The Erie Railroad was chartered in April 1832 from the banks of the Hudson River to the shores of Lake Erie as the New York and Erie Railroad, with the restriction that it could not enter any other state or connect with railroads from other states. This line was completed in 1851 between Piermont and Dunkirk via Little Valley, Cattaraugus and Dayton. The route of the line through Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties was subject to much debate and lobbying and is an interesting story in its own right.

A ticket from the first train to Dunkirk in May 1851

At Salamanca, the railroad connected with the Atlantic & Great Western Railway, another broad-gauge line. The Erie had a complicated relationship with the A&GW. The Erie first leased the A&GW in December 1968, forced the A&GW into receivership, leased it again in March 1870 until the A&GW was foreclosed in 1871, in 1874 the Erie again leased the A&GW, but later canceled it. The A&GW was sold at foreclosure and reorganized as the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad, or Nypano. In 1883 the Erie leased the Nypano and on February 24, 1896 purchased the entire capital stock of the company. In 1941 the property of the Nypano Railroad Company was conveyed to the Erie. The A&GW/Nypano was the Erie's link to the west and the cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati and Chicago.

Realizing that it may have made a mistake in placing its Lake Erie terminus at Dunkirk instead of Buffalo, the Erie began reached Buffalo in 1863 by leasing the Buffalo, New York and Erie Railroad Company for 450 years. The Erie reached Buffalo from the south via the Buffalo & Southwestern Railroad from Jamestown to Buffalo in 1872. This line connected with the main line at Dayton, NY.

In 1905 the Erie chartered the Columbus & Erie Railroad to build a low-grade line between Niobe, NY and Columbus, PA.

The Erie went through a number of name changes in its history. As noted above, the company was chartered in 1831 as the New York and Erie Railroad. In 1861 it changed its name to the Erie Railway when it completed its line to Dunkirk. On April 24, 1875 the bankrupt Erie Railway was sold for six million dollars and the entire property was transferred to the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railway. In May 1893 the NYLE&W went into bankruptcy again and was reorganized in 1895 as the Erie Railroad Company.

The Erie was built as a broad-gauge line, having 6 feet between the rail as opposed to the standard 4 feet 8 1/2 inches. This enabled the Erie to carry wider and larger items than it's standard-gauge competitors, but made it difficult to interchange with them. In 1880 the entire mainline of the Erie was converted to standard-gauge in a single day. For a description of the event, read an article on it in the Newspaper Articles section of this site.

On October 12, 1955, the Erie had a large derailment on a bridge in Gowanda, NY. I have stories and photos of the wreck.

Like most railroads, the Erie offered passes for free passage over the line. Here is a collection of Erie Railroad passes from 1869 to 1935.

The following table lists the opening dates of the New York & Erie Railroad in New York State. It is from the Annual Report of the New York State Railroad Commissioners, September  30, 1855 and was compiled by Richard Palmer.




Piermont - Goshen 44 September 22, 1841
Goshen  - Middletown 7 June 7, 1843
Middletown - Otisville 8 November 3, 1846
Otisville - Port Jervis 13 January 6, 1848
Port Jervis - Binghamton 127 December 28, 1848
Binghamton - Owego 22 June 1, 1849
Owego - Elmira 36 October 2, 1849
Elmira - Corning 18 January 1, 1850
Corning - Hornellsville 41 September 1, 1850
Hornellsville - Dunkirk 127 May 15, 1851

Newburgh Branch




Chester - Newburgh 18 January 8, 1850

Hornellsville Division




Hornellsville - Portageville
30 January 22, 1852
Attica - Hornellsville 60 May 3, 1852

Buffalo, New York & Erie  (controlled by the Erie)
(formerly Buffalo, Corning & N.Y.)




Painted Post - Kennedyville (Kanona) 22 April 15, 1852
Kennedyville - Avoca 3 May 1, 1852
Avoca - Liberty 7 May 31, 1852
Liberty - Bloods 4 July 1, 1852
Bloods - Wayland 6 August 2, 1852
Wayland - Batavia 54 March 1, 1854
Avon - Rochester 18 October 2, 1854

Major WNY Facilities

Lines and Stations

Annual Reports




Newspaper Articles

Other References



  • Carleton, Paul. 1988. The Erie Railroad Story.
    Comments: This focuses mainly on Erie locomotives.
  • Hungerford, Edward. 1949. Men of Erie. New York, NY: Random House
    Comments: A very good history of the Erie Railroad.
  • Kilmer, Lawrence. date unknown. Erie Railroad Bradford Branch. Olean, NY: Lawrence J. Kilmer.
    Comments: History of the Erie coal lines in Western Pennsylvania and Western New York.
  • Westing, Frederick. 1970. Erie Power. Medina, OH: Alvin F. Staufer.
    Comments: A great book on Erie locomotives.