By Steve Cichon
By 1952, the great days of train travel were appearing in the rear view mirror of automobiles getting ready to use the New York State Thruway which was then under construction. That was the year passenger train service stopped in Hamburg.
But when this photo was taken, 23 years earlier, train travel was a necessity for commuters heading into the city for work, and travelers of all kinds—like these Hamburg High School Seniors taking a class trip to Washington, DC.
The old Erie Depot was only about five years old when this image was captured, and the fight to get it was still fresh in the minds of residents.
Supervisor George Abbott unveiled $25,000 plans for a new Erie Railroad station for Hamburg in January, 1921, but there was pushback from the railroad. Hamburg Trustees first petitioned the Public Service Commission for better station facilities in 1919, claiming the Erie house was “inadequate and dilapidated.”
The people of Hamburg felt slighted not only by an antiquated station, but also sub-par service to that station from Buffalo. A poem appeared in the February, 10, 1921 Independent was addressed to Erie Railroad officials from the people of Hamburg. It read, in part:
But alas, one zero morning, not so very long ago,
The tiny Erie station was lost beneath the snow.
And when at last we found it, in the depths of the snowy tide,
‘Twas quite filled with commuters— we couldn’t get inside.
They sat along the radiators, of germs there were many fears;
They huddled round the scornful stove and hung from the chandeliers.
And so we stood around outdoors, and braved the northwind’s blow.
We mingled with the icicles and wallowed in the snow.
At last the welcome whistle, the 7:30 came in on time;
The crowd was cold but cheerful— we hurried into line.
Then crowding, jostling, scrambling– good natured commuters all.
With not near enough coaches, of course—no seats at all.
Built after a several year fight in 1924, Hamburg’s Erie Railroad station still stands at Pleasant Avenue and Scott Street—as do several of the other buildings in the photo. Through the years it’s been the home of the Candlegate Station gift shop, the Hamburg Station Restaurant, and more recently, Hamburg’s adult day care services.
This story originally appeared in The Hamburg Sun.