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Ellen Januszkiewicz

Ellen Januszkiewicz

The love of railroads runs deep for Ellen Januszkiewicz, a regular, enthusiastic ECRT volunteer from Orchard Park. Her father, Leon, was a track maintenance mechanic whose career brought Ellen’s family from Scranton, PA to rail yards of Lackawanna, NY.

Ellen was born in Scranton, once an active, vital railroad hub. Today it is home to Steamtown, a national industrial heritage site, dedicated to preserving the history of the steam railroad and the role its workforce played during the Industrial Revolution and beyond. Leon began what would be his lifelong career there, learning the skills needed to maintain the machinery that in turn was used to maintain the integrity of the tracks.

Recognizing an intelligent, skilled mechanic, the railroad paid for Leon‘s further training in Chicago. He then earned a promotion that moved the family to Lackawanna and a job on the William Street train yard with the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. His work made it possible for the family to travel frequently by train for family visits and for pleasure. Later, Leon would continue to advance his career back in Scranton as the regional maintenance manager for Conrail.

“Getting to travel by train was always exciting for my brother, Frank, and I as kids,” Ellen recalls. “The most exciting, thrilling rides always involved being allowed to dine in the Phoebe Snow Club Car.” (‘Phoebe’ was a  fictitious, high society character the railroad used to advertise this exclusive dining amenity, along with this catchy motto, ‘A cozy seat, a dainty treat, makes Phoebe’s happiness complete; with linen white and silver bright, upon the road of anthracite.’) “Everyone, including us kids, had to really dress for the occasion. I know we learned our table manners in the Phoebe.”

Ellen and Frank were the first in their family to graduate from college. Ellen attended UB and earned a Masters in Nursing. She enjoyed a successful career as a public health nurse, working for the Erie County Health Department and for Roswell Park Memorial Institute. She eventually became a professor of nursing at Erie Community College. She married husband Martin in 1972. The couple lived for a time in Syracuse where Martin attended SU and played for the Syracuse University Orange Men. Drafted by the Baltimore Colts, Martin never got to play professionally, but used his education to achieve is MS in Special Education. Upon returning to Buffalo, he pursued his career at the WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center.

Ellen got interested in volunteering for ECRT when she saw the organization’s efforts to maintain and preserve the corridor. She walks the Orchard Park section frequently and happily offers her help at tabling events in Orchard Park and Springville. “I see people on the trail all the time. My son Jason and his wife Amy walk here pretty regularly as well, with their dog, Asoka. My grandsons Jonas and Myles bike here and really enjoy it.”

“When I’m on the trail, I think of my dad and how hard he worked. He loved being a ‘railroader’. He would be thrilled to see how the rail beds are being used now as a trail for the community to use and enjoy.”

June 1, 2024

Written by:

Deb Fenn

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