• Yards around Buffalo Central Terminal

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by carajul
I was looking at some satelite maps of BCT and noticed what appeared to be a lot of old RR yard land around the terminal in all directions. Took a look at the historical arials and sure enough there was a few very large yard in proximity, one to the east was huge. Now they are all gone or reduced to a few tracks. What happened?
  by SST
St Lawrence Seaway. It eliminated the need for Buffalo as a hub.
  by BR&P
SST wrote:St Lawrence Seaway, airports, Interstate highway System, loss of heavy industry. They eliminated the need for the railroad.
Fixed. :(
  by KenK
The yard south of BCT was the old stockyards; immediately east of BCT was the passenger car storage, maintenance, etc.; railcar repairs were performed across the main east of BCT by the Erie RR Niagara Falls Branch bridge.
  by NYCRRson
St Lawrence Seaway, airports, Interstate highway System, loss of heavy industry, excessive regulation, excessive taxation. They eliminated the need for and profitability of the railroad.

Fixed it again.

The governments (local, state, etc.) saw the railroads as "wealthy" and taxed the heck out of them. Every turnout and signal was taxed as an improvement on the property.

So the railroads as a shareholder owned private business started throwing everything they could overboard to try and stay afloat.

At the same time the Interstate Highways and Airports were not only "tax free" but built with taxpayer dollars.

The NYC offered BCT for sale in about 1959 (IIRC), there were no serious offers. Of course for the last 30 years some politicians have offered to buy it with taxpayer dollars, but they have never gotten that far.
  by lvrr325
IIRC it took Conrail to finally sue New York State and win a claim that NYS taxes were disproportionately high compared to other states.

In some instances railroads were taxed by track miles, which is why they would abandon lines, yards, or take up a main track. Every mile of rail removed reduced the taxes.
  by ExCon90
I think the railroads jointly managed to get a state (or Federal?) law passed requiring that taxes on railroad property could not exceed the rates on neighboring industrial property, and Conrail immediately sued the state pursuant to that law. A lot of towns along the railroads had to do some frenzied revenue recalculations after that.
  by TrainDetainer
The seaway and interstates didn't help, but they were well after Buffalo lost it's spot as the major RR hub - to Chicago around the 1890s. Buffalo was second thereafter for years. The seaway wasn't begun until 1954 and the interstates in 1956. Taxes were a problem until the lawsuit against the state - I was told by those that knew that CR paid more in taxes in NYS than in all its other states combined. I used to know the amount per switch in NY and have forgotten the exact amount, but it was ridiculously high. NY also didn't help matters with other requirements - by keeping the full crew law much longer than other states (many trains had to stop and pick up an extra man entering the state and dropped him off leaving), banning bobbers and short cabeese, and some other requirements that other states didn't have.

Other factors around BCT area - stock yards closed after meat was processed out west (Chicago, Kansas, etc.) and reefers hauled the meat in, the ice house closed when mechanical reefers came about, the East Buffalo car shops closed as fewer car facilities were required due to fewer and better cars (progressively larger cars with all steel construction/better technology), the coach yard (and BCT) closed as passenger service dwindled away, REA died a slow death for a number of reasons, and fewer yards required overall as NYS business climate and technology drove industry out of the state/area. Lots of factors at play besides competition. Remember that what grew RRs in Buffalo to their greatest extent was the constant early expansionism and with RRs one of the biggest industries in the US at the time much heavy industry supported their expansion. When they reached saturation that industry slowed/contracted accordingly and there was quite a bit of that in Buffalo. Lackawanna Steel, Gould, Wagner/Pullman, ACF, Union Car, and Taylor Signal/GRS were just a few of the major RR manufacturers in Buffalo during the heyday - and all are gone now (ACF still around but mostly gone from NYS, GRS is now Alstom in Henrietta).
  by Matt Langworthy
lvrr325 wrote:IIRC it took Conrail to finally sue New York State and win a claim that NYS taxes were disproportionately high compared to other states.
CSX and NS jointly resolved the issue in 2003 by starting a lawsuit against NY. Gov Pataki and the legislature passed a reform that lowered RR property tax from 150% to 100% of assessed value, bringing it to the same rate paid by most other businesses in NY.
  by Matt Langworthy
From https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=5719 in early 2003:
On Friday, the governor announced that he had signed the "rail infrastructure investment act of 2002" into law.

The legislation reduces railroad property taxes by about 45 percent by changing the way the property is taxed. The legislation also exempts railroad capital improvements from local taxation for 10 years.