Surprisingly, there are are number of web sites on the internet these days that tell about the Central Terminal. Anyone who has spent any time in the Buffalo-Niagara Region has surely had their curiosity piqued by this clearly identifiable structure. Prominently situated on the eastside of Buffalo, New York, the Central Terminal is virtually visible from anywhere in the metro region. It stands independent from the Buffalo skyline acting as a visual magnet, instantly grabbing one's curiosity. It is both a symbol to Buffalo's glorious past as well as a constant reminder of how far this once proud Queen City of the Great Lakes has fallen. I guess it should be no surprise then that there are so many sites dedicated to its existence.
My interest in the terminal began at an early age one day, riding in the back seat of my parents car over the Harlem and Walden Avenue bridge (now gone). It was here that I spotted the terminal in the distance and asked, as most everyone does, "what is that building?" In 1977 I had read in the Courier Express, another long lost staple of Buffalo's past, about how Buffalo had been the second largest railroad center in the world at one time. The article had shown photos of several of the long gone railroad stations that had dotted the landscape of the city. There was mention that the Central Terminal, still a working station at the time, was soon to close as well and all passenger rail service was to be diverted to the small, nondescript station on Exchange Street, where passenger rail service is still provided for the city of Buffalo today. I decided that I would visit this station, one Sunday morning in September, before the Central Terminal would close its doors forever. It was my first visit to the Central Terminal.
I wish I would have had a camera that Sunday in September back in 1977. All I have left from that morning visit are the faded pictures in my, fuzzier by the day, memory. I was a mere lad of sixteen and I had this uncomfortable feeling that I was trespassing on sacred soil. I remember the main hall, most of it blocked off by plywood partitions, as rail service had dwindled to a trickle and most of the main atrium wasn't needed. I was lucky enough to see a couple of trains waiting at the boarding platform, at least I have some kind of memory of when the Central Terminal was a working rail station.
I made a couple of more visits to the Central Terminal in 1980, after she closed to rail traffic. The terminal was still in pretty good shape back then but there were a lot of areas that were off limits. These visits were out of curiosity and were not authorized by the owners of the building. This got a couple of my friends busted by the local authorities for trespassing. We stayed away from the terminal for a few years after that.
I finally went back in 1985 and I also took a camera with me this time. I kept going back for several more years, thereafter. Feeling shocked and sadder after every visit as the years took their toll on the old terminal. I would like to share the pictures I took over the years with you. I'm sure that you will see that the Central Terminal is still a very striking and powerful piece of architecture, even in its state of neglect.
When you stand outside the Central Terminal for the first time, you can't help but notice the intricacies of the structure's art deco design. Immediately, one wonders if the inside of the building is as equally ornate. It's a shame nobody builds anything like this anymore. Just looking at the main entrance, one gets the feeling of how profitable and powerful the railroads were back then. The Central Terminal was a reflection of these salad days.
So are you curious? Want to see more? C'mon in and check out the rest of my photos and I promise you won't get arrested for trespassing.
Below are links to the other Central Terminal sites on the web.
Buffalo Central terminal 1929-Present
Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration
Limited Edition Print circa 1930