Part 6 - Erie to Buffalo
Cleveland to Erie
AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #20a -- Chicago, Illinois to Buffalo, New York


435    ERIE station, 125 W. 14th Street.  Elevation approximately 704.  The city was named after Lake Erie and the Erie Indians, and is the county seat of Erie County.

          The first inhabitants of the Erie area were the Erie Indians (formerly known as Erie-ez).  In 1753, Fort Presque Isle was built here by the French, who abandoned the fort in 1759 when the British took over the area.  During the War of 1812, American ships built at Erie were used to defeat the British.  The Erie Maritime Museum, located here, features a reconstruction of Commander Oliver Hazard Perry’s ship Niagara, from the Battle of Lake Erie.

          Erie is Pennsylvania’s only port city on the Great Lakes, and has an almost completely enclosed harbor formed by the Presque Isle Peninsula.  Presque Isle State Park is located at Presque Isle on Lake Erie, and is the largest State Park in Pennsylvania.  Although Presque Isle is not visible from the train, the island is an excellent example of a recurved sand spit, and the shape of the Erie shoreline has changed dramatically through the years due to effects of natural phenomena such as longshore drift, as well as the works of man, including the construction of piers and jetties, which can disrupt the natural flow of sand along the lakeshore significantly.

         In addition to the Erie Maritime Museum and Presque Isle State Park, the city is also home of the Erie Art Museum, the Bicentennial Tower, the Erie Zoo, the Experience Children’s Museum, and Waldameer Park and Water World.  It is also the home of Heavyweight Olympic wrestler Bruce Baumgardner, television star Ann B. Davis (“Alice” on the show The Brady Bunch), and General “Mad Anthony” Wayne of Revolutionary War fame.

438-439 Pass large General Electric plant on left (eastbound).  This plant is located in Lawrence Park Township, which was established in 1910 as a company town for GE.  It is named after one of Comdr. Oliver Hazard Perry’s ships, the Lawrence.

          On the right (eastbound) we pass the borough of Wesleyville, which was laid out in 1828 and named after John Wesley, the founder of modern Methodism.  The Methodist Church here was built by John Shaddock.

439    Cross Fourmile Creek.  Devonian-aged Northeast Shale can be seen along the creek bed.

442-443 Pass through Harborcreek.  In 1832, a railroad station was established here since the community was halfway between Erie and North East (see MP 449 below).

445    Pass through Moorheadville, named after the Moorehead family, who first settled here around 1800.

447    Just north of the railroad (left if eastbound), the ancient shoreline of Lake Whittlesey crosses the highway; however, it is not discernible from the train.

449-450 Pass through North East, the last borough we will be traveling through in Pennsylvania.  The borough and township were named after their location in the extreme northeastern portion of Erie Country.  Because of North East’s climate, soils, and location on Lake Erie, it has become a prosperous grape growing region, and winery center.  Welch’s has a processing plant here.  The grape culture began here around 1850, and the South Shore Wine Company started in 1869.  In addition to grapes, other fruits are grown in the area.

         The Lake Shore Railway Museum is located here at the old depot, and features an 1889 railroad station containing numerous railroading relics and displays.

452    Pass beneath Interstate 90, which will soon become the New York State Thruway.

453   Cross Twentymile Creek, which is also incised into the Devonian-aged Northeast Shale beneath the Pleistocene lake deposits.

453.5 At State Line, enter CHAUTAUQUA County, NEW YORK.  Chautauqua County was formed from Genesee County on March 11, 1808.  The first settlement was made at the mouth of Cattaraugus Creek in 1797.  In 1802, an agent for the State of Connecticut opened a wagon road from Buffalo to Chauatauqua Creek, to enable immigrants to reach the Western Reserve lands of Ohio (see MP 287.5 above). The Chautauqua County seat is Mayville.

          We are continuing to travel across ancient shorelines and lake beds of ancestral Lake Erie, which were deposited during the Wisconsin glaciation at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch.  We are continuing to follow the ancient shorelines from the Lake Whittlesey and Lake Warren Stages.  Bedrock beneath the glacial deposits is still Devonian-aged shales at this point.

454    Hills to the south (right if eastbound) are composed of Devonian-aged Conneaut Group of shale and sandstone, overlying the North East Shale.  The hills mark the northern edge of the Allegheny Plateau.

456-457 Pass through Ripley, after General Eleazer Wheelock Ripley, a Brigadier General in the War of 1812, who later served as a U.S. Representative from Louisiana.  The town of Ripley was first settled in 1804, and became a town in 1817.

          The scarp visible on the right (eastbound) marks an erosional boundary between various sedimentary rock formations of Devonian age.  The shale, upon which we are traveling, erode very easily, and over time, the erosion surface is a fairly flat plain.  The rocks to the south, here mainly Conneaut Group, consist of more erosion-resistant sandstone, which is not worn down nearly as much as the weaker shale.  The scarp is known as the Portage Scarp, and it marks the northern edge of the Allegheny Plateau.

          This scarp also marks the northern boundary of the Allegheny Plateau.

459    Pass through East Ripley.

460    Pass through Forsyth, home of Schloss Doepken Winery.  On the scarp adjacent to the railroad on the right (eastbound), the more erosion-resistant Upper Devonian-aged Conneaut Group overlies the weaker Northeast Shale, upon which we are traveling.

464    Cross Chautauqua Creek at Chautauqua Gorge, also known as “The Gulf,” a deep chasm the creek has cut through the scarp we have been following. The Westfield Shale, a part of the Upper Devonian Canadaway Group, can be seen along the creek in the gorge here.

464-465 Pass through Westfield, an agricultural town known for its Concord grape production.  The town was first settled in 1802, when James McMahan established a mill at the mouth of Chautauqua Creek here.  The town was established from parts of nearby Portland and Ripley in 1823.  The name of the town denotes a westerly location of an agricultural “field.”  A mile north of the railroad is the 1829 Barcelona Lighthouse, the first lighthouse in the world to be powered by natural gas.  Westfield is also the home of the Old McClurg Mansion, which features furniture and kitchen utensils of the 1820’s, as well as a military exhibit and Indian artifacts.

466.5 Cross Bournes Creek.

468    The small town of West Portland is on the right (eastbound).

471    South of the railroad (right if eastbound) is the town of Portland, which was named after Portland, Maine, the home of many of its early residents. The region was first settled in 1804. 

472.5 Pass through Brocton, which was named either after the city of Brocton, Massachusetts, home of its early settlers, or by combining the names “Brockway” and “Minton” of 2 local pioneer families.  The village was settled in 1805 by Captain James Dunn, and incorporated in 1894.  The town was formerly known as Salem’s Corners, or Salem’s Corners Crossroads, after the town of Salem in Massachusetts.

          Brocton was the birthplace of George S. Pullman, who invented ether railroad sleeping car.  During the construction of the Erie Canal, Pullman was employed as a house mover.

          U.S. 20, on the south end of town on the right (eastbound), is built on the beach ridge of the Lake Warren stage of ancestral Lake Erie.

474.5 Pass beneath Interstate 90, the New York State Thruway. North of the railroad (left if eastbound) is 355-acre Lake Erie State Park, which features boating, picnicking, snowmobiling, and tobogganing.

476    Cross Little Canadaway Creek.  The Portage Scarp is visible in the distance on the right (eastbound).

477.5 Approximately one mile west of the railroad is Van Buren Bay and Van Buren Point, on Lake Erie, named after President Martin Van Buren.

479   Cross Canadaway Creek.  Look for exposures of Upper Devonian shale along the stream.     

         Approximately 2 miles southeast is the City of Fredonia, home of the State University of New York (SUNY)-Fredonia.

481-482 Pass through Dunkirk, located on Lake Erie.  The community was founded in 1805 as Chadwick Bay.  In 1817, it was name Dunkirk after the city and harbor of Dunkerque in France.  Dunkirk is the home of the Dunkirk Historical Museum and Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse and Veteran’s Park Museum,.  The lighthouse was built in 1875.

484    Cross Scott Creek.  Upper Devonian shale is exposed along the creek bed.  Approximately 0.5 mile north of the railroad is the Dunkirk Conference Center, a Church camp.

485   Cross Beaver Creek.  Again, look for Upper Devonian shale along the creek bed through the trees.

         Approximately one mile south of the railroad (right if eastbound) is the Chautauqua County Dunkirk Airport.

490-491 Pass through Silver Creek, which was first settled in 1803, and incorporated in 1848.  The village is named after Silver Creek, which flows through it, and the creek was named after the “silver”-like appearance of its bottom.  Each September, Silver Creek hosts an annual Festival of Grapes, which was featured on a 2008 “Good Morning America” television show.  Silver Creek lies in an area known for the growing of Concord grapes, and is in the midst of New York State’s Wine Country.

          Silver Creek's best-known resident is Howard "Bob" Ehmke, the pitching hero of the 1929 World Series.  While playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, Ehmke struck out 13 Chicago Cubs in game one, a Series record until 1953.  Silver Creek is also the home of LPGA golfer Cindy Miller.

492    Hanford Bay of Lake Erie is visible on the left (eastbound).

493    Pass through Sunset Bay.

493.5 Cross Cattaraugus Creek and enter ERIE County.  Cattaraugus Creek here marks the pre-glacial course of the Allegheny River, which now begins several miles inland and flows into the Ohio River at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The creek here is cut into Upper Devonian-aged shale, primarily the Angola and Rhinestreet formations.

         Erie County was named after the Erie Indians and Lake Erie.  It was established in 1821 from Niagara County.  The county seat and largest city is Buffalo.

496    Pass through Farnham, which was named after landowner Leroy Farnham. The village was incorporated in 1892, and was developed around the then Lake Shore Railroad.

499    The town of Lake Erie Beach is located west of the railroad (left if eastbound), on Lake Erie.

500-501 Pass through Angola, named after the former Portuguese colony in Africa, likely by Quakers, who were the earliest settlers of this area and were supporting missionary efforts in the African colony.  Angola was originally known as Evans Station.  The village of Angola is located within the town (township) of Evans, named after David E. Evans, a nephew of prominent Holland Land Company agent Joseph Ellicott.  The village of Angola was incorporated in 1873.

          On December 18, 1867, the last coach of the Buffalo-bound New York Express, of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, derailed here.  It plunged off a truss bridge into Big Sister Creek just after passing Angola.  The next car was also pulled from the track and rolled down the far embankment.  Stoves set both coaches on fire.  49 people were killed, with an additional 40 being injured.

         Cross Big Sister Creek on the north side of Angola.

503.5 Cross Little Sister Creek.

504.5 Pass through Derby.  The shore of Lake Erie is a couple miles northwest of the railroad here, and is the location of many summer homes built by wealthy citizens of Buffalo after World War I.  One such home is known as “Graycliff,” and was built by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Darwin Martin family. Martin was an executive of Larkin Soap Company.

506.5 Cross Eighteenmile Creek.  In the bottom of the valley along the creek, exposures of Upper Devonian Genesee Group shale may be visible.  The Genesee Group is the oldest of the Upper Devonian shale formations we have been seeing across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.  Above the Genesee are younger Upper Devonian shale formations.

         On the right (eastbound) is the village of North Evans.

507.5 Pass through Lake View, which was settled in the mid-19th Century. In 1880, the historic Lake View Hotel was built here by Ebenezer Walden, a prominent attorney and Mayor of Buffalo, whose idea was to build a hotel for the numerous traveling salesmen (called “drummers”) who passed through in the late 19th Century.  In 1886, a summer resort community known as Idlewood was built near here.

509    On the left (eastbound) is the Lake Erie beachside community of Clifton Heights.

510-511 Pass through the lakeside community of Wanakah.  Its name is derived from an Indian word meaning “good land.”

511-512 As we pass through the villages of Mt. Vernon and Locksley Park, we are traversing geologically downward through a progressively older sequence of Devonian-aged formations, although the only places they are visible from the train is along the banks of some rivers and creeks.  The area we are traversing is becoming more urbanized as we approach the Buffalo Metropolitan area.

515    Pass through the city of Blasdell, named after Herman Blasdell, the first stationmaster for the Erie & Pennsylvania Railroad here.  It was incorporated as a village in 1898.  Blasdell was the home of wrestler Ilio De Paolo, whose family now operates an Italian restaurant here.  De Palo died in 1995.

         This is an urbanized industrial area; however, exposures of dark-colored shale and mudstone of the Middle Devonian-aged Skaneateles Formation might be visible in some of the pits and excavations in the area.  The Skaneateles Formation is a member of the Middle Devonian-aged Hamilton Group.

516-517 Pass through Lackawanna, which was named after the Lackawanna Steel Company.  The area was originally inhabited by the Seneca Indians, who sold the land in 1851, when a town called Seneca was established.  Lackawanna Steel was acquired by Bethlehem Steel in 1922, and the Lackawanna facility closed in 1982.  In time, a wind farm was developed on what was the former slag piles of Lackawanna Steel, and in 1988, the U.S. EPA declared the heavily contaminated Lackawanna Steel site a Superfund site.

          In 1971, the city of Lackawanna was the defendant in the District Court decision Kennedy-Park Homes Association v. City of Lackawanna.  This court decision forbade the municipal government (City of Lackawanna) from interfering with the construction of a low-income housing development in a predominantly white section of the city.  It was decided that such action would amount to racial discrimination.

         Notorious in the city, the Lackawanna Six (also known as the Buffalo Six) were a group of alleged Al-Qaida members who were convicted of providing "material support" to Al-Qaida.  The group was accused of traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the spring of 2001 to attend terrorist training camps.  However, they had claimed that their travel was to Pakistan only for the purpose of religious instruction.  The group was arrested in 2002 in Lackawanna

          Lackawanna is the home of actor Dick Shawn, known for his role in the 1963 comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  Lackawanna is also the home of Our Lady of Victory Basilica, the 2nd oldest basilica in the Nation, and the 1921 Italian Renaissance Church.

516.5 Cross Smoke Creek, and look for exposures of dark colored Skaneateles Formation along the river bank.

517.5 On the right (eastbound) is South Park, a part of Buffalo’s Cazenovia Park-South Park system.  The park includes a lake and golf course, and is also the home of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, which were built between 1894 and 1900.

519    The 264-acre Tifft Nature Preserve is visible beyond the railroad tracks on the left (eastbound).  The preserve contains nature trails, a wildflower garden, and a cattail marsh, along with exhibits of local wildlife.

520    Switch to the right (eastbound) and cross the Buffalo River.  We are now entering the Buffalo Metropolitan area.  The Buffalo River is a rather short tributary of Lake Erie, and served as the westernmost terminus of the Erie Canal in 1825.

522    On the left is the old Buffalo Union Station, once a glorious monument which served many trains each day, which is now in ruins.  The old train sheds are still here, but the current AMTRAK stop is 6 miles east of here.

          A commercial and industrial city, Buffalo his the second largest city in New York, after New York City.  Transportation is one of the city’s principal assets, as it has been throughout its history.  Situated on the Great Lakes, it is a major inland port with access to raw materials. notably grains from the Midwest; it also has a shipping outlet to the Atlantic Ocean through the Welland Ship Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway.  The western terminus of the New York State Canal system is located in Buffalo also.

         The region was explored by the French, but not settled until 1780, when the Seneca Indians established a village here.  The settlement was known as Buffalo Creek, named after a nearby stream.  The origin of the stream’s name may be a corruption of beau fleuve, French for “beautiful river,” or it may refer to the existence of bison in the area.  The community was laid out by the Holland Land Company in 1803, using Washington, D.C. as a model.

          In 1825, the Erie Canal was completed, which connected the Hudson River at New York City with Buffalo.  The canal made Buffalo a major distribution point between the eastern United States and the western frontier.  The city was incorporated in 1832.  The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 then enhanced Buffalo’s position as a major port on the Great Lakes.  At the same time, Buffalo’s importance as a rail center was diminishing, along with aging industrial facilities.  Buffalo’s economy stagnated during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, but then stabilized again in the 1990’s.  International trade  and high-tech manufacturing emerged as viable replacements for former heavy industries.

          In addition to State University of New York (SUNY)-Buffalo, Buffalo is also the home of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Museum of Science, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, and Naval and Military Park, on the shore of Lake Erie.

524    Pass through a large CSX rail yard.

525-526 Pass through the town of Cheektowaga, the second-largest suburb of Buffalo.  The name of the town is derived from an Iroquoian Indian word meaning “place of the crabapple,” in reference to the numerous hawthorn trees in the area which produce an apple-like fruit.  This area was originally an agricultural area, but became more industrialized after World War II, with the construction of a Westinghouse Electric plant and several other large complexes.

         0.5 mile north of the railroad is the Walden Galleria, the largest mall in the Buffalo area, which opened in 1989.  South of the railroad (right if eastbound), across the former Erie Lackawanna tracks, is a large quarry from which Middle Devonian-aged Onondaga Limestone is taken for building stone.

          Pass over the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90).

527.5 BUFFALO-DEPEW station, 55 Dick Road, Depew.  Elevation approximately 676.  AMTRAK’s primary Buffalo station is located here in the suburban community of Depew, 6 miles east of the downtown area (see MP 522 above for the entry for Buffalo).  The other AMTRAK Buffalo station is located downtown, and is only served by AMTRAK’s Maple Leaf between Toronto and New York City, and the Empire Service trains, which operate between New York City, Albany, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls.

               Depew is a village located partially in the town of Lancaster and partially in the town of Cheektowaga.  It was named after Chauncey Mitchell Depew, the President of the New York Central Railroad and later a U.S. Senator.  The village was incorporated in 1894. After the village was incorporated, it began as a hub of railroad-related industries.  The Gould Coupler Company, manufacturer of knuckle-type railroad car couplers, was located here.