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April 17, 2009 - 8:40pm

Train Day in Batavia

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, trains.

A tipster told me the other day -- you should go over to Mill Street, by the GCEDC and see what's going on.  She mentioned trains.

With all this talk of a possible new Albany-Buffalo passenger rail, trains were a bit on my mind. And up until this point, it had been a slow news day.

At this point, I knew there used to be a roundhouse or train turntable in Batavia, but I frankly didn't know where it was. And I had forgotten that New York Central System Historical Society was going to be in town today for an open house at the facility.

When I arrived at the Genesee Valley Transportation Co. complex on Mill Street, sure enough, there was a big piece of equipment digging a big hole.

Doug Eisele, director of operations for GVTC told me later his company is building a new train-to-truck warehouse. When completed it will employ 10 people.

As I walked to a big brick building, I began to suspect that this was part of an old roundhouse and that there was a tour going on. There were several men milling about and a few were snapping pictures.

It turns out, it was indeed the historical society, and by the time I got inside they were watching a video about the old train station.

After Doug finished showing me around the facility, explaining the history and showing me some pictures, he suggested I head over to Lehigh Avenue and take a look at the old New York Central train station, which is owned by CSX (and it's next to CSX track, which might the the route of the proposed new rail system, so if Batavia turns out to be a stop, might be the location of a future train station?).

A man in the neighborhood told me is the old train station (and hardly suitable to be a modern train station).

Across the street I found this old train rail sticking out of cement and a pile of track ties, which struck me as interesting subjects for pictures, so here you go:

Russ Stresing
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In the thin strip of woods between the lawn that was the location of the roundtable and what is now the parking lot for the ice rink, there's a cast iron smelting pot grown into the base of one of the trees.
Howard B. Owens
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Russ, I saw the pictures today. The roundtable was clearly at the location I was at today, right behind where the construction is taking place on Mill. There is what used to be a five-or-six bay 1/4 of a roundhouse still standing and Doug pointed out where they found the foundation of the roundhouse when they laid some new track. Now, at this other location may be some other different, even older facility, but there was definitely a turntable at one time at the location I was at.
Russ Stresing
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Yeah, Howard, that's the place. Unless the city cleaned up that brush on the south border of the skating rink, it should still be there. A friend and I entertained the idea of cutting the pot from the tree but realized how heavy it would be and forgot about the idea. Directly across Evans Street from the roundtable is a long, narrow building that had a spur on either side. This was used to transfer and unload freight. Unless its a different Mill Street, I'm pretty sure this is where I'm thinking it is. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=100+evans+st,+batavia,ny&oe=utf-8&rls=org....
C. M. Barons
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It was the custom at the elementary school in Bergen, during the 1950s, 60s, to conduct a train ride, annually, as the First Grade field trip. A bus took the children to Batavia's New York Central passenger station where each boarded a train. The trip concluded with the children arriving at the (now demolished) Rochester terminal. A bus then returned the children to Bergen. Going further back- to the 40s, George Wilcox, a Bergen resident and lawyer, used to commute from Bergen to his Rochester office by train. With the loss of passenger service in Bergen, he switched to bus service. I recall him standing at the Rochester Street Blue-Bus stop, each morning, as I walked to school. By the 1970s, the Batavia terminal had reduced its service from a daily schedule to stopping only on demand. It also serviced inmates and visitors to Attica prison. My mother, who was County Historian, typically rode the train from Batavia to attend the annual local government meetings in NYC. I occasionally took the train while at college in Ulster County. By then, the Rochester depot was a dumpy replacement on Central Avenue- no resemblance to its grand predecessor. The terminal in Poughkeepsie was another grand old building in the classic style. Off the subject of trains- the Second Grade field trip was a visit to the LeRoy Elm Dairy to watch the production of ice cream. Following the tour, samples were dispensed. Yum.
Howard B. Owens
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Russ, yes, we're talking about the same place.
Russ Stresing
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Wanna know something really cool, Howard? One of the buildings north of this area fronting on Ellicott was used to deliver the gas that lit the street lights. It was the building at 40-52 Ellicott, I'm guessin. I think the round building south of it was part of the operation. There are big round pipes that stick out of the back of the building through which the gas lines ran. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=100+evans+st,+batavia,ny&oe=utf-8&rls=org....
Howard B. Owens
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I'll go take a look. Thanks, Russ.

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