed until further notice. This closure is a proactive measure to protect the health of the Depot Crew and all Visitors in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with the mandates of Erie County and our national state of emergency. The WNYRHS Board of Trustees will consider the decision on when to open based on guidance from state and local government officials in keeping the safety of our staff and friends first and foremost.

May 2020
by Robert Snyder - Depot Co-Chairman

The "Depot Crew" has been working on the freight house steadily for several months (not through the winter) and the inside of it now is the best it has ever looked in the 27 years that I have been working out there. We want the public to be able to see what's the inside the freight house. Right now we have a "Fairmont A-3" motorcar "speeder," that was used many years ago to move track personel to a work site. Many more items will be added to the "Freight House Museum" over the summer.

Right now, the "crew" only meets once a week on Wednesdays, to work on the many things that need to be done at OP. Of course we observe all protection protocal by wearing masks and gloves. On May 27th, we continued to work on cleaning out all the unnecessary items that have been stored in the Freight House for many years. Getting rid of all this stuff has given us a wide open space that many of us have never seen. Our visions of a "mini" museum are coming into view.

Our "crew" also removed all of the unusable passenger car lights and fixtures from a very large built in storage cabinet. The contents were set on the floor before being shipped to the HDC for storage. VP Marty Visciano helped in the transport with his pickup and trailer as did President Caryl Youngers with his van. Storage at HDC was directed by Society archivist Steve Kocsis. This was a bigger project than it sounds as it took the better part of two days and the labor of seven society members to do the work.

In the photos Jim Slominski is sweeping the floor where a tool rack once stood while Bob Reynders is helping to move a filing cabinet into the vacated space. The tools will be moved into box car #1. In one of the other photos Dave Mallory is pointing out to Bob Reynders where one of the exhibits will go.

July 2020
by Robert Snyder - Depot Chairman

At long last, construction started up again at the Orchard Park Depot, Monday July 8th after most of the WNY Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted. Jeff Rosser of Lemur Construction Company, our contractor, brought in several pieces of equipment to start the removal of the last old platform bricks to prepare the subgrade and drainage system. You may recall that Jeff stopped work last year when Paramount Pictures took over the depot to record a part of the movie "A Quiet Place Part II". No construction work was done through the winter months and then early this year everything was shut down.

When the entire waiting platform was cleared, removal of bricks continued around the other sides of the Depot. A complete new drainage system will be installed to prevent future erosion under the platform from taking place.

The week of July 13th saw a flurry of activity at the depot. Hundreds of feet of metal forms were filled with concrete brought in by "United Materials." More old concrete was removed in preparation for new drainage and replacement concrete.

The new retaining curb has been poured along the trackside of the depot. The removal of the old curbing back in 1982 by the  "Chessie System"  was the main cause of the erosion and damage to the brick platform. The railroad was changing out ties and didn't want to turn the tie machine around, so they brought in a backhoe to bust up all the original curbs to facilitate the tie removal and the insertion of new ties. The problem was that the curb acted as a retaining wall that held the platform bricks in place and over time water intrusion caused significant damage.

While new concrete was being poured all around the Depot, a large crane was brought in on the 15th, that reached over the depot and lifted our GRS Model 2A semaphore from the trackside. It swung it around and slowly lowered it to the streetside of the Depot. It will be blasted and painted before it is reinstalled. Before reinstalling, we will get the blades on it and have the lights working.

By the end of the week, there was new curbing all around the Depot complex. The construction crew is doing a top notch job with all of this part of the project as seen in the great photos by Depot Co-Chairman Robert Snyder below.

Down the track from the Depot, part of the Depot crew was staying out of the way and working on the interior of our Freight House. Members Jim Slominski and Dave Mallory posed for a photo of the slowly deteriorating at least 60 year old deck. A new one is planned once all the renovation at the passenger Depot is complete.

Inside the Freight House, members Gary Ludwig and Dave Mallory were making new batten boards for the rear baggage door. New sliding hardware is being sought to make the door operable. Once all the primed boards were in place, Bob Snyder applied the final coat of grey paint.

During the week of July 20th, most of the curbing around the Depot was completed. This allowed some of the crew to start installing hundreds of feet of drain pipe which will be connected to the Depot downspouts.

By the end of the week, new curbing was up to the Freight House.

While all the new construction was taking place on the outside, a new eight seat bench was being built for the ladies waiting room on the inside. That bench was one of the two benches that were missing for many, many years, long before the WNYRHS had anything to do with the depot. I've been at the depot for 27 years and I thought I would never see either of those benches. The men’s waiting room bench was given to the Society by Paramount Picture Company in July of 2016 during the filming of the movie  "Marshall"

It's made of solid oak and not a movie prop. They wanted it for the movie and they flew a guy out from California to make it. It’s the real thing and very well made. The men's and women's center benches were highly sought out by passengers in the winter, waiting for their train to arrive, as they were toasty warm with the radiator underneath as seen in the photo to the left.

We can now report that the Depot got its last remaining piece of the interior delivered and installed on Saturday the 25th. It was a momentous occasion. The interior of the depot now looks as it did when the depot opened 108 years ago. The Ladies Waiting Room bench was built by master craftsman Craig Vogel of  "Lost Pond Looms Inc."  in Eden, New York. I met Craig through a mutual friend. Craig built the bench out of solid oak to match all of the other benches in the depot. He used the original blueprints we have to construct the bench. It was paid for with a very generous donation by “Depot Crew” emeritus Bob Reynders. Bob asked that the bench be dedicated to the memory of his late wife Jean. Gary Ludwig and Dave Mallory installed, stained and put two coats of polyurethane sealer on it and the results are stunning!

The week of July 27th finished up with almost all of the concrete and stone work being completed. The new drainage system is complete with stone and soil covering the excavations that lead to existing storm drains. Our new downspout receivers are ready for connection to the gutters. Crushed stone is being evenly spread over a vapor barrier all around the Depot. We can't wait for the brickwork to begin!

August 2020

by Robert Snyder - Depot Chairman

         It’s not every day that you get to meet a guy who worked at one of the Society’s historic railroad depots. On August 1st, Orchard Park got that chance. A gentleman by the name of Bill Fleckenstine paid a visit to the depot aided by his daughter and son in law. Bill was a depot agent back in the 1960's during its Baltimore and Ohio days. Bill had paid a visit to the depot about six years ago and wanted another chance to remember the "good old days." He is now 90 years old. He was able to talk about his time at the depot and how he liked working there. He said Orchard Park was one of the railroads largest depots in New York State and that he made more money working there than at any
of the other depots on the line. His extra pay was due to the large amount of freight that came to Orchard Park. Bill lived in Colden and after working at OP moved on to an even better paying job with a railroad in Buffalo. One of Bill’s talents was working the telegraph which he said was still in use when he worked at the depot up until 1969.

Monday August 3rd, Jeff Rosser of Lemur Construction Company and his crew finished the subgrade for the replacement of the paving bricks. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our brick layer. The area to the far side of the tracks was graded to level it out and remove the larger shrubs and debris as part of the overall drainage plan and to provide level ground for the new  "Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail.

After a two week hiatus, Lemur Construction was back at the Depot on the 17th to replace the concrete wall that holds up the portico roof support posts on the front of the Depot. His small "Kobelco" excavator operator, carefully dug down to the footer on all four sides of the deteriorating concrete.

That same day, our brick guy was there with two helpers to start laying the bricks for the narrow walk next to the Depot on the street side. The subgrade was carefully leveled and our original bricks were laid in place and tamped down. Thinset mortar was then applied to the bricks to lock them into place. By Wednesday the 19th, the front walkway was finished.

By the end of the week on the 21st, with the bricklayers out of the way, our contractor had most of his support jacks in place to hold up the portico roof so the posts holding up that part of the roof can be replaced. One post has already been removed. The concrete will be replaced next week. The brickwork is superb and by using our original bricks it adds to the historic look of the Depot.

On Monday the 24th, the new ladies waiting room bench was dedicated at around 11:30 am. About ten members of the Robert Reynders family and five depot people were in attendance when the bench was dedicated to the memory of Bob's late wife Jean. After a few words from Bob's oldest son Phil and Trustee Bob Snyder, on behalf of the Society, we had lunch and cake. All went well, the food was good and the bench looked terrific.

By Wednesday the 26th, another section brick walk was put in place on the south end of the depot. The last three roof support posts were removed from the severely deteriorated concrete wall holding them up and the stub concrete wall was removed. The concrete footer appears to be in good shape. Next step is to pour the new stub wall under the portico and replace the support posts.

We were saddened to learn of the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman on August 28th, 2020 after a long battle with cancer. During his short stay here in Western New York he said he enjoyed every minute of it. We were fortunate that  "Chestnut Ridge Productions"  chose the Orchard Park Depot as one of their local sets. It was by pure coincidence the production company had the same name as our park.

By On August 31st, the trackside platform was leveled and compacted, ready for the bricks to be put in place. There are over 60,000 bricks to be laid down. The concrete base for the stub wall for the portico supports has been poured as well. Continued excellent progress by our contractor has an expected completion date hopefully by the end of September.

September 2020

by Bob Snyder - Depot Chairman

Our contractor had a very productive week starting September 14th. He installed the concrete forms for the "stub wall" that will support the portico posts. He also put the forms in place for the step leading into the men's waiting room. The forms to pour the base of the semaphore are also ready to be filled.

By the end of the week the stub wall for the street side portico roof supports was poured, corners finished and is now curing. The step leading to the men's waiting room on the trackside was also poured and it too is now curing. With both of these elements now in place, the streetside can be backfilled. The brick workers were out on Saturday the 18th, tamping down the area trackside by the men's waiting room and the bay window.

In addition to the portico wall and the waiting room step, Lemur Construction installed a "Sonotube" form and poured the concrete for the semaphore base. The tube was removed on the 18th and we are now ready to pull electrical wires. The Orchard Park DPW had a crew come out to the Depot and they completely weed wacked and cleared our "main line" and siding of weeds and overgrowth. Thank you OP-DPW!

October 2020

by Bob Snyder - Depot Chairman

Construction on the depot happens in spurts. It’s on again and off again. Much has been done in the past couple of months but there is still a great deal to do. The late September early October rains have caused some difficulties but a few key parts of the project have been completed. By mid October, the concrete wall that the four drive through portico roof support posts rest on, was finished and the new support posts have been installed. All the complex support scaffolding was removed so work underneath can continue.

The entire Depot fascia has been covered with aluminum and all of the new gutters have been put up. The downspouts were not connected as of this writing. A section of the brick walkway around the men’s waiting room side of the building is now down and many of the not so clean bricks have been re-cleaned and made ready for installation. Our semaphore was loaded onto a trailer and is awaiting to be taken to a company that will sandblast and paint it before it is put back into place.

In other news our BR&P caboose has been getting some of our attention. The copula was never done correctly by the roofers last year, so we hired the “Depot Crew” to rework it to our satisfaction. We also had to redo four of the copula windows. On the main body of the caboose the windows on both ends were replaced with new windows and then trimmed to finish.

The inside of the freight house has seen some work too. A cabinet was added in the empty space below the large cabinet and painted gray to match the interior color. Now we have a convenient place for storage at floor level. The hanging shelf, which is located over the scale, was painted interior gray and then used to display railroad lanterns, oil cans and a large-scale steam locomotive.

November 2020

by Bob Snyder - Depot Chairman

With slightly warmer weather in early November, the concrete under the Depot portico was poured. Expansion joints will allow the "pad" to flex and move with underground freezing temperatures. The road in front of the depot was graded and brought down to a lower level. It was then filled in with gravel and rolled making for a neat appearance.

While the work outside continued, Jim and I tried to relight the pilot light on the station's furnace with the help of Fran Hogenkamp. It wouldn't stay lit no matter how long we held the starter button down. We had a new thermocouple and installed it only to see it had a fire in the wrong place. We thought it was a leak so I called Armor heating and the tech was there in about 20 minutes (must have been a slow Saturday). Turns out the pilot was so dirty that it was directing the pilot in the wrong direction. The tech shooed me and Jimmy out while Fran watched. We went outside and Jimmy helped install the last two downspouts. Ain't this a fun railroad hobby!

On Wednesday, November 18th, the brick crews were back at work with some decent weather. One guy was hard at work cleaning bricks while two other guys laid, filled and tamped the bricks in place. The new walkway is complete around all three sides of the Depot and much of the waiting platform is complete.

The brick laying continued right up until Thanksgiving. Light snow and freezing temperatures did not help the process, but the workers were able to finish all the brickwork up to the south end of the waiting platform. Then a problem was discovered with the supposedly cleaned original bricks and that caused a delay in the brick lying. The solution was a load of bricks from an offsite location at an extra expense.

Late in November the "Depot Crew" installed some emergency downspouts, as we could wait no longer for the contractor to do something. Every time it rained the newly laid bricks were taking a beating and filler was washing away. We had a box of downspouts in the baggage car which were brand new and never used. There must have been a dozen in that old box and were glad Dave and Gary remembered them. New downspouts have been ordered but have not arrived as of this writing. By the end of the day, they jury rigged the installation of nine downspouts.

Also in early November there were a few days warm enough to allow some primer to be applied to the exterior of our BR&P caboose. The caboose work has been an ongoing project for some time. It is an all wooden caboose that sits outside 24/7/365. Much has been accomplished with ole’ #283 this season but there is still plenty to do both inside and out.

December 2020

by Robert Snyder - Depot Co-Chairman

Two housekeeping problems arose. One of the electronic timers that controls our outside lights needed replacing, so a professional electrician was called to install another timer and then came back to install lights on a sign hanging on the street side of the depot. The other problem was a small leak in a copper heating pipe in the basement and that had to be repaired by a professional from Armor Heating. Both problems have been resolved.

Work sessions will continue every Wednesday morning from 9 to noon. Anyone interested in spending some time at the depot please call our number, 662-7002, and let us know you are coming.

This page was last updated: December 20th, 2020

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