According to Ken Springirth, no other form of transportation has affected the shape of Jamestown as much as railroads.
Springirth, who is the author of 18 railroad and trolley books, recently spoke about the Erie Lackawanna Railroad to members of the Independent Railroaders. More specifically, he spoke about the impact that the railroad has had on Jamestown, as well as how it could potentially affect the city's future.
"The line through Jamestown isn't used that much, but it is still an extraordinarily important line," said Springirth. "You have to look at the future - we're going to add about 100 million people in the next 30 years in this country. The demand for the movement of goods and people will come. That underutilized railroad is really a key for Jamestown - you're lucky to have that. Hundreds of communities in northwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio, don't have the luxury that you have. They've lost their rails. Jamestown is lucky from that standpoint. It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of perseverance, but your city is lucky, because that railroad is going to pay dividends in the future."
Ken Springirth holds one of his books about trolleys and railroads during a recent discussion.
P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb
Springirth went on to applaud the renovation of the train station on Second Street. He believes that the city and Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation's efforts to bring the station back to how it looked during its prime has secured the potential for the return of rail travel to Jamestown.
"Unfortunately if you go west of Pennsylvania and Ohio, so many rails have been abandoned," Springirth said. "The line that is attached to the renovated station is so important because there are only two east-west rail corridors left in New York, and that is one of them. You're very fortunate that that rail line has survived."
Springirth also spoke about the rich trolley history Jamestown once had. According to Springirth, Jamestown was one of the first major cities in the area to employ electric trolleys as a method of public transportation.
"Jamestown began its trolley service in June of 1891," Springirth said. "Unfortunately, the last trolley that ran on the city system was in 1938. However, there was the Jamestown-Westfield trolley which survived until 1947. Until that point, the city had very convenient trolley service from Jamestown on the eastern side of Chautauqua Lake to Westfield. Once in Westfield, you could access the New York Central Railroad in Westfield, which allowed transportation to a large portion of the Northeastern United States."
Springirth said a person could travel from New York City on trolley all the way to Chicago with the exception of a 15 mile gap in Fonda, N.Y.
"Railroads were a very special entity in this country, and trolleys fed traffic to the railroads," said Springirth. "There was a bit of problems between trolley companies and rail companies, but by the end of it, it became obvious that trolleys were very important for bringing people to the railroads."
Springirth went so far as to say that no other form of transportation in the country has helped to shape the Jamestown area as much as the railroad has.
"The railroads put this area on the map," Springirth said. "There were thousands of people working on the railroad and thousands and thousands of more people working on infrastructure because of those railroads. I truly believe our new future depends on those underutilized railroads that were once so important."
Springirth concluded by emphasizing how special the railroads of America still are, even though they are scarcely used.
"The guys and gals who operate the railroads are very important," said Springirth. "Railroads are still very special, and I think we're going to realize that we need to bring them back. We need to have a more balanced approach to transportation, and I think that railroads are the key to making that happen."