BY JOE OLENICK
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — An opportunity pulled into the city Wednesday afternoon, one that local officials hope will draw more people downtown.
The City of Lockport now has a station on the Medina Railroad Museum’s tourist train line. A new platform, located at 5 Gooding St. next to the former Kohl’s Cycle Sales site, was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday.
The hope is that the train will bring foot traffic from Orleans County to the heart of downtown Lockport. Located on city property, the new platform is within walking distance of attractions such as Canal Street, Main Street, the Erie Canal locks and the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride.
Mayor Michael Tucker touted how important the railroad could be to increasing city tourism, which would be a reflection of Lockport’s history.
“Anyone who has gazed down the canal at the famous Upside Down Bridge knows that rail is thoroughly integrated with the history of the western Erie Canal,” Tucker said. “And once again the two seem to be moving in tandem to build our local economy.”
Access to the platform and parking will be provided on property owned by the Hydraulic Race Co., the company that owns the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride. Co-owner Tom Callahan was looking forward to how the Medina railroad will affect downtown.
“Today we have another piece of the tourism puzzle in place for downtown and Lockport,” Callahan said. “Tourism is a critical industry for this community’s future and the Medina railroad is set to be a big part of that.”
The Glynn Group, a Lockport-based engineering firm and HP Construction Co. put the platform together and prepared the site.
While nothing is concrete, there are plans to add to the platform, Tucker said. A canopy could be added, offering shelter to train riders, Tucker said. A parking lot could be added as well.
There’s hope sometime in the future the train could head west and bring Medina and Lockport visitors to Niagara Falls, Tucker said.
“But we’ve got to work on that,” he said.
John Percy, the president of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., said he was in Lockport exactly a week earlier for the official kickoff celebration of the Flight of Five locks restoration.
There’s a lot of good things happening in Lockport, Percy said. Having attractions like the Medina railroad and the Flight of Five is vital when promoting the area, he said. “We can take this to the marketplace and sell this region,” Percy said.
Both Percy and Tucker credited Callahan with the idea of putting the platform up. The trains will eventually be designed to look like the cars from the 1920s.
Medina Railroad President Jim Dickinson said the museum is already developing day-long packages. The museum is most interested in putting together Niagara Wine Trail train excursions, Dickinson said.
And already there’s a train event coming up that will include Lockport.
The Medina Railroad Museum will run its first-ever Haunted Halloween Trains on Saturday, then again on Oct. 25 and 26. The two-hour excursions will depart from Medina and travel along the Erie Canal and through the Western New York countryside to Lockport. Along the way, passengers will see the locations of ghost sightings, crop circles and other places and phenomenon associated with ghosts, spirits and the supernatural.
While listening to these stories, passengers will be enjoying wines from local wineries, Black Willow and Flight of Five, the new city-based winery that’s within walking distance of the new platform.