Penn Central’s Niagara Branch

Niagara Falls New York was an important international gateway for a number of railways.  Penn Central’s former NYC Niagara Branch hosted frequent Lehigh Valley and TH&B trains, while the adjacent Erie Lackawanna branch hosted Chessie trains from their C&O Canada Division.  The steel, automotive, and chemical industries on both sides of the border in this region flourished during the mid  20th Century because of the convergence of cheap transportation and hydro-generated electricity.

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In this 1974 image, a Penn Central SW1500 and GP7 drag a transfer eastbound from Niagara Falls yard toward Frontier Yard in Buffalo.  After leaving the Falls Road Branch, the train moved onto the Niagara Branch, where we see it approaching mile 14 in the town of Wheatfield.  Lehigh Valley’s train COJ-32 is holding until the transfer clears.

The former New York Central Niagara Branch provided Penn Central with a connection between Niagara Falls New York and Frontier Yard in Buffalo.   In Niagara Falls New York, Penn Central connects with Canadian National, as well as their own Canada Southern Railway which served as a shortcut to Detroit, through St. Thomas Ontario, and provided a connection to their partial subsidiary TH&B.  Lehigh Valley’s only gateway into Canada was in Niagara Falls New York, which they accessed by utilizing trackage rights over the Niagara Branch between Tonawanda Junction and their own yard in Niagara Falls

Immediately adjacent to the PC Niagara Branch is the parallel Erie Lackawanna (Erie) branch that provided EL with a connection between their own yard in Niagara Falls and Bison Yard in Buffalo.  Chessie trains from their former C&O Canada Division used the EL branch to gain access into Buffalo.  When this photo was taken in 1974, the town of Wheatfield NY would see trains powered by locomotives from PC, EL, Chessie, TH&B, and Lehigh Valley.

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