ECRT relies on board member Jim Slominski for his deep knowledge and dedication to preserving railroad history. A current trustee of the Western New York Railroad Historical Society and chair of the Orchard Park Depot Committee, Jim became involved with ECRT due to a primary interest in preserving the integrity of the former Buffalo-Pittsburg Railroad right-of-way. He recalls what happened in Hamburg when the Buffalo & Susquehanna line was discontinued: “The right-of-way was completely obliterated. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find any intact sections of original corridor.”
A lifelong resident of Orchard Park, from a very early age, Jim grew up near train tracks. “I was fascinated with anything that had to do with trains. When we lived on Liberty Drive off Taylor Road, I could watch trains come and go from our family room.”
The Orchard Park Depot Committee was formed by like-minded railroad buffs in 1980 with a common desire to restore the depot and its storied surroundings. Jim joined in 1981 and has been an active member ever since. The hard work of restoration began in the early 1980s when then depot owner, Ed Burke, expressed interest in donating the site to the organization. In the decades following, everything from new wiring and plumbing to exterior restoration projects were undertaken with support from generous individual donations and from the efforts of local legislators. Most recently, Scott Bieler, CEO of West Herr Automotive Group, provided funds enabling significant renovations to both the interior and exterior of the site. The depot is now dedicated to his family. One very large project remains: restoring and retiling the roof, a project that could cost up to $1,000,000. “We also need to find a company with the skills and the will to undertake this hands-on, labor-intensive project.”
Jim graduated from Canisius College with a degree in accounting. Prior to graduation, he participated in a work-study cooperative program with the IRS. Upon graduation, he began a 34-year career with the IRS advancing from a revenue agent to that of an appeals officer and finally as a liaison to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. During the course of his career, Jim was a member of the IRS instructor cadre, worked closely with the IRS litigation division, served on a number of task forces and authored various training books and procedural manuals.
An ECRT board member since 2012, Jim is delighted with the trail’s noticeable, significant progress over the past four years or so. “I can’t wait for the new section to open up connecting the trail to the depot. It will have an enormous, positive effect on the Village. You’ll see people using the trail on a regular basis to come to the Village to visit the library, to shop or to attend events. I predict we’ll see a lot more interest in and activity around depot which, of course, we welcome!”
The Orchard Park Depot Committee is always looking for people interested in volunteering. “My wish list would include new members willing to help with events and interact with visitors to the depot. And if you have a background in construction, maintenance or any of the trades, we’d welcome your time, skills and support!”