Buffalo Central Terminal, built by the New York Central Railroad, opened in 1929, just months before the stock market crash of October. The art deco building was designed to handle over 200 trains and 10,000 passengers daily.
Station visitors were originally greeted by a stuffed American bison. Passengers, including thousands of WWII soldiers, rubbed their hands through the fur, causing the large buffalo to go bald. It was replaced by a bronze statue, which was destroyed by an eventual owner of the terminal. A bronze recasting using the original molds, can be found outside the football stadium on the University of Buffalo North Campus. The current statue in the station, is a fiberglass replica.
Buffalo Central Terminal saw active train service from 1929 – 1979. In addition to New York Central, the Canadian National Railway, Pennsylvania Railroad, and Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway also serviced BCT. The terminal saw its peak during World War II.
While touring about Buffalo, the Frozen Foursome received an unexpected invitation to tour the main concourse of Buffalo Central Terminal. As a perfect example, of “it doesn’t hurt to ask”, one quick question had us in the door, and once it became apparent that we were in no hurry to leave, an additional invite to explore further inside was offered.
All of us were excited to see inside the abandoned terminal, but it was far more personal for The Curator. His father was an engineer for New York Central, and he remembered running throughout the concourse when he visited Central Terminal with his dad and siblings.
BCT is a beautiful terminal, and must have been something very special in its day. It is currently owned by the Central Terminal Restoration Corp., whose volunteers we met and talked with during our visit. I reminded one volunteer that Union Depot in Saint Paul, Minnesota has been brought back to life and train service restored. There is certainly hope for Buffalo Central Terminal, although it’s a damn shame that the building has suffered such neglect.
BCT opened with a Western Union office, a restaurant with dining room and lunch counter, a coffee shop, soda fountain, and, of course, a street car lobby.
Central Terminal is located 2.5 miles from downtown Buffalo. The current Amtrak station, is a tiny building a bit closer to downtown. Throughout its history, Buffalo Central Terminal was always larger than needed, but hopefully the CTRC will be able to repurpose BCT now that Buffalo itself is seeing a revitalization.