An Analysis of the Former New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad Track Bed for Rail Re-use

Authors: Colin Buckowski*, SUNY - Geneseo
Topics: Transportation Geography, Historical Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: historic GIS, historic railroads, railroad redevelopment
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Track beds of countless defunct regional railroads are scattered across the US landscape. At various points in history, and for various reasons, these regional rail lines were abandoned as regional economies and populations shifted and transportation changed. The imprint of these relic track beds on the landscape, however, endures, providing routing opportunities for the possible re-establishment and revitalization of rail systems in the US. One example is the former New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad (N.Y.W.S.&B.), which ran from Weehawken, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York starting in 1885. Service discontinuations on the line began in the late 1950s and continued into the early 2000s when the last industrial spurs on the route were abandoned. Using historic railroad maps and interpretation of modern aerial imagery, this historical GIS analysis evaluates the feasibility of re-installing rail tracks on a 130-mile stretch of the historic N.Y.W.S.&B. track bed between Pattersonville and Syracuse, New York. The product of this evaluation will be maps and tabular data identifying the relic rail route and classifying its feasibility for rail re-use based on present land use and land cover. This study shows that a high percentage of the historic track bed is feasible for rail redevelopment, but also identifies potential obstacles to reestablishing rail service, not only on portions of the N.Y.W.S.&B., but other relic track beds in the US.

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