Rise of the Railroad
On August 26, 1836, the first steam locomotive in Western New York made its maiden run between Black Rock and Tonawanda at a speed of 15 - 20 miles an hour. By the 5th of November that same year, regular trips were made between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, all running through the heart of the Tonawandas. The railroad's tracks ran down the east side of Main Street in Tonawanda and the east side of Webster Street in North Tonawanda. A railroad bridge spanned Tonawanda Creek between these two streets for 90 years until the New York Central relocated its tracks to avoid traveling through the downtown sections of both communities. The railroad bridge was dismantled in 1922, having been replaced by the cantilever-type bridge a short distance east of it. The original piers in front of you are all that remain.
Railroad vs. Canal
Both the canal and the railroad had their place in the movement of goods and people. The canal was best suited for the heavy loads of lumber, coal and gravel. Draining the canal for the winter months made the railroad the preferred means of shipping goods. The speed of
In the 1890s heyday of Tonawanda there were 16 different railroad companies traveling the lines carrying everything from the circus to presidential candidates to mail and the ever popular excursions to Niagara Falls. On any single day over 100 trains would pass in front of the Tonawanda Station.
The Tonawanda Railroad Station
Built in 1886 the Tonawanda Railroad Station still stands on its original site at 113 Main Street where it is home to the museum of the Historical Society of the Tonawandas. A red brick structure, its gables are handcarved in the "steamboat gothic" style. On each of the elaborate peaks is perched a whimsical carving of a man playing a flute while squirrels dance at his feet.
The last train passed Tonawanda's station in 1922. Since 1965 the station has been the home of the Historical Society of the Tonawandas.
Flagman, Mr Stoddert, and shanty. NY Central RR, Main and Johnson Sts. circa 1920.
Crossing gates and NY Central RR switching tower. SE corner of Young and Main Sts. circa 1920.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & Streetcars • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Erie Canal series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1836.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Dam (within shouting distance of this marker); Lumber Capital (within shouting distance of this marker); Gateway to the West (within shouting distance of this marker); The Long Homestead (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Long Homestead (about 400 feet away); Roll of Honor (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Roll of Honor (about 400 feet away); Lumber Port (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tonawanda.
Regarding The Railroad. The Tonawanda Railroad Station described on the marker can be found in this database; see marker "Railroad Station 1870 - 1922."
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 6, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 20, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 458 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on September 20, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.