I believe it was Christmas1959, I was 5 and. he was 42. unknown at the time he only had a few years left before the cancer would take him. Soon it would be Christmas and this night we were returning to Buffalo from New York City. My father a superintendent for the Central had business in the city, he had brought me along this trip to see relatives. He promised me a cab ride in the electric on our return.
I am old now and with every passing year the memories become less clear. And so, this night maybe, if put it into words I can better remember. I write only of the beginning; how trains and Christmas, and my young father's last years all became entwined into a lifetime of memories. Feel free to share your story.
Merry Christmas my friends.
So long ago, it is very dark, late, and cold, there is excitement and joy in the night air. The Christmas season all about.
Snowing in the great city, a wet snow. Grand Central aglow, late light spilling through cathedral glass windows, an invite of warmth and dry. They emerge from the taxi curbside, the sidewalk sloppy with slush, so he carries his son; a porter brings the luggage
The little boy, holding father's hand as they make their way through doors of significance, across the expanse of polished marble. High above, the night sky, constellations painted on arched ceilings high above. Past the great clock, swept up among travelers moving quickly with purpose, then going, under the sign "To Trains", a list of stations goes by. A friendly and familiar nod by the uniformed attendant. Down the carpeted ramp. Ahead, an underground world in shades of dark and gray.
On an endless platform they walk the length of shiny gray cars "The Twentieth Century Limited" for many, the world's greatest train; alive and waiting, many are those who rush, there is hurry all about. the great train readies, waiting patiently to take her leave.
The magic arrives unnoticed. Conductors, and porters, shiny stools at the foot of platform steps, announcements broadcast, steam aimlessly drifting about, ice from earlier ...dripping. A clanging bell, whistles piercing, orders called out, it is the din of railroading, a backdrop to the main stage; below the city, in the dim sepia light it seems like chaos, but it is the nightly pageant well-rehearsed.
His five-year-old excitement overshadows his concerns as he is lifted at the waist; up to the locomotive engineer who leaning down hoists the lad by his suspenders. Frozen, in the lap of a bigger than life railroader, smelling of oil and work, and very much in charge; deliberately checking ......always checking the watch.......the watch.
A trainman calls out while swinging a lantern high and pulls the lanyard in the vestibule, followed by a screeching steam signal. The great train begins to move, lurching very slightly as the slack in the couplers take-up. Slowly at first then accelerating, a rhythmic rocking takes hold. The lighted platform disappears, a quickening pace past blurring lights of amber, green and red; colored luminescence gives up the darkness and shows the tunnel's depth. Two rails ahead converge in the distant beam of the headlight bright. With a roar the great machine drives into the earth, into the dark.
At speed now, emerging from the tunnel below the city, they take flight.
Thank you for that memory. My first memory of being inside the Central Terminal in Buffalo was in the early 1970's once Amtrak ran trains into there. I remember my parents walking with me down to the platform next to the idling E-8's. A few years earlier (before Amtrak) my parents used to take me at night to Depew NY at Ellicott Street and Dick road (right across from where the Amtrak station is today). Today Dick road has an underpass under the CSX mainline but back in the Penn Central days it was a grade crossing. Just around the corner at that grade crossing (maybe 200 yards away) my dad parked the car on the west side of Dick road down Ellicott street and waited until a Penn Central passenger train would come flying by at night. As I remember it usually had only one engine and maybe 4-5 cars? Thank you dad and mom for those times that I still cherish which has fueled my passion for trains to this day.
Thank you for filling me in on Buffalo, the last time I travelled by train in or out of Buffalo Central Terminal was around 1970. The earmarks of decline were evident, recently I look at images now, and of the wreck of a great station; I am glad I didn't witness that. I have lived in the Puget Sound area for the last 45 years.
My Grandmother lived at the convergence of Linden Ave. and Depew. The NYCRR had 2 tracks behind her home. I would sit on the fence waiting for the next freight all day. Those tracks went under the passenger concourse at the Terminal. Satellite images today show that part of the concourse torn down. The great statue of a Buffalo in the entry area is gone.
I guess the one thing that hasn't changed much are those incredible snowbanks that that surrounded the station and its approaches. I wish I could relive those moments coming and going and everything railroad about Buffalo.
Thanks for the videos they were great. I will look for more. So, I take it the Buffalo Terminal station is still usable for other uses but no passenger service. I share a picture I just took hanging on the wall in my house. kevin
I have no idea why the Moderator deleted your post. Sometimes a discussion about real trains segues into a discussion about our scale representations of real trains. The picture I saw of your model Buffalo Central Station was very interesting and impressive and I would really like to see more. Please get in touch.
Mr. Moderator, If you moved this post of John A, where did you move it?? and if you deleted, why?
Kevin- I just noticed at the very top of this post , in very, very fine print, the words “Real Trains.” When I browse the Forum topics, and see something I want to read, I just click on it, and read it. This takes you to the latest post on the topic. You don’t see the sub- category like “Real Trains “ unless you are looking at the 1st post. I certainly meant no offense by trying to add to a post about my favorite structure, BCT. JohnA P.S., my model is wood, with a foto mounted on foam-core for the tower.
The memory, the flow of words full of detail illuminated my mind renewing the experience of Grand Central where my first long distance ride was on a premium train to Chicago. Then on to Los Angeles. Also many times I enjoyed a ride on the Central to Utica and Syracuse. It also reminded me of my father who traveled with us. You have a beautiful memory to cherish.
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