The former Buffalo Color site will soon be the new home for the Heritage Discovery Center, housing railroad and steel plant museums. The new Heritage Discovery Center is located on Lee Street between South Park and Elk. It's reusing the former industrial site on the Buffalo River. The center hopes to become the home of the Western New York Railway Historical Society and Steel Plant museums. Center officials also plan on using the new facilities as a public space for local community groups and organizations. At the unveiling Wednesday, vintage railroad and steel making artifacts were on display in a new visitors' center, and an operational steam locomotive were on display on rail lines next to the building
Train, steel museums find home Buffalo News, October 7, 2010 by Mark Sommer
A locomotive's whistle added emphasis Wednesday as the future home of train and steel museums was publicly unveiled in a former machine shop in South Buffalo. The Western New York Railway Historical Society's Railroad Museum and the Steel Plant Museum will be located in the Heritage Discovery Center, once the industrial brownfield is cleaned up.
Plans also are on track to operate excursion trains, with the first run planned next August.
"The public is interested in their past, and the idea of combining both the railroad museum and the steel museum is a wonderful reuse of a brownfield," County Executive Chris Collins said at the former Buffalo Color Corp. site on Lee Street. "You just know the railroad buffs from around the country and around the world will flock to this site. Railroading is a part of our history ... It's just part of who we are as Americans."
It will take two to five years to develop the entire site, depending on funding, according to Joseph Kocsis Jr., the rail society's president. Abby Snyder, regional director of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, called the project "a very creative use of this property." "It's exactly the kind of thing the department likes to see transformed -- old, abandoned, contaminated sites into a good reuse that is beneficial for the community," Snyder said.
Both museums will initially have temporary exhibits in a former administration building on Lee Street, with the expectation of moving into a permanent site in 2011, after the first phase of the cleanup is done. The rail society is in negotiation to buy the five buildings on the property, including the Schoellkopf Power House. It will lease the remaining property on the 105,000-square-foot site from South Buffalo Development. One building will be used as a rail repair shop.
"We're looking for the restoration of these buildings back to the grandeur when they were built in 1917," Kocsis said.
Buffalo once was the second-largest railroad center in North America. To help tell that story, the rail society will display 40 to 50 pieces of railroad equipment, including a 110-foot-long Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotive used to haul coal and iron ore into Lackawanna.
Also to be displayed are 1950s-era New York Central rail cars, which carried passengers when the railroads were at their peak; an old-fashioned dining car; and the rail car that President Dwight D. Eisenhower once used to crisscross the country. The equipment is currently scatterred in Hamburg, Orchard Park, North Collins, Lackawanna and Buffalo's East Side. Kocsis said the rail society will work with Amtrak to get its rail cars up to the passenger carrier's mechanical standards, with repairs done on site. He said the group was working with Norfolk Southern Railroad to get switching agreements.
Plans for the excursion trains include occasional stops at the Central Terminal, which saw its last passenger train in 1979, and special trips through the region, including Niagara Falls, Medina, Jamestown and even Cleveland. Trips are also planned to bring people to Buffalo and for fall color leaf runs. The historic Central Terminal on the East Side lacked the logistics to house the rail museum, said Mark Lewandowski, a rail society trustee and president of Central Terminal Restoration Corp. But the Central Terminal "will be a key player" in the excursion rides, he said. Jon Williams, president of South Buffalo Development, praised Honeywell, the site's previous owner, for its active support of the project.