earliest history of a railroad connecting Arcade and Attica, New York
dates to the chartering of the Attica & Sheldon in 1836 as a means
of serving the area's farming and agriculture industry. This company
ultimately never made it off of paper and the 1852 formation of the
Attica & Allegheny Valley Railroad to connect both towns as well as
reach the Pennsylvania border only saw some grading completed before
going bankrupt soon after. Nearly 15 years passed before the next
attempt to link the region came into being; the Attica & Arcade
Railroad was incorporated in February, 1870 purchasing the former
property of the A&AV. Unfortunately, the A&A also soon fell
into receivership having never operated a single train just like its
predecessors. This string of bad luck and bankrupt railroads finally
ended with the chartering of the Tonawanda Valley Railroad on April 5,
Thanks to strong financial backing from the large and, at the time, powerful Erie Railroad the TV sought to utilize the former rights-of-way of the A&A and A&AV to connect Arcade and Attica where it would interchange with the Buffalo, New York & Pennsylvania Railroad. The 24-mile three-foot, narrow-gauge system finally began operations on September 11 of that year although was not fully operational until May 1, 1881 when it opened to Arcade. Soon after the TV was already planning extensions and by July 14 had organized the Tonawanda Valley & Cuba Railroad to extend the line south of Arcade to Cuba, which would add roughly 40 new miles. A year later, on September 4, 1882, the system was completed reaching about 60 miles between Attica and Cuba where it interchanged at both points with the Erie. Its southern terminus also included an interchange with the small Bradford, Eldred & Cuba Railroad another narrow-gauge property.
Unfortunately, the Tonawanda Valley soon ran into financial trouble and
fell into receivership by November of 1884. The property was broken up
among different interests with the Arcade to Freedom section operated as
the Attica & Freedom Railroad until 1894 when it too was a casualty
of money troubles. Later that year the Arcade to Attica section became
part of the new Buffalo, Attica & Arcade Railroad beginning in
October which soon established a connection with the Pennsylvania
Railroad at its southern terminus. In 1904 the BA&A was sold to the
Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad, which after a little more than a
decade of service decided the route was not worth the effort and looked
to shed the property. This resulted in the local farming industry as
well as some businesses, notably the Merrell-Soule Company (a milk
processing plant), to try and save the route for continued rail service.
After enough money was raised the Arcade and Attica Railroad was formed on May 23, 1917 and operations commenced soon afterward. Curiously, the privately owned A&A never had any serious financial troubles for many years, so much so that it never laid off a single employee during the tumultuous and unforgiving Great Depression of the late 1920s through the 1930s. It began dieselization in 1941 with the purchase of a single General Electric 44-ton switcher, later adding another in 1947. In 1951 the railroad ended remaining passenger services and money issues returned in the 1950s with a severe decline in freight revenue forcing the A&A's hand to remain solvent. With no where else to turn management decided to try its luck as a tourist railroad purchasing a 2-8-0 Consolidation in 1962 (a year later they also added a former Escanaba & Lake Superior 4-6-0 ten-wheeler).
The late 1950s also saw the A&A's system nearly cut in half when flooding forced the railroad to abandon its route between Attica and North Java, as the $79,000 price tag to repair the damage could not be afforded. Today, the company still operates this 14-mile section and has been quite successful with its tourist operations, becoming one of the most popular in the country. Currently, the A&A interchanges with the Norfolk Southern at Arcade where its principal freight includes lumber, soy beans, corn, fertilizer, and animal feed. The star attraction on for visitors is 2-8-0 #18, which was the steam locomotive picked up in 1962 from the Boyne City Railroad. It hosts excursions between May and October with holiday specials occurring during December.
Arcade & Attica