Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Niagara Falls Then and Now: the Michigan Central Railroad station (Part 15)

The Michigan Central Railroad station in Niagara Falls, Ontario, was located on the south-east corner of Queen St. and Erie Ave.

Click on photos to enlarge!

Below: Oct. 1975 - looking (from the upper window of the old Customs and Post office building, see Niagara Falls, Then and Now: The old Post Office) in a south-westerly direction along the former Michigan Central tracks in Niagara Falls, Ont.
At the far-left of below photo is the King Edward Hotel (demolished 1991); then looking right, next can be seen two tracks (this was the double-tracked MCR mainline); and next, to the right of the tracks, is seen a parking lot: this is where the Michigan Central passenger station (demolished in 1941) once stood. The brown-bricked building in the centre-distance is the current Niagara Falls City Hall.
The hulking structure at the centre right is the rear of Rosbergs Department store. (Rosbergs suffered a catastrophic fire in Oct.2009, and was slowly demolished. As of Jan. 2010, the ruins of the Rosbergs store still stood, fenced off)
In the far distance can be seen three towers: at the left is the Oneida (later Kodak later Casino Niagara) tower; in the centre is the Seagram (later Minolta later Konica) tower; at the right is the Skylon tower.
The tracks (seen leading off to the bottom left) are heading to the United States, crossing the nearby MC bridge over the Niagara River Gorge.
At the lower-right is seen the side of a building (which fronted onto onto the south-side of Park St.) which was once St. Jude's homeless shelter, demolished in May 1976 - see also Niagara Falls Then and Now: Buildings lost, buildings found; part one
above: Sept. 1975 - looking again from the old Customs building at the Michigan Central tracks in the centre, where the tracks cross a bridge over Zimmerman Ave. The King Edward Hotel is seen at the upper rear, facing Queen St. At the bottom left is the roof of a building which once stood on the south east corner of Park St. and Zimmerman Ave.; this building, with its distinctive rounded parapet, once housed the offices of the Niagara Record newspaper; see also: Niagara Falls, Then and Now: the Eastland shed
(note: the dates of these two above Niagara Falls Library archive photos is given as Sept. 75 for the above photo, and Oct. 75 for the previous photo - but I believe these photos were actually taken on the same day, within seconds of each other: if you look closely at the cars parked in the parking lot across from the King Edward hotel, it can be seen that the same cars are in the same place in both photos - and you can see that the blue car in the "Sept. 75" shot is seen just leaving/arriving; the same blue car is seen already parked in the earlier "Oct. 75" shot. Also in both shots, the same cars are parked on Queen St., directly in front of the King Edward hotel. Seeing the yellowing tree leaves makes me guess that both of these two photos were actually taken on the same day in late October of 1975)
Below: This shot - dated also Oct.1975 - is the opposite view of the photo seen at the top of this post: in this case, the photographer is standing in (or on the roof of) the Niagara Falls City Hall, and looking along the MC tracks, in a north-easterly direction, back towards the old Customs and Post Office Building - the roof of which is just barely visible (at the upper left) behind the Rosbergs store, at the centre left. The south-west corner of the King Edward Hotel is seen at the right, just beside the tracks! The Michigan Central tracks can be seen curving up to the top of the photos, heading north-east, almost immediately about to cross the MC bridge over the Niagara River. The Michigan Central station had stood in the middle of where the parking lot is now seen.
Below: ca.1915, a steam locomotive with passenger cars is heading south into the Michigan Central station after having just crossed the bridge over the Niagara River from the States. In the centre distance is seen the Federal Customs building, which is at the north-east corner of Zimmerman Ave. and Park St.
At the left side of the below photo is seen another track {which had been shown on local maps in 1894 and 1899 at the 'Mary Ann track'; why it was called this, I'm still trying to find out} with freight cars on it: this is the track that wyed off the mainline, and ran towards Bridge St., passing immediately behind what we would know in the future as the back (east) wall of the (the not yet built) Rosbergs. The grass seen at the bottom left is part of the Michigan Central station's lawn, which faced Queen St. This train is in fact shown with the engine having just crossed Queen St.; on the north side of Queen St. (at the left by the freight cars) a lady with a baby carriage is seen, waiting for the train to pass.
At the centre (seen below the Customs building) are the backs of several buildings which faced onto the south-side of Park St.
In a local 1899 map, the shed seen in centre distance (situated between the MCR mainline on the right, and the Mary Ann track on the left) was on land that may have been owned or leased by a W.E, Thomas. At the far upper right is seen a bit of the corner of the building which later became the King Edward Hotel.
Note that there were two MCR tracks that led to the bridge over the Niagara River - the locomotive is seen on the west-side track; and there appears to be another train using the east-side track, most likely on its way to the States.
above: exact same view, Feb.8, 2009. The old Federal Customs building is still seen, in the centre behind the trees. The abandoned two-track Michigan Central right-of-way leading to the rail bridge can clearly be seen curving north-east in the upper-centre-right of photo. This is where the locomotive seen previously had just arrived from, crossing Queen St., which is in the foreground. The south-side of Rosbergs (at the left) runs along Queen St.; the back (east) wall of Rosberg's shows where the 'Mary Ann ' wye (seen in the 1915 photo with the freight cars) once ran. The snow fence is about where the old train station's lawn was. The buildings seen earlier, which faced the south side of Park St. are now all demolished; the buildings now seen in the centre left distance are facing the north-side of Park St. The King Edward Hotel had stood in the area at the far right of photo, just east of where the tracks once crossed Queen St.
Below: Aug. 1936 - this view is of the south-west side (rear) of the station (in other words, we are looking north-east, towards Queen St.) The car seen at bottom left sits facing north on Erie Ave.; above the car can be seen the Queen St.-side wall of the Rosbergs building. At the right (to the east) is seen the King Edward Hotel (the building was formerly the Van Gol hat factory)

In between these two buildings can be seen telegraph poles which show where the double-tracked MCR main line tracks were. The tracks curved off to the north-east, crossing Queen St. at a level crossing just to the rear of Rosbergs, then passing over Zimmerman Ave. by bridge, then passing over Park St. by bridge, then passing over Cataract Ave. by bridge, then crossing over River Rd. by bridge - at which point this bridge continued to cross the Niagara River gorge into the United States.

This series of bridges all occur within several hundred feet of the station to the north-east; in fact today one can still walk along the abandoned right-of-way from where the station once stood, over these rusting bridges, and right up to the border security barrier at the abandoned bridge over the Niagara River, within several minutes.

Below (just to the right of the car) can also be seen another set of tracks on the left (west) side of the station. The two sets of tracks merged just south of the station (immediately north of Huron St.) to the right of where the photo was taken.

In other words, when approaching the station from the south, the tracks split just before the station, the main line tracks on the east side (right-hand side on photo below) of the station headed to the bridge for the U.S.; the track passing on the west side of the station shortly joined up with the CN (formerly Great Western Railroad, which in 1884 become the Grand Trunk, then in 1923, the Canadian National) tracks which were on the north side of Bridge St. To get there, this track also crossed Queen St. at a level crossing; headed onto Erie Ave. (in front (west-side) of Rosbergs), went along Erie Ave., and veered off to the left (west) immediately after passing the rear of the building on the north-west corner of Queen St. and Erie Ave. After meandering west along Park St., and then crossing the intersection of Bridge St. and Victoria Ave. in a north-westerly direction this track joined up with the CN tracks. (click here for map of area) Note Rosbergs department store in the far left distance; at this time its south wall (which faced along Queen St.) was two stories tall, and what I believe was the elevator shaft is seen higher up.

above: the same view as seen Jan.6, 2009. The former Rosbergs building (the side of which was seen in the 1936 photo above, and now three stories tall) is in the left-centre distance; the site where the Michigan Central Railroad station once stood (in the centre-right area, behind the tree row) is now a parking lot.

The King Edward Hotel, which, as seen in the previous shot, had been at the far right, is now gone; as are all the tracks on both sides of the site. An old ribbon of the concrete train platform can still be seen today (in the snow just to the right of the tree row). The red-brick CN train station on Bridge St. can be clearly seen in the far left distance at the end of Erie Ave., showing how close the two railroad stations had once been; just two blocks apart.
above: as seen in the summer of 2009 - a closer view of the remnants of the old Michigan Central station's curving railway platform, looking north towards Rosbergs (before the fire). This is the curved platform which ran along the west side of the station, the actual tracks were to the left of the platform. (Another curved platform ran along the east side of the station, and the station itself was located in the triangular lot between them.) Just behind where the photographer was standing, the tracks had once split; the ones on the west side of the station continued across Queen St. past the front of Rosbergs) heading north-west: along Erie, then along Park, crossing Bridge St. at Victoria Ave.
The tracks along the east side of the station (which headed past the rear of Rosbergs) headed north-east, quickly reaching the MC railroad bridge over the Niagara River to the States. (..and that 'Mary Ann' track branched off here as well, which went almost directly behind the rear of Rosbergs) The area where these concrete platforms are is still seen with plenty of the old rock ballast laying on the site where the tracks once were.
above: Oct.7, 2009 - same view, the same old platform remnants are in the bottom foreground; in the rear, the skeletal remains of the Rosbergs building are seen in ruins after a massive fire which destroyed the structure on Oct.4, 2009.

above: Nov.25, 2009 - same view as above, of where the Michigan Central station once stood, the remnants of the former track and platform area has now been covered over to create a walking path. At the far right distance can be seen the old federal Customs and Post Office.
above: Dec.4, 2009 - same view, pathway now paved. The fenced-in remains of the burned-out Rosbergs building are seen in the centre-left distance. The demolition of the Rosbergs building was halted due to asbestos concerns, which were only made known weeks after the fire, after the work of the Fire Marshall was completed. (In the fall of 2012, a playground was built on the parking lot seen in the upper-centre, facing Queen St.)
below: a view of the Niagara Falls, Ontario, Michigan Central Railroad station, looking in a south-westerly direction at the north-face of the station. Queen St. is at the front where the cars are; Erie Ave. would be crossing to the right. This station, called the Clifton Depot, was opened in Jan. 1884 (to coincide with the Dec.1883 completion of the first Michigan Central railway bridge - aka the Cantilever Bridge - over the Niagara River) and was demolished in 1941.
At the far right corner (to the west) is seen the east wall of the Niagara Falls City Hall .

above: exact same view, Jan.6, 2009 - still looking along Queen St. towards the south-east corner of Queen St. and Erie Ave.; the Michigan Central train station had once stood where the parking lot is now seen in the centre-left foreground. (In the fall of 2012, a playground was built here).
At the far right can be seen a 'newer' Niagara Falls City Hall (with the red brick); this is the same building seen previously above, but which was re-built/renovated in 1954 (and is now itself vacant!) still standing on the south-west corner of Queen St. and Erie Ave. The current City Hall now stands to the rear of the older, closed one: it is the the dark brown brick building seen in the left distance.
below: May 1939 - this view is of the north-face of the old Niagara Falls City Hall (which was located facing Queen St. on the south-west corner of Queen St. and Erie Ave.) This view is looking in a south-easterly direction, and in the background at the left can plainly be seen the west-side wall of the Michigan Central Railroad station.
above: Feb.2, 2009 - same view of the same Niagara Falls City Hall building, which was substantially 'modernized' in 1954, but is now closed, still standing at the south-west corner of Erie Ave. and Queen St. Towards the left, across Erie Ave., was where the Michigan Central station, as seen previously, once stood. The building's clock seen at the right has been at 9:08 for years.
below: this photo is looking eastward down Queen St. towards River Rd. and the Niagara River gorge; it was taken on the south side of Queen St., standing just west of the Michigan Central railroad tracks (note: two sets of mainline tracks) as they crossed Queen St. - towards the left, the tracks were headed to the bridge over the Niagara river to the U.S.; to the right, they were about to enter the site where the Michigan Central station had once stood.
This shot below was taken in May 1987; the former Niagara Falls Michigan Central station (demolished in 1941) had once stood just behind where the photographer was standing.
Seen at the right is the King Edward Hotel (demolished 1991).
above photo from the NFLA
above: same view, taken twenty-one years later in May 2008, by R. Bobak. The right-of-way where the double-tracks once ran across Queen St. can be clearly seen where the asphalt strip crosses the sidewalk. The King Edward Hotel is gone, as are the railroad crossing signals. I'll bet the tree (on the south side of Queen St., east of the tracks) seen at the right, behind the utility post, in both shots, is the same tree - as is the tree on the opposite side, just to the left of the lamp post in both shots. Also seen in both shots, at the left centre, (north side of Queen St., east of the tracks) is the ornamental cement wall. The streetlight standard (the one with the yellow banners in the 1987 photo) is still in the exact same place in the 2009 photo. Of course, the two railway safety crossing arms were removed.
below: Jan.6, 2009 - this view looks north across Queen St. at what once was the mainline Michigan Central right-of-way as it headed in a north-east curve to the bridge crossing the Niagara River. The rear of Rosbergs building is just out of view to the left. In the distance at the right is the old federal Customs and Post Office building (on the north-east corner of Zimmerman Ave. and Park St.). The tracks passed this building to the right (east) and soon were crossing the Niagara River bridge to the States.

above: this view looks northward along Erie Ave. at the intersection of Queen St. showing where the Michigan Central tracks (the ones which had passed the station on the west side) crossed the intersection. The curve of the right of way heading left (north-west) can be seen in the asphalt. The rear of the building at the left (north-west corner; former Hamilton Bank building) was angled inward to accomodate the curve of the tracks, as was the front corner of the Rosbergs building on the right (on the north-east corner) The CN station is in the far distance.
above: this snowy view looks directly south from where the Michigan Central station had stood; this vacant area is where the tracks merged (or split, depending which way you were going!) The main line travelled to the bottom left, going north-east (to the bridge); the other track went to the bottom right, north-west (in front of Rosbergs, onto Erie Ave.).
Into the distance, looking southward, the Michigan Central went along a right-of-way through a residential area along the east side of Palmer Ave., crossing a bridge (now-demolished) over highway 420, then continued along the east side of Victoria Ave., right through the center of the tourist district at Clifton Hill, then before Magdalen St., it veered off south on its way past the Falls at Inspiration Point, where, just in front of the Mount Carmel Centre, the line split into two - a line heading for Buffalo and another towards Welland.
below: Looking along Victoria Ave. towards the intersection with Clifton Hill. Here once stood the Michigan Central's Victoria Park railway station! Note Skylon Tower in the distance. The Michigan Central tracks ran in the right of way (at the left) between the road and the building. Photo by R. Bobak, Jan.4, 2009.

above: same view, at the intersection of Victoria Ave. and Clifton Hill. Note the Skylon and the same mansard tower (next door to the east, not part of the station) are seen in both above shots. This was known as the Victoria Park station of the Michigan Central railroad. It was originally built in the mid-1880's and served as a train station into the mid-1950's, after which it was converted to a tourist souvenir store. There was a double track right of way here. This station burned down I believe in the 1960's. During WW II Winston Churchill arrived at this station when he visited Niagara Falls in 1943:above: Aug.12, 1943 - Winston Churchill, at right, with his daughter Mary, centre, and at left, M.T. Gray, General Manager of the Niagara Parks Commission, in Queen Victoria Park. Note Mounties in the background. Photo must be looking north, probably by Table Rock, as the hill is at the left.
above: a view of the original, now-abandoned Niagara Central Railway right of way, where the rails once crossed Garner Rd; seen here, the line at this point ran east-west, parallel to, and several hundred feet south of, Thorold Stone Rd., between Niagara Falls and Thorold. This railway, incorporated in 1881 (with the never-fulfilled high hopes of running a line from Niagara Falls to Hamilton) was a steam line by 1887; in 1899 it was amalgamated into the Niagara, St.Catharines & Toronto system and was electrified; this became known as the NS&T "Main Line" route which interurban streetcars took from Niagara Falls through Thorold and then to St.Catharines. In Niagara Falls, this line ended at Bridge St. and River Rd., near the Whirlpool Bridge; in St.Catharines its terminal ended at a station on the north west corner of St.Paul St. and James St.

The old photos in this study are from the Niagara Falls Library Archives, the recent photos are by R. Bobak.
See my first post in this Niagara Falls Then and Now series at Part ONE.
See my previous post in this series at Part 14.
Thanks for visiting Right in Niagara!

1 comment:

MikeArm said...

Just for the record - before it was Rosberg's it was the Armstrong Hotel. My relatives sold it to Jacob Rosberg circa 1919.

Mike Armstrong
Arva, Ontario