The Flour by Rail Legacy Project (FBRLP) is well underway, as witnessed by the arrival of a historic flour-carrying boxcar to Silo City. I was on the phone with project orchestrator Charlie Monte Verde over the weekend, who recounted the arduous process of moving the hulking boxcar, which was no easy feat.
This particular boxcar made the trip from Rochester, by flatbed truck, as part of a Buffalo, USA Foundation, NFP initiative. It all began with a handshake with Silo City owner Rick Smith, said Monte Verde, who is a a second generation railroader by profession. That handshake deal has now resulted in the arrival of an initial exhibit component that will one day help to tell the story of how Buffalo was once considered the ‘bread-basket for the world.’
As a welcoming gesture, Rick Smith had a section of old rail cleared at the site, in order to properly display the boxcar.
“It’s so cool to have a flour-carrying boxcar back on the tracks at Silo City, right next to the old Freight Transfer House!” exclaimed Smith.
Another integral component to getting the boxcar to Buffalo happened to be the involvement with the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum (RGVRRM). RGVRRM applied for and received a community service grant from CSX Transportation, which helped to get the project rolling.
“We’re excited that we were able to partner and preserve this important artifact of Western New York railroading history,” said Otto Vondrak, RGVRRM president. “More importantly, we’re excited to see this box car return to its home rails on the waterfront in Buffalo.”
What made the transportation of the 40’ boxcar especially difficult was that it had not been in service since around 1975. That meant that it could not be relocated to Buffalo via rail. Hence it required flatbedding.
As for the historic value of the car, built for the Buffalo Creek Railroad by the Pullman Company in the summer of 1952, it demonstrates a charter class of boxcars constructed with specialized provisions for shipping perishable commodities. At once point, these cars could be found all over the US. Today, they are hard to come by, as the remaining few are being scrapped. This particular car – renumbered to 3424 -features the now-iconic Buffalo Creek ‘FLOUR’ bag logo (soon to be lovingly restored to its original state).
The Buffalo, USA Foundation/FBRLP team will immediately begin to restore the car to its as-delivered appearance, starting with careful identification of existing markings and replacement of deteriorated or missing hardware.
“The turnaround that Buffalo has experienced from even ten years ago is remarkable,” said Monte Verde, FBRLP founder. “The support and volunteerism we’ve experienced from old and new friends, current and former members of the community, and our many partners in the effort has been more than astounding. We will make this car a humble tribute to that.”
As a way to enhance the efforts that are already clearly underway, FBRLP has teamed up with a number of local nonprofits and historical societies to develop interpretive educational exhibits, to be displayed in tandem with the railcars (and one day, engine). There is also a local microbrewery in the midst of creating a ‘Flour-by-Rail’- themed craft beer. And finally, railroad and history enthusiasts can contribute to the effort by making a donation at GoFundMe.
In the end, we’re looking at the formations of another great Buffalo story, with a car that is perfectly at home in its new Silo City environs. The delivery of this boxcar signals that the path is clearer for additional “search and recovery” phases of the project to commence, especially as the community rallies around the effort.
Additional information about the project can be found at the Facebook link below. The Buffalo, USA Foundation/FBRLP team would like to extend a special thank you to our primary partners, Silo City, the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum and the ever-helpful folks at CSX Transportation, without whom this initiative could not be.