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Catt. Co. IDA’s shortline railroad seeks rehabilitation funds
Posted: Sunday, August 2, 2015 9:00 am
By RICK MILLER Olean Times Herald
GOWANDA — Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) officials and its shortline railroad operator will meet with a Buffalo engineering firm on Friday to discuss a tie replacement program application.
Corey Wiktor, IDA executive director, said he and Robert O. Dingman Jr., president of the New York & Lake Erie Railroad (NYLER), plan to meet with officials at C&S Engineering, Buffalo, to begin an application for state Department of Transportation rail funding. The application is due at the end of this month.
New York & Lake Erie Railroad has operated the the IDA’s shortline railroad in the northwestern part of the county since 1978. The replacement of aging railroad ties has been an ongoing project, Dingman said.
The IDA and Dingman had considered submitting for a consolidated funding application (CFA) to the state for a wider and more long-term project currently under review, but it was considered too complicated and the timing wasn’t right, Wiktor said.
Talks continue with the Erie County IDA and Chautauqua County IDA on future projects leading to a 75-mile regional rail corridor that could be utilized for passenger service.
“We’re going to be working to see if we can bring some state and federal money for the project,” Wiktor siad. “We’re working with Southern Tier West on this.”
He added the Erie County IDA owns the former South Buffalo Railway track that runs between Gowanda to Buffalo. Rail passenger service could run along Cattaraugus County IDA tracks in the Gowanda area to the South Buffalo Railway tracks that go north to Hamburg and Buffalo.
There is an 11-mile gap in the NY&LE rail system between
Cherry Creek and Waterboro, but Dingman insists the basic infrastructure is there. “It can be rebuilt,” Dingman said. That brings the railroad to the east-west track of the Southern Tier Extension Rail Authority leading into Jamestown which it leases to the Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad.
Dingman said that would provide service into Jamestown from Buffalo and Gowanda.
Dingman’s NYLER has experience in running passenger trains on short hops from Gowanda to South Dayton. “Typically, they were sold out,” he said. The railroad continues to run a few Christmas trains. They also ran popular mystery trains which included catered dinners.
Two years ago, Dingman ran a train between Gowanda and South Dayton to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The Natural.”
Besides the tourism angle, the three county IDAs are also looking at things they can do to make the rail corridor more attractive to businesses which need rail access.
“Bringing rail passengers to and from Canalside in Buffalo” would also be a tourist draw, Wiktor said. “Hopefully, it garners some attention from the state,” Wiktor said. “Everyone would like to see something like this occur.”
Part of the reason for the interest by Chautauqua County officials is the newly renovated downtown railroad depot. They would like to stage rail excursions from the restored depot.
“The railroad is like water,” Wiktor said. “People are drawn to it.”
Dingman said most of the business has left the Cattaraugus County IDA’s rail line with the exception of Cherry Creek Woodcrafters. “Tourism is the only game (left) in town,” he added.