Niagara Falls, NY (NFL)
Located adjacent to the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge connecting the United States and Canada, the new intermodal transportation center opened in late 2016. It incorporates an 1863 federal customs house and a new passenger building whose large windows allow natural light to flood the interior.
825 Depot Avenue West
Niagara Falls, NY 14305
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 29,647
- Facility Ownership: Forthcoming
- Parking Lot Ownership: Forthcoming
- Platform Ownership: Forthcoming
- Track Ownership: CSXT
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Amtrak began serving the new Niagara Falls Intermodal Transportation Center on December 6, 2016. The east-bound Maple Leaf (Toronto-Albany-New York) was the first train to stop at the new facility, which is adjacent to the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge that spans the Niagara River and links the United States and Canada. The new station, located north of downtown, replaced an older station in a rail yard on the city’s outskirts. Amtrak, local Metro buses, taxis and shuttles serve the intermodal transportation center.
The approximately $43 million, 46,000-square foot building is visually divided into three components: an historic federal customs house containing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection unit and the future Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center; an orange brick structure housing the Amtrak waiting room and concession spaces; and a glass-enclosed hyphen connecting the two, which includes a two-story lobby and sweeping staircase. A soaring clock tower on the eastern end of the property creates a landmark visible up and down Main Street.
Customers use a second floor waiting room lighted by three tall, wide arched windows that look out to the north. Natural light also filters down from clerestory windows high above the seating area. A durable terrazzo floor with a free-flowing design in white, blue, blue-grey and aqua adds a bit of playfulness to the space, while wood-toned tiles cover the Amtrak ticket office and select walls. Customers crossing the U.S. – Canada border on the Maple Leaf are processed in the station by the Customs and Border Protection Agency.
Built in 1863, the two and a half-story customs house is constructed of rustic, native Lewiston limestone. Nestled into the railroad embankment, the north and west ends open at street level while the second story on the south side opens onto the railroad. Between1908 and 1928, U.S. Customs relocated downtown and the building was used as a button factory. Then in 1928, the customs office returned and occupied the building until 1962 when the workers were transferred to Buffalo. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Following use as private offices, it was unoccupied at the time of its purchase by the city in 2003.
Federal, state and local funding for the Niagara Falls Intermodal Transportation Center was assembled over many years. Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Louise Slaughter helped identify federal grants, and in 2009, the New York State Department of Transportation applied for federal monies for the relocation project. Meanwhile, plans progressed beyond renovation of the customs house to look at building additional passenger facilities at the location.
On October 15, 2010, Representative Slaughter announced that the project had won a $16.5 million grant through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. By this point, the city had developed a three phase plan for building the intermodal center. Phase I, concluded in 2012, cost $2.7 million and included stabilization of the customs house; Phase II involved $6 million in upgrades to the railroad bridge over Main Street; and Phase III, which began in 2014 and cost approximately $25 million, encompassed construction of the new passenger buildings. The overall project also included upgrades to tracks and signals and installation of a dedicated passenger rail siding.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Niagara Falls was served by three passenger stations, two of which were downtown close to the falls and other popular attractions. The New York Central (NYC) station stood at Falls Avenue and 2nd Street, within sight of the falls, and the Erie Railroad station was a block away, at Niagara and 2nd streets (moved in 1901 to 4th Street). Close to the Suspension Bridge (later replaced by the current Whirlpool Rapids Bridge) on the northern edge of the city, the NYC also built a Union Station at Depot Avenue and 10th Street in 1887, within blocks of the customs house. In 1925, ten railroads used Union Station, including the Erie, Grand Trunk, NYC and Michigan Central.
The downtown NYC station, built in 1851, was rebuilt in the Italianate style after a disastrous 1888 fire and continued in service until March 23, 1961. It was demolished in 1964, and a large hotel center now stands on that site. The Erie Railroad passenger station was removed altogether in 1930, and the NYC station near the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge was torn down in 1964.
Passenger rail service to Niagara Falls was restored in October 1978 – 17 years after cessation of service – through financial support from the state. Amtrak initially served the city by the Niagara Rainbow (New York-Albany-Detroit) and the Empire State Express (New York-Albany-Niagara Falls). According to the November 1978 issue of Amtrak NEWS, the company’s employee magazine, more than 500 people turned out on October 29 for the inaugural ceremonies. They took place at the former Lehigh Valley Railroad freight building at Hyde Park Boulevard and Lockport Road, built in 1959 and refurbished for use as the Amtrak station.
The Niagara River, the region’s centerpiece, formed about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago as the glaciers melted and Lake Erie overflowed down the Niagara escarpment to what would become Lake Ontario, thus completing the Great Lakes’ connection to the Atlantic Ocean. American Indians began populating the area some 9,000 years ago. By the time French explorers Sieur de La Salle and Father Louis Hennepin visited the falls in 1666, the five tribes of the Iroquois Nation had already sustained a 500-year-old regional confederation; the Europeans’ arrival upset the balance therein.
The region was thereafter fraught with various conflicts through the early 19th century, culminating in the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States. The American assault on Canada came to a halt after the July 1814 Battle of Lundy’s Lane, one of the bloodiest engagements ever fought on Canadian soil. After a six hour battle, American forces retreated to Fort Erie and the War of 1812 ended shortly after.
The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 opened trade up in Buffalo, and this led to a boom in Niagara Falls’ milling and tourism industries. At Lockport, N.Y., the canal required a series of five locks in order to bypass the Niagara escarpment; even today, the falls can be circumnavigated by canal. However, the canal era, although profoundly important to connecting the Great Lakes to the eastern seaboard, was short-lived as railroads developed. By 1840, the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad had arrived in the Niagara area from Tonawanda. This stretch of track eventually came under control of the NYC, and is still in use today by CSX.
Prior to construction of the old Suspension Bridge across the Niagara Gorge, only ferries and other watercraft provided a connection between the American and Canadian shores. The brainchild of Canadian politician William Hamilton Merritt, the bridge was begun in 1848 by Charles Ellet, Jr., with the very first line across the chasm laid by means of a kite flown across the 800-foot gap. There were difficulties between Ellet and the bridge company, and after a three year hiatus, another accomplished bridge-builder, John Augustus Roebling, was hired to complete the Suspension Bridge.
The double-decked bridge opened for pedestrian and carriage travel on the lower level in 1854, and the first fully-laden passenger train crossed a year later. This span, which was the first suspension bridge to carry rail traffic, lasted until 1897, when it was replaced with the current steel arch Whirlpool Rapids Bridge. Today there are six bridges that cross the international border between the U.S. and Canada over the Niagara River, only two of which cross at Niagara Falls: the Rainbow Bridge, completed in 1941, and the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, which allows both rail and vehicular traffic.
The Suspension Bridge played a vital role in helping African Americans who had escaped enslavement in the U.S. reach lasting freedom in Canada. While neither subterranean nor a true railroad, the Underground Railroad provided a loosely connected escape route for enslaved persons making their way northward and across the Niagara River prior to the end of the Civil War in 1865. Abolitionist reformer Harriet Tubman was known for taking many such escapees to freedom across the foot path of the Suspension Bridge. The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area, which will have a visitors’ center in the Niagara Falls Intermodal Transportation Center, was created to explore and share this part of the region’s rich history.
Water diverted from the falls has provided hydraulic power for mills since 1759; the first sawmill above the falls used water that flowed through a canal from the river. In 1853, the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Mining Company was chartered to construct canals to channel water that would be used to generate electricity. The Niagara River’s first hydroelectric generating station was built in 1881 to power local mills and light some city streets.
Further expansion came with the Niagara Falls Power Company, backed by large investors such as John Jacob Astor, J.P. Morgan and William Vanderbilt, who wanted to use the power of the waters racing over the drop to generate electricity that could be distributed to customers as well as used on site. Thomas Edison’s direct-current transmission could not propagate farther than two miles; Westinghouse Electric, using Nikola Tesla’s research in alternating current (AC) power generation, won the competition. Westinghouse Electric was hired, and in 1894 the Niagara Falls Power Company Plant No. 1 went on line to distribute power as far away as Buffalo –and AC power was here to stay. Tesla’s contribution has been honored with a bronze statue on Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park, just above the falls; another lies across the border in Queen Victoria Park.
As industry began to establish itself in the region in the early 19th century, the falls suffered as eager industrialists built mills and factories along the river to harness its power. By the late 1860s, a group concerned about the preservation of the falls founded the Free Niagara movement, which held that the natural beauty of the land surrounding the falls should be protected from exploitation and free to the public. Members urged New York State to reclaim the falls and the surrounding area. The leader of the Free Niagara movement was America’s first landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, perhaps best known for designing Central Park in New York City.
After more than 15 years of lobbying the state, the Free Niagara crusaders won their battle. The Niagara Appropriations Bill was signed into law in 1885, creating the Niagara Reservation. Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the country, and it retains Olmsted’s vision by staying committed to maintaining native vegetation, unparalleled vistas and access to the general public – a fitting tribute to the man who believed that Niagara Falls belongs to all of us. The 400-acre park was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1963, and today it sees approximately four million visitors a year.
The city of Niagara Falls, created by combining the villages of Manchester and Suspension Bridge from Niagara Township, was chartered on St. Patrick’s Day of 1892. In 1927, the primarily industrial city – tourism was not a major economic factor on the American side until later – annexed the village of La Salle as well. Paper, rubber, plastics, petrochemicals and abrasives were among the major products of the region until the mid- and late 1960s when the industrial mainstays of the city departed. Two large power plants remain on the American side in Lewiston, which combine to produce 4.9 million kilowatts, enough to power 3.8 million homes –most of which are elsewhere.
With the departure of major industries, the city sought to reinvent itself in the middle of the 20th century. Urban renewal had torn up the city’s once-festive central Falls Street – a story common across the nation, where downtowns became ghost towns and then were unsuccessfully replaced rather than preserved. The region’s economic struggles have made the shift from industrial powerhouse to tourist mecca a long journey. Old Falls Street, a downtown revival effort begun in 2009, is anchored by the Seneca Niagara Casino, the Crowne Plaza Hotel Conference & Event Center and the Niagara Falls New York State Park.
Amtrak provides ticketing service, but not baggage service, at this station, which is served by six daily trains. Empire Service trains are supported by funds made available by the New York State Department of Transportation.
- 30 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 30 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Dedicated Accessible Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area