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19th Century New York would be nothing if not for the Erie Canal, but the train systems laid out by a number of rail companies in the mid-1800’s extended that trade route even further. One spot where a remnant is alive and well is in Medina, a town in Orleans County built on the original canal and once boomed because of its waterway location. The Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad was used for just a few years around 1850 before being incorporated into the larger New York Central Railroad in 1853. I had read about the museum a bit so I already knew to expect that there was a large collection of cool stuff to be seen.
In an effort to utilize the still running Falls Road Railroad line and bring visitors to one of the coolest little museums in the state, the Western New York Rail Excursions organization has put together a number of short-run events that allow visitors to ride on restored rail cars. The return trip was smooth and relaxed with more wine accompanied by live jazz guitar by Rochesterian and Eastman School of Music professor Mike Frederick. Come and see the ongoing progress of one of the largest prototypical HO scale layouts in the nation.
Railroads usurped the use of the canal for their speed and ability to reach further corners of the map. The Medina Railroad Museum is situated on an old rail line that actually is still used a few times a week for transporting freight in addition to being used by the Western New York Rail Excursions group.

The line experienced moderate success for its day and ultimately led to the need for a large depot to be built in Medina. This ride in particular was the Niagara Wine Trail Tour and for $45 attendees get the opportunity to ride from Medina to Lockport (and back) while a different winery each week is featured on a vintage 1947 Budd coach car. Tons of photo opportunities and an hour and a half round trip of cruising through the fall foliage of Western New York while being fed some really fantastic regional culinary favorites and listening to a great musician all the while was an absolutely fantastic way to spend an afternoon. Now rail travel has been usurped by air and automobile, but much like the canals, nostalgic remnants still exist of a heyday when railroads ruled. I took a ride out to Medina with my friend Ben Woelk of the travel documentary series Slow Road.
Even once I was inside and had looked through the area just near the ticket booth I thought to myself, “whoa! Servers walk back and forth through each of the cars serving up their finest vino while sights of the small canal towns pass on either side. Checkout the following links to reserve your tickets on one of the upcoming train tours and be absolutely sure that you get there with plenty of time to walk through the Medina Railroad Museum. Ben is probably involved in more projects than Bono, and in addition to Slow Road, he also sits on the Board of Directors for the museum.

In 1991, the Medina Railroad Museum converted the building to house their extensive and ever-growing collection of model trains, ephemera, lanterns and anything else you could ever possibly imagine.
A canal engineer passed the story on to me a few years ago that it was built upside down so that only a water vessel short enough to pass under would be able to use the canal, essentially preventing the growth of freight shipping by water and effectively increasing the use of the rail system. Who-knows-how-many square feet of model railroad tracks have been set up in the center of the rear portion of the museum, and constantly running model trains are surrounded by one of the largest and coolest collection of local history items I’ve seen in one place. Passing over the bridge is definitely one of the highlights of the trip, unless you’re afraid of heights. Though the focus is largely on railroad collectibles and even separated by rail company in some displays, there’s an unending number of local fire department helmets, a 16 foot Heinz pickle sign from 1897 that existed at the former Heinz factory in Medina, countless lanterns and enough other things to look at that would keep even a non-enthusiast of any age busy for hours. Local harvested vegetables, regional cheeses and cured meats, local crackers and handmade hummus all chosen with care by farmers and food artisans right from Western New York allowed riders to navigate the region’s well known culinary arts and was a really wonderful addition to navigating an important piece of  Western New York history.

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