Making The Past Come Alive

Once again, Jamestown’s railroad-dependent past came to life for hundreds of area residents at the newly-renovated Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Station.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, the station opened its doors to the community in celebration of its first-time participation in National Train Day-a nationwide celebration of trains and train travel.

The event featured a variety of displays, exhibits and activities for train enthusiasts and admirers of all ages. Attendees were given the opportunity to witness an ALCO locomotive pulling two parlor-type cars, courtesy of the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad; a renovated steam engine being driven by Scott Symans; a Dunkirk resident; and two “speeder” cars, one vintage and one modern, which are used for railroad maintenance.

According to Lee Harkness, general manager of the train station, the plan is to make National Train Day an annual event in downtown Jamestown, basing the decision on the success of the first year’s celebration.

“The crowd we’ve had here today has just been magnificent,” said Harkness. “There are a lot of railroad buffs here. People from Buffalo, Gowanda and Dunkirk are all taking part in this, and we’ve got a little bit of everything. Everybody is truly amazed at the quality of the restoration in this station.”

He added: “I would say that this is right up with the quality that the rest of Jamestown has to offer – it’s just an additional asset. And I’ve said before that this station would be a destination in its own right, and it’s proven that here today because there’s been nonstop people coming through here.”

Also in attendance was Mayor Sam Teresi, who commented on the significance of the restoration of the train station.

“This is a wonderful example of what a community can accomplish when it puts its mind to a goal, and when people come together and work in the interest of others, and not themselves,” Teresi said. “This is also a great example of a community revitalizing itself, and rebuilding its future through a celebration of its past.”

The event also featured the participation of many clubs, organizations and individuals to make sure that there truly was something for everybody. The participants included: the Chautauqua County Camera Club, Craft World of Jamestown, Gowanda Model Railroad Club, Bob Johnson on trolleys, Marilyn Johnson with her artwork, authors Chuck Spinner and Ken Springirth, the Western New York Train Society of Buffalo and the Buffalo, Cattaraugus and Jamestown Scenic Railroad.

Musical entertainment was provided by Razz Rasmusson and his Dixieland Band. Also on display was a filmed version of railroading in the United States, as well as footage from the ribbon-cutting ceremony from the station’s grand opening in October and the story of the renovation process.

The 18,000-square foot Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Station Building was initially opened in 1931, with the last passenger train passing through in 1970.