MEDINA — Medina Railroad Museum recently purchased the coaches that it previously leased from Western New York Railway Historical Society of Buffalo. The purchase is a big step toward advancing the museum's goals into the future and will result in long-term savings, since it has leased the coaches for special excursions for nearly 20 years, museum board president Rick Henn observed.
The coaches were originally stored in the Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna and spent four years in Canada before they were brought to Medina Railroad Museum, where they are kept secure on the siding near the Olde Pickle Factory.
In recent years, Henn said, the Western New York Railway Historical Society had talked periodically about moving the cars to Jamestown, and he knew that could mean doom for the railroad museum.
“These coaches are our greatest revenue source, allowing us to keep our doors open throughout the year,” Henn said. “We depend on these cars and it became evident we had to go shopping for our own coaches or buy these.”
Last fall Henn approached the railway historical society about buying the coaches. He said new regulations state rail cars must meet Amtrak standards, which involves a minimum $100,000 per car cost, meaning the historical society's ability to use the coaches was compromised. That is not so on the Falls Railroad, which is the line on which the Medina Railroad Museum operates excursions from Lockport to Brockport.
After several months of negotiations with the historical society, a deal was struck to purchase the five coaches, plus one spare coach that the museum hopes to restore into a dining car, and a large inventory of parts, all for $350,000. The museum took ownership on July 31.
It didn’t happen without a lot of wheeling and dealing on the part of museum board members and director Janine Klotzbach, who approached friends, family and railroad buffs asking for loans and donations. That accomplished, now the search is on for grants and donations to repay the loans.
It is the museum’s goal to upgrade the interiors of the five coaches and eventually add air conditioning, to allow summer excursions. Henn’s dream is to gut the sixth car and turn in into another first-class dining car.
“This will get us closer to our dream of running dinner trains,” Henn said.
The museum already owns two restored dining cars: the Roe car named for a railroad buff who made significant donations to the museum, and the Reynolds car named for former U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds, who was instrumental in obtaining a grant to restore the car.
The museum is ready to release its fall schedule of train rides, which will include autumn rides in October, Santa trains in December and the return of Polar Express in November and December. The schedule can be found on the museum’s website, or by calling (585) 798-6106.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to help offset the purchase of the coaches may send a check to Medina Railroad Museum, 530 West Ave., Medina, NY 14103. Donations may be made in honor or in memory of a loved one.