Buffalo

Buffalo Central Terminal Hard Hat Tour

I’d like to introduce you to Buffalo Central Terminal. Paul and I took part in their final Hard Hat Tour of the season on October 6.

Trains passed through Central Terminal from 1929 to 1979. (The replica of a red car on the far left side was part of a fundraising promotion.)

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The tour includes the main concourse and a portion of the 271-ft high office tower, but the complex also includes “a four-story baggage building and two-story mail building…and the now detached train concourse. The complex sits on a 17-acre site 2.5 miles east of downtown Buffalo.”

Our group consisted of 15 people, which turned out to be their smallest tour of the 2013 season. I was glad we chose that date since we were able to view areas of the tower that previous groups didn’t get to see (due to time issues as well as the number of participants, which sometimes swelled to 30-40 attendees).

The letters over the entrance spell out “New York Central Railroad Co.”

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This is what you see when you walk inside the main terminal. Before restoration work could begin, volunteers removed 350 tons of debris from this area alone.

Central Terminal

There’s another room on the other side of those large windows. Notice how much of the glass is broken or missing.

Central Terminal

This is Stuffy, and he has a place of honor in the main hall. The original version was an actual stuffed buffalo (hence the nickname), but the hide became worn out when men leaving Buffalo for World War II would rub it for good luck — that version has since been restored and currently resides in the Buffalo Museum of Science. The second Stuffy (made from plaster) was accidentally broken by a previous owner of the Terminal. This version (made from fiberglass) was installed in October 2011. [Source]

Me at Central Terminal

(Paul posed with Stuffy as well.)

This is our group standing on the mezzanine level (the blond lady on the far left was our tour guide). You can’t really see them in this photo but there are catwalks running across that big set of windows. Back when the Terminal was in operation, workers would use the catwalks as a shortcut to get from one place to another.

Central Terminal

Here’s a better view of the main floor from the mezzanine level. This shot shows the detailed pattern in the floors.

Central Terminal

And let’s not forget the ticket counters (with a Stuffy photo bomb!).

Central Terminal

This four-sided clock was one of many artifacts that was sold years ago by previous owners of the Terminal. While some of the artifacts have been returned, many of them have not.

The clock appeared for sale out of Chicago on ebay several years ago for $20,000. At that time, fixing the roofs of the building seemed more important than acquiring artifacts from the terminal. Volunteers Sara Etten and LeighAnne Bennett located the clock in October 2003, and traveled to Chicago to see it. Late 2004 brought in the interest of WBEN and the Buffalo community on reacquiring the clock. Thanks to a generous donation from M&T Bank and donations from the community, the clock was purchased by the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation for $25,000, and brought back to Buffalo in January 2005. [Source]

Central Terminal

Some of the original signs (like this one pointing you “To Station”) are easy to read…

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…while others have faded and you have to concentrate to make out the letters. This one advertised a “Liquor Store.”

Central Terminal

While the main floor has been cleaned up, there are many areas where it’s obvious how much work still needs to be done. Like the former dining room…

Central Terminal

…and most of the rooms in the tower.

Central Terminal

This is an example of a room in the tower that is still full of debris. Our tour guide said this is representative of what the main floor looked like before hundreds of tons of debris was cleared out years ago.

Central Terminal

Some of the rooms in the tower overlook the main floor. Our tour guide (who happened to be a very enthusiastic volunteer; you could tell how much she loved the Terminal) said if the building is ever turned into condos, she wants to buy one with this view. She said that she would spend her final days sitting in a rocking chair watching everything going on below.

Central Terminal

While condos aren’t currently part of the plan (at least to my knowledge), the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation is working to get businesses back in the building. We were told that it should be 50% occupied by 2016.

These are a few photos taken outside the Terminal:

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There’s also an abandoned radio van in a lot next door.

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More photos can be seen at my Central Terminal photoset on Flickr.

I very much enjoyed my visit (the tour lasted almost two hours, start to finish) and I can’t wait to see what they do with it in the future. I highly recommend taking a tour during the 2014 season!

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2 Comments

  • Reply Jaclyn October 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    What a beautiful building! I can’t get over those huge windows and that gorgeous floor. Can’t wait to see what they do with it! (Something akin to the Chelsea Market would be soooooooo cool.)

    • Reply Zan October 18, 2013 at 10:50 am

      You’re right, that would be a good idea!

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