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WNYRHS HISTORY - PanAm Expo 1901 - Chapter V

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This is the Second of many historical articles about railroading in the Western New York area, written by Society Historian, Greg Jandura. As more articles are added, old ones will be archived. So sit back, or feel free to print out, and enjoy the rich railway heritage of Western New York.
by: Greg Jandura

"Travelers Came by Rail in Record Numbers"

       The Pan-American Exposition officially ran from May 1, 1901 through October 31, 1901. There was talk of prolonging the Exposition an extra week or two as it got near the end, but since October 31st, 1901 fell on a Thursday, it was extended an extra two days, permanently closing on Saturday November 2nd,1901.

Total attendance, both free and paid admissions was 8,304,133. Of this total, an estimated 1,000,000 plus Exposition goers arrived at the railroad depot on the grounds, either as long distance travelers, or local area residents using the Belt Line Railroad or Interurban to Lockport and Niagara Falls. The remaining 7,000,000 travelers primarily used the city trolley lines to reach the grounds.

In the preceding chapter, we saw how the railroads made huge investments in rolling stock, improved terminal facilities, and fixed plant or right-of way. Now we see how this payed off as record numbers of travelers came by rail to Buffalo, New York to see the Pan-Ametican Exposition. The number of fair-goers were small at first, with 92,698 during the first week of May, by the first week of June, attendance reached 181,483, climbing to 277,685 the first week in July when the traditional summer travel season began. It reached 347,940 the first week in August, soaring to 436,804 the first week in September. By the first week in October it declined to 335,012. Closing week attendance figures were 308,630.

As with any fair or exposition, there were special days designated for countries, states, municipalities, and various civic and fraternal organizations which could affect that days figures.

Herewith is a chronology of the traveling public by railroad and trolley line with important events from May 1st, 1901 through September 5th, 1901.

MAY, 1901

Buffalo Street Railway Company completes plans to change the routes of 29 car lines establishing different terminals and transfer points to handle 35,000 daily at Exposition terminals.

Every factory in the City of Dunkirk including Brooks Locomotive Works to close for Pan-American Dedication Day on the 20th to give all workers chance to attend. 4,000 expected, and Brooks Locomotive Works charters excursion train over Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad.

JUNE, 1901

New York Central to place additional cars on all trains to and from Buffalo and points east.

Grand Trunk Railway improves Buffalo-Toronto service and introduces service to the Muskoka and Brantford regions. Two new daily all vestibule direct trains Montreal-Buffalo. "International Ltd" being the day train. New train service direct to Detroit and Chicago, all by way of Niagara amd the Intenational Bridge over the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

Rochester, New York gets regularly scheduled daily round trip train connecting the Flour City with the Rainbow City beginning the 12th. Train operates direct to Exposition Terminal Station. Stops only at Center Park, Brown Street within Rochester limits and Batavia.

Michigan Central brings in nearly 3,000 from Toronto and points west of Windsor. Grand Tnmk brings in about 4,000 from points within 250 mile radius of Buffalo. Both on August 14th.

Lehigh Valley starts rate war with New York Central charging $1.15 round trip fare to and from Rochester which is 10 cents lower then the New York Central.

All railroads are enjoying phenomenal passenger train business per August 21st newspapers. Erie bringing in several hundred excursionists daily. Yesterdays Train #1 "Day Special" from New York took 15 to 20 minutes to unload. The engine was in the depot and the rear car was at Chicago Street. The Lehigh Valley is operating trains in three to four sections, up to 32 cars total. BR&P bringing in 1,500 passengers daily. Lake Shore is doing an enormous business and the Lackawanna is doing the business of its life. Nickel Plate arriving in Buffalo in the morning are in two sections. On the Grand Trunk, Canadian Pacific, and Wabash, business is described as magnificent, remarkably good, and an extraordinary revenue producer.
(39, 40)

Hamilton Day on August 21st between 3,000 and 4,000 arrived in four specials, two each over the Grand Trunk and the Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo Railways.

Syracuse Day on August 22nd brought 6,000 excursionists in 6 specials over the New York Central.

Medina Day on August 29th brought in 4,000 excursionists over the New York Central

Batavia Day on August 31st brought in 5,000 excursionists over the New York Central and Erie Railroads.

During the month of August, 20,000 tickets were sold between the three railroad ticket offices in Dunkirk, the majority for Buffalo.

JULY, 1901

Railroads criticized by Exposition Directors for not lowering the price of a ticket to come to Buffalo, providing more trains, and a longer time limit although the people seem to be coming. New York Central counters with statement that in maps, advertisements, circulars, folders, etc. it is booming the "Rainbow City." Their slogan is "Pan-Ameiican Exposition, Buffalo, U.S.A., May to November, 1901. All you need to have is a ticket by the New York Central Lines. All you need to say is "Put me off at Buffalo".

Trunk line railroads sell 20,000 excursion tickets from New York City to Buffalo during month of July.

"Railroads now handling about 75,000 people in and out of Buffalo every twenty-four hours. Prior to the Exposition about 317 passenger trains daily bringing in and out about 50,000. 153 more are now regularly scheduled, some running up to three sections. This doesn't even include the Specials . The Central or Exchange Street Station (NYC, LS&MS, PRR, GT, BR&P)added 113 trains to the former number of 245 for a total of 358. The Erie Station (Erie, Wabash, Nickel Plate)had 24 trains, now there are 40. At the Lehigh Valley Station there were 34, now there are 58. The Lackawanna Station runs 14 trains daily. No new trains, just extra cars and sections. Waiting rooms and train sheds are overwhelmed in the morning and evening and travelers have to sit on their suitcases as seats are impossible to find.

AUGUST, 1901

Pennsylvania Railroad in conjunction with Erie Lines over "Akron Route" offers sleeping car and day coaches between Nashville, Louisville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus and Buffalo.

Sixty-five excursion trains converged on Buffalo, on Saturday, August 3, 1901 from all points for "Midway Day." Biggest attendance to date; 106,315 The largest previous record setting days were Dedication Day 86,909 and the Fourth of July, 70,725. It was a banner day over all the railroads with standing room only on all trains even with extra sections and extra equipment on regular trains coming in from a 200 mile radius. The New York Central alone estimated 25,000 passengers that day.

"Nine out of every ten persons who entered the grounds during the middle forenoon by the railroad gate looked as if he had passed through a cyclone. If people looked as if their clothes were on hind side before, it was not their fault. Things were running that way at the terminal station. The railroad boys were making good and rubbing it in. It resembled a convention of advance agents of prosperity. Trainload upon trainload came in until the subways (underground passageways from platforms to fair grounds) were packed like a case of California prunes and the platforms were overrun, and two out of every three persons in the crowd had from one to three boxes of lunch. More than one of these lunch boxes looked as if it had been through a cider press after the gate had been passed".

It was one sight in a lifetime to see the billowy, surging rumbling crowd. It was distinctly representative of the country. Every town within a radius of 150 miles had apparently unloaded its population here. Ten special trains from 12 to 30 cars came in over the Central from the East alone. A corresponding number of excursions were handled by the Erie, Lehigh, Lake Shore, Michigan Central and other representative trunk lines. All the railroad officials declared that they were bringing their quota; that their facilities were taxed and they were satisfied."

To alleviate over-congested conditions at the Central or Exchange Street Station, effective September 4, 1901 and until the close of the Exposition, 32 local accommodation trains (16 NYC, 10 PRR, 3 BR&P, 3 West Shore) will land their passengers, baggage, and express near the Carroll Street freight house. (43)

With the thousands of railroad employees throughout Western New York, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, Canada it was only natural that their respective railroads annual summer outing/picnic be combined and that everyone converge on the same day at the PanAmerican Exposition. "Railroad Day" was set for Saturday, September 14, 1901. Between the railroad employees, their families, and regular fairgoers, 200,000 were expected through the turnstiles. Committees were organized by members of the Central Railway Club of Buffalo to ensure this being the best day ever at the Exposition. The slogan was "Something-Doing-Every-Minute."

President William McKinley was originally scheduled to visit the PanAmerican Exposition on June 12, 1901 at the conclusion of his cross-country train trip which had begun in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1901. Mrs. McKinley taking ill while in California necessitated cancellation of the remaining trip and the McKinley's spent the summer in Canton, Ohio.


Labor Day, Monday, September 2, 1901 recorded the second highest attendance figure since the opening of the Pan-American Exposition, 103,772. The New York Central Railroad set a new record with a combined total of 60,000 passengers to and from Buffalo on regular and special trains. All eastbound trains on the Erie bound for New York City ran in 3 to 4 sections, each section comprised of 12 to 14 cars. All Lackawanna trains bound for New York City ran in two sections with extra cars. 2,163 passengers were carried between Binghamton and Ithaca. Lehigh Valley trains for New York City also ran in two to three sections. (41, 42)

It was now September 1901 and Mrs. McKinley having recovered from her illness, accompanied her husband as they traveled to Buffalo to keep their promise. The McKinleys made their wishes known in July to allow for adequate preparations. President's Day was declared on Thursday, September 5, 1901.

The President and McKinley's party of household staff, relatives and executive office staff departed from Canton, Ohio by train at 10 P.M. on Tuesday, September 3, 1901 over the Pennsylvania Railroad by way of Alliance to Cleveland. A large crowd gathered at the station and bade the party farewell. The remainder of the journey would be over the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. Cleveland was reached at 12:20 P.M. on September 4th. The train consist included a combination car and two Pullmans. Departing at 2 P.M. a wire was sent ahead that the train would reach Central Station at 5:55 P.M. and that it did to the minute. The Presidential Special stopped breifly at Dunkirk at 4:45 P.M. where Officials of the PanAmerican Exposition and the Mayor of Buffalo boarded and were warmly greeted by the McKinleys.

On the evening of September 4, 1901 a handsome train of Pullmans came over the Pennsylvania Railroad, the cars described as a "Hotel on Wheels," brought in diplomats from 11 foreign countries, some accompanied by their wives to participate in the President Day activities. The diplomatic party included included secretaries and attaches, a member of the Department of State, the Director of the Bureau of American Republics, and the tourist agent for the railroad. After passing through the Central Depot the train discharged its distinguished guests at the foot of Porter Avenue. Greeted by local officials, and they boarded carriages for the Niagara Hotel.

"When the train reached East Buffalo there were a crowd of men, women and children waiting. at the city line. A cheer went up as the train passed. From that point until the Presidential Party reached the Central Station, the track was lined with people. It seemed as if the entire population of the southeastern section of the city was out to greet the president. There was succession of cheers all the way from the city line to the station, and steam whistles added to the din. The first whistle snorted away in the direction of Tifft Farm. It was caught up by other whistles farther west, and then other whistles still nearer to the center of the city joined in the greeting. The shriek of steam whistles finally rolled on ahead of the presidential train, and when it came to stop at the Central Station, there was one unbroken chorus of ear-splitting noise from East Buffalo to Black Rock, and from Tonawanda to South Buffalo. Factory whistles, locomotive whistles, horns and church bells joined in the hubbub. Even Canada joined in from across the river. The noise was simply frightful. Mrs. McKinley stood it with patience, but it was evident that the demonstration was most painful to her.

The train stopped at the Central Station just long enough to permit Director General Buchanan (PanAm Exposition) and General Samuel M. Welch to get aboard, and the signal to go ahead was given. The train slowed up a little as it approached the Terrace station. A crowd was waiting there. It filled the expansive playground and overran the tracks and neighboring streets. The crowd cheered and waved hats and handkerchiefs as the train sped by.

"The whistles along the waterfront were screaming themselves and everybody else into paroxysms of agony at that time."

Suddenly there was a thunderous boom. A cloud of white vapor rose from the mouth of the little brass piece on the Terrace. There was a rending and crashing of glass, the ground shook under the shock, and as the smoke lifted the crowd saw with consternation that all the windows on one side of the front coach had been blown in. The saluting cannon had been placed too close to the tracks. Fortunately, there was no one in the front coach. The parlor car in which the president and his party were seated was just back of the coach which caught the full force of the explosion ... It is unpleasant to think what might have happened had the discharge of the cannon come a moment later then it did.

The special train sped swiftly on toward the exposition after leaving the Terrace Station. There were people all along the track as far as Black Rock, gathered to greet the president. At the foot of Porter Avenue, there was a throng numbering between 8,000 and 10,000...

At 6:25 P.M. the railroad terminal station at the exposition was reached. The train drew in on the track nearest the entrance to the exposition, was slowing down without a jar, and stopped with the rear platform of the president's car exactly opposite the railroad gate... A double file of bluecoats lined up on either side of the entrance from the platform to the entrance of the railroad waiting room... "

A small crowd of people were on hand in the waiting room for security purposes to greet the president and his wife. Spontaneous cheering and hand clapping erupted as they came into view.

"The president smiled and lifted his hat. Perhaps he wondered a little at the absence of the throng which he might naturally have expected to be there. He did not know of the multitude that had been patiently awaiting his arrival beyond the gate, as he could not see them."

Just inside the gate were the carriages in which the president and his party were to be driven to Mr. Millburn's home. They were all splendid turnouts, with perfect specimens of horseflesh and liveried coachmen and footmen. Surrounding the carriages was a platoon of mounted police.

There was a dense crowd around the railroad gate. It thronged every foot of space for rods on either side. From the railroad gate south over the grand canal bridge, past the electric tower, the machinery building, the court of fountains, out through the esplanade, and stretching on over the triumphal causeway, there was a narrow open lane, just about broad enough to permit a carriage to pass. On either side of the lane were the people. Beyond the narrow lane there were crowds everywhere. There wasn't a foot of vacant space. It was a forest of faces. There was a sea of them on the esplanade. The handstands were packed. The triumphal causeway and all the space surrounding swarmed with humanity. Beyond the great bridge, with its towering massive pylons, were more people. They crowded the lake shore and the bank o the right of the road. They stretched away right up to the gate of the Lincoln Parkway entrance and beyond. Not a foot of space was held sacred beyond that single narrow lane.

With a fine sense of decency which did credit to the people, no one intruded upon that lane. Everybody knew it was for the President's carriage, and that was sufficient. The exposition guards who had been stationed here and there to keep the crowd back had nothing to do. "The crowd itself kept the lane intact"...

The people were dead silent, the men with their hats off as they glanced at the smiling First Lady as she was helped aboard the carriage by her husband. The President climbed aboard next followed by Mr. Milburn. The impatient steeds took off, their hoofs like thunder. For the first time the crowd cheered wildly. The crowd quickly poured in behind the presidential carriage impervious to the other carriages. The guards shouted and it was a wonder that nobody was trampled.

"The coachman on the set of the second carriage brought his horses up on their haunches just long enough for a woman who stood in the way to scramble out of danger. There were two or three shrill screams, and then the throng split and the lane opened up again. The people gave way slowly and reluctantly, and it was not until the triumphal causeway was reached that the whole procession of carriages finally got together. The last coach was followed by a platoon of mounted police.

From the triumphal causeway to the Lincoln (Parkway) gate the ride occupied less than two minutes; and almost before the crowd knew it, the President and his escort had passed out of the exposition.

The president and members of his party arrived at the Milburn home, 1168 Delaware Avenue near Ferry Street at 7:10 P.M. and had a nice quiet dinner by themselves. During the evening a number of callers dropped in to pay their respects to the chief executive." (44)


35. "Paid Admissions Were 5,306,859" Buffalo Sunday News, 1 Dec. 1901.
36. "News of Railroads" Buffalo Morning Express, 17 July, 1901.
37. "Increase in Travel" Buffalo Morning Express, 7 July, 1901.
38. "A Triumph, Indeed, Was Midway Day" Buffalo Sunday News, 4 Aug 1901.
39. "Large Crowds" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 21 August, 1901.
39a. "Heavy Travel" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 21 August 1901.
40. "In Sections" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 21 August 1901.
41. "Central's Labor Day Record" Buffalo Sunday News, 3 Sept, 1901.
42. "Great Traffic" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 3 Sept, 1901.
43. "Temporary Station" Buffalo Morning Express, 5 Sept, 1901.
44. "The Arrival" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 5 Sept, 1901.

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