Looking Backward: West Ferry & the Belt Line, Circa 1905

by / Jun. 7, 2017 12am EST

The Belt Line, a 15-mile commuter and freight rail route built by the New York Central in 1883, was the great connector of factory complexes on the outskirts of Buffalo. The Belt Line is pictured here looking north from West Ferry Street, running parallel to and between Niagara Street and the Erie Canal. The factory complex of the E. R. Thomas Motor Company, motorcycle and automobile manufacturer, is seen in the upper right. On the lower left is a billboard advertising Andrews’ Nukote, a color varnish manufactured by Pratt & Lambert, located further north along the Belt Line on Tonawanda Street. Below the Nukote billboard, a sign advertises, “Fish fry across the street every night,” undoubtedly referring to the American Hotel at the foot of Ferry. Wood plank sidewalks and a granite block roadway lead to the water, where ferries shuttled pedestrians to Fort Erie until 1951. Today, this section of the Belt Line is still in use, but for Amtrak only.