Named after a prominent figure with the New York Central Railroad, Depew became a center for railroad-related industries in the late 19th century.
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2023): 102,050
- Facility Ownership: State of New York
- Parking Lot Ownership: State of New York
- Platform Ownership: CSX Transportation
- Track Ownership: CSX Transportation
Amtrak passengers in the Buffalo area can use either the Buffalo Exchange Street station or the Buffalo-Depew station to travel to New York City, Albany or Canada, but passengers wishing to head west to Chicago along the south shore of Lake Erie must use the Buffalo-Depew stop to meet the Lake Shore Limited. The Buffalo-Depew station is located about 10 miles east of downtown Buffalo on the edge of Depew, a village which straddles the border between the towns of Lancaster and Cheektowaga.
The State of New York constructed the current station in 1980 using funds made available under the state’s Rail Preservation Bond Act of 1974. A year earlier, on October 28, 1979, Amtrak transferred service to this location from Buffalo Central Terminal due to the high cost of operating the older facility. Passenger functions were housed in a trailer until the new building was finished.
Typical of the depots built during Amtrak’s first decade of service, the one story structure is composed of variegated buff brick with a prominent cantilevered flat roof of black metal; the deep eaves provide protection from the inclement weather, especially the area’s famous lake-effect snows. The waiting room is lighted by sun which streams through windows that stretch from the ceiling almost to the floor. A broad grassy lawn buffers the building from the tracks, and a long canopy leads from the entrance and stretches out along the platform to shelter travelers as they arrive and depart. Buff brick also forms the interior walls, and the floors are paved in a glazed deep-brown brick that grounds the space. Ample seating is available as are vending machines and other concessions.
Through a $770,000 federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant awarded to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), work wrapped up in fall 2012 on state-of-good repair and ADA accessibility projects at the Buffalo-Depew station. Improvements to the depot included installation of new lighting, entrance and exit doors, ticket counter and a roof, as well as renovations to the restrooms. In the parking lot, new paving, lighting and additional accessible parking stalls were added.
On September 23, 2014, representatives of the NYSDOT and Amtrak joined members of the Empire State Passengers Association (ESPA) and the Western New York Railway Historical Society (WNYRHS) to dedicate the bison statue on the lawn in front of the depot. It recalls two similar pieces, known to generations of train travelers, that once occupied prominent spots inside Buffalo Central Terminal. The original statue, made of papier-mâché and covered in an actual bison hide, was placed at the terminal in the 1930s by the Buffalo Museum of Science to advertise its collections. Soldiers heading to the front during World War II rubbed the statue for good luck, which wore down the fur. As a result, the statue returned to the museum in 1945 and was replaced by a plaster copy. Unfortunately, this second version was accidentally destroyed after 1979.
The ESPA, which works with various stakeholders to advocate for rail transportation in New York, and the WNYRHS, whose goal is to preserve railroad heritage and history in the western part of the state, led the fundraising effort to create the new fiberglass statue and have it installed in front of the Buffalo-Depew station. Together, they raised approximately $3,500 dollars over seven months. To prepare for the statue, Amtrak and the NYSDOT poured the concrete pad upon which it stands.
Although the village of Depew was not officially founded until 1894, the area had long been known to American Indian groups and was populated by European-American pioneers in the late 18th century. Much of the settlement was encouraged by the Holland Land Company, a land syndicate owned by Amsterdam-based Dutch investors. As foreigners, the Dutch businessmen could not directly own the land, so funds were placed in the hands of American trustees who then purchased the land—3.2 million acres west of the Genesee River. The Dutch investors hoped to quickly sell the land and make a profit, but lacking any basic infrastructure such as roads or even accurate surveys, progress was slow. In 1798, the Holland Land Company hired famed surveyors Joseph and Benjamin Ellicott—Joseph Ellicott had surveyed the District of Columbia and the City of Erie, Pennsylvania—to map out the tract, a process which took three years. Disposing of the land took the company another half a century.
Land in the Depew area was first purchased from the Holland Land Company by Alanson Eggleston in 1803; settlement started soon thereafter. Appolos Hitchcock, who acted as a liaison between the land company and the local American Indian groups, chose to settle on a site along Cayuga Creek. According to local historians, Hitchcock encouraged German settlers to come to the area by clearing a parcel to make it suitable for agriculture. Early activity was concentrated in wood harvesting, milling, farming, and dairy production. With the completion of the Erie Canal to the north in the late 1820s and the continued growth of the port at Buffalo, farmers in the state’s interior gained improved access to markets, particularly on the populous East Coast. Railroads came through the area in the 1850s as Buffalo developed into a major rail center between New York City and Chicago.
By the end of last decade of the 19th century, four rail lines passed through Depew, all within close proximity of one another—a factor that would heavily influence the village’s prospects for growth. The lines passing through the area included the New York Central, Lehigh Valley, Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, and the Erie Railroads. Each of these lines had their own depots.
In 1893 the town’s future was decided by one man: Chauncey Depew, after whom the town was eventually named. Depew had spent 30 years in the railroad industry, and had served as General Counsel, President, and Chairman of the New York Central (NYC) system. Located near Buffalo but far enough outside of the city to allow for expansion, Depew thought that the small village had great potential as a railroad-related manufacturing center. Depew and colleagues formed an investment company and purchased 1,000 acres on both side of the tracks. Depew quickly built car and engine construction shops for the NYC, and other businesses such as the National Car Wheel Works, the Gould Coupler Works, and the Union Car Company followed suit.
Within ten years, the NYC shops employed more than 1,000 laborers, and another 1,000 people worked in the other factories; many of the workers commuted from Buffalo. Apart from the NYC shops, Gould Coupler was the town’s major employer. The company made iron and steel truck frames, bolsters and other items for the coupling and undercarriages of rail cars. The plant specifically produced Janney couplers which had been patented by Eli Janney in 1873. Janney’s knuckle style couplers automatically interlocked and were an efficient improvement over the older “link and pin” coupler that required a railworker to insert a pin to hold the link in place.
The Gould Plant was the site of a long and violent strike by unionized workers in winter and spring of 1914. In January new management had lengthened the workday and eliminated a morning break and other benefits. A month later, almost 1,000 workers went on strike and the company responded by hiring strikebreakers, most of whom commuted to the plant from Buffalo. Toward the end of March, the strikers blocked the tracks and ambushed the train bringing in the replacement workers. A gunfight between the protestors and the guards on the train left one man dead. Soldiers of the 74th Regiment were called in and by April the activity had dissipated, but in the end most of the strikers lost their jobs and moved out of town in search of new work.
The owners of the industrial enterprises also constructed worker housing and the Depew Improvement Company donated land for churches, schools, a firehouse, and a park. While not on the scale of famous company towns such as Pullman in Illinois, Depew’s residents were certainly dependent on the railroads for their livelihoods.
An early birds eye image of the village shows the rail lines stretching into the distance passing through farmland, with Buffalo on the edge of the horizon. In the foreground, the factories straddle the tracks and handsome, uniform houses snuggle up against the plants. Pretty trees and clean streets complete the picture of a perfect town, while platted, empty blocks bounded by macadamized streets extend across former farmland—growth and prosperity seem to be destined.
Chauncey Depew never lived in the area. From 1899-1911, he served in the U.S. Senate and then settled into retirement. When he died in 1928 at age 93, the concourse of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal was draped in mourning. His second wife continued to live in Washington, D.C., after his death. Her mansion, located on the city’s “Embassy Row” between Dupont and Sheridan Circles, was purchased by the Republic of India in 1946 and is still used as the nation’s embassy.
Surviving various mergers and reorganizations, the former Gould Company complex shut down in 1986, long after the other founding industries had closed. Today Depew is a quiet suburb of Buffalo, but it retains many of the institutional buildings dating to its early years as a “model town.” Visitors to the 1939 post office are often delighted by the mural placed over the former postmaster’s office. Many art pieces were installed in post offices throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and they often celebrated local life and traditions.
The Depew mural, titled “Beginning of the Day,” is an oil-on-canvas work by Anne Poor who gained recognition during World War II for her depictions of military life. The Depew work transitions from the domestic to the industrial. The right side shows the mailman delivering letters while chatting with a young boy and his mother on their stoop; the milkman stands beside him, a refreshing bottle of fresh milk in his left hand. The yard dissolves into the factory where workers discuss a project and draw out ideas on a pad of paper. In the background others pour hot, molten steel into molds. Perhaps they are making couplers, as one sits in the bottom corner of the painting.
Rail buffs also know that Depew is part of American rail history. In May 1893, the NYC’s Empire State Express 999 steam locomotive reached a top speed of 112.5 miles on a three mile section of track between Depew and Forks—which it covered in 32 seconds. The run made the 999 the fastest locomotive of its time and set a new land speed record which it held for a decade. Due to its fame, the locomotive was sent across the country and was displayed later that year at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1952, it was retired from service and is now part of the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Empire Service trains are supported by funds made available by the New York State Department of Transportation.
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- No Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- No payphones
- No accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift