Although a train has not stopped in more than 40 years, sounds of a whistle filled the air as a steam engine slowly rolled into the Erie-Lackawanna Train Station before coming to a halt.
Hundreds of area residents filled West Second Street on Friday morning, for a grand re-opening nearly 15 years in the making. State and local officials gathered for a ribbon cutting and dedication for the historic train station.
"The level of pride that we saw today, with the opening of the building, even in its limited fashion, is only going to grow in the future as the wings (of the building) develop," said Mayor Sam Teresi. "People are going to look back at today and realize it was a significant day in the city's history."
Teresi, along with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, rode into the station on a Baldwin 040, Saddletank 040 steam engine Friday morning, to begin the official ceremony. Schumer said he was excited, because he not only got to blow the train's whistle, but he also was able to shovel coal into the train's burner.
Teresi compared riding into the city by train to being in an "old-time scene." He said people were waving to the train at every intersection and overpass the train went through.
"When we got into the downtown area, the crowd started picking up," he said. "Then, we rounded that bend where we could see the train station off in the distance. When we got there, it was a sea of humanity. It was an awesome feeling coming in on that train. It was history, we were re-dedicating history."
Shortly after their arrival, they, along with several others involved in rebuilding the train station, took to a stage in front of the station to give remarks.
"We need to thank many, many people for this occasion," said Lee Harkness, DJDC executive director. "We believe this is really a very, very historic moment here."
Aside from Harkness, many others spoke during the ceremony, including Teresi; Schumer; Congressman Brian Higgins, D-South Buffalo; Ken Spring, author; Mark Schlemmer of the Department of Public Works; Jen Satalino, senior district executive officer of Northwest Savings Bank; and Angela Berti, of the Niagara Region of New York State Parks. Additionally, County Executive Greg Edwards and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R- Chautauqua County were in attendance.
"This project has been chugging along for over a decade. It took them a while to get on the right track, but I think they did. I think it will be an anchor and something that we are proud of here in Jamestown," Goodell told The Post-Journal. "The results here are extraordinary. They show off our local industries and businesses. It is really a community class-act."
In total, the project cost $11,156,000. The station received funding from the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration; private investments from the federal and state Tax Credit Equity; the Gebbie Foundation; New York State Department of Transportation; New York State Environmental Protection Fund; Empire State Development; and CDBG funds. The federal transportation funding was secured by Higgins in 2005.
"I think this is another example of what makes this community great. It's not just what has been done here, it's how it was done, with the community all coming together," Teresi said. "Public, private, not-for-profit partnership, people who are giving up their time and effort. There were as many volunteers on this project as there were paid contractors and professionals. That's what makes it happen."
Had the project not come to fruition, Teresi said taxpayers could have seen nearly $11.5 million in local tax dollars going toward litigation and demolition of the building. Additionally, he said a large retaining wall would have had to have been developed on that property.
So, I don't think it's too bad of a thing that we had $3.4 million of private investor money and the nearly $6 million of federal funds and state funds to make this happen," Teresi said.
Now that the train station has re-opened, it will be utilized as a public transportation facility. Teresi said CARTS buses, as well as larger buses and taxis will be operating out of the building. Additionally, it will be an event center.
"It's a great spot for family reunions, wedding receptions, class reunions, other types of special events," Teresi said, adding that his own class reunion will be soon held in the building.
Eventually, the two wings of the building will be leased, subdivided and occupied by other users.