The International Railway Company (IRC) was a transportation company formed in a 1902 merger between several Buffalo-area interurban and street railways. The city railways that merged were the West Side Street Railway, the Crosstown Street Railway and the Buffalo Traction Company. The suburban railroads that merged included the Buffalo & Niagara Electric Street Railway, and its subsidiary the Buffalo, Lockport & Olcott Beach Railway; the Buffalo, Depew & Lancaster Railway; and the Niagara Falls Park & River Railway. Later the IRC acquired the Niagara Gorge Railroad (NGRR) as a subsidiary, which was sold in 1924 to the Niagara Falls Power Company. The NGRR also leased the Lewiston & Youngstown Frontier Railroad.
The IRC maintained streetcar networks throughout Western New York: in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Lockport, and a single line in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Besides the city streetcars, the IRC network extended throughout Erie and Niagara counties. Most lines radiated out from Buffalo.The former Buffalo and Niagara Falls Electric Railway (B&NF) line ran from Buffalo, through the Tonawandas and Wheatfield to Niagara Falls, Ontario. This line interchanged with the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Railway in Canada, the Niagara Gorge Railroad in Niagara Falls, NY, and the Buffalo & Lake Erie Traction in Buffalo. The railway was organized and incorporated by Niagara Falls, New York, investors, including Frank A. Dudley This line was later abandoned between Tonawanda and LaSalle in Niagara Falls, following the opening of Buffalo & Niagara Falls High Speed Line in 1918. The B&NF high speed line was abandoned in 1937. The 1895 powerhouse at North Tonawanda, New York, forms part of the Herschell–Spillman Motor Company Complex.
The Buffalo, Lockport and Olcott Beach Railway (BL&OB) left the B&NF in North Tonawanda, NY, on tracks leased from the Erie Railroad. This line went up to Lockport, where the Lockport streetcars were IRC. Also the IRC met the Buffalo, Lockport & Rochester here. The Buffalo, Lockport and Rochester (BL&R) ran to Rochester. From Lockport, the line continued through the town of Newfane to Olcott, where the IRC maintained an amusement park. IRC trolleys met steamers from Rochester, Youngstown, Hamilton, Ontario and Toronto in Olcott at the Olcott Beach docks. In 1937 the IRC abandoned the line north of Lockport, and ended passenger service south of Lockport. IRC returned operations of the line to the Erie Railroad in 1951. A portion of the BL&OB was reopened in 1983 as part of the Somerset Railroad.
The Buffalo, Bellvue and Lancaster (BB&L) interurban line ran from Buffalo to Lancaster. From Lancaster a line branched off to Depew, creating a loop line. This route was abandoned in 1937.
The Buffalo, Gardenville and Ebenezer (BG&E) was part of Erie County Traction. It ran from Buffalo to Ebenezer, and was abandoned in 1937.
The Buffalo, Hamburg and Aurora Railway (BH&A) ran from Buffalo, NY to Orchard Park. The original intention was to reach East Aurora, NY. East Aurora was never reached. also part of Erie County Traction.
The Buffalo and Depew ran from the end of the Genesee car line in Pine Hill to Depew. It was reorganized in the early 1920s as the Depew and Lancaster and operated until 1925.
The Niagara Falls Park & River Railway (NFP&R) opened in 1893. It ran from Chippewa, Ontario to Lewiston, New York. A connection was made across the international border at Niagara Falls with the B&NF. The became part of the IRC in the 1902 merger. This line is best known for a visit by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) in 1927. The IRC and the Niagara Gorge Railroad (NGRR) connected in both Lewiston and Niagara Falls, New York. The Park & River line was abandoned in 1932, following the expiration of the lease of the right-of-way through Queen Victoria Park.
In 1937 the IRC discontinued all interurban rail service, and replaced much of it with buses. On July 1, 1950, the remaining streetcar lines in both Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY, ended, also replaced by buses. Within the same year, the Niagara Frontier Transit (NFT) took over all remaining IRC operations. In 1974, NFT and Grand Island Rapid Transit were merged into a public Corporation, named the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA).
The NFTA opened the subsidiary light rail rapid transit line known as Metro Rail along Main Street in Buffalo, from the Lackawanna Terminal to the University of Buffalo's South Campus. Much of this same route followed the previous 8-Main streetcar line only 35 years earlier.
see Routes of City of Buffalo Streetcars for more information
Buffalo was the city where a majority of the streetcar service by the IRC was offered. They IRC also offered service in a number of other localities in Western New York and Southern Ontario.
After the first decade of the 1900s, the International Railway Company began assigning numbers to their services, in addition to the naming of the route according to the primary street(s) the car travelled on. Many of the route numbers assigned the most historical routes continue to this day. There appears to be no logical numbering scheme for the routes.
Routes with shortened or abbreviated names in parentheses are the original assignment to the route that it served. These services were slowly changed to the numerical format used by the IRC after being taken over from other companies.
Although the terminal point for the majority of west side streetcars, the streetcars that used Main Street clearly made the street live up to its name.
In addition to Shelton Square being the origination point for the Grant, Niagara, and Elmwood streetcar lines, there were also a number of routes that passed through Shelton Square to continue either south towards the docks and harbor, or north toward the northeast sections of the city. The Main streetcar shared trackage with the Parkside-Zoo (or Kenmore) streetcar, the Kensington street car, the West Utica and East Utica streetcars. During the busy weekday, the four- to five-minute headways between cars on each line made it common to see streetcar after streetcar lining Main Street after departing Utica Street.
The International Railway Company utilized many of the vehicles from the companies it had absorbed at the early 1900s, and by 1910 found itself looking for replacement vehicles.
Two major car types became the backbone of the IRC's equipment force.
The Nearside type streetcar was purchased from the J.G. Brill Company between the years of 1911-1913. The cars were manufactured, using the input of Mitten Management, the company that provided the management structure for the International Railway Company.
A notable feature this type of car was known for was the P.A.Y.E. (pay as you enter) entrance, starting the policy shift of Buffalo area streetcars to operate with a one-person crew. Using this type of boarding procedure the operator of the car also handled the responsibilities of the conductor, collecting fares in addition to his normal day-to-day operating of the streetcar.
The Peter Witt streetcars, long known to be in many major cities with streetcars, were purchased between 1917 and 1919 to supplement the service being primarily offered with the earlier purchased Nearside car. These cars were built by Kulman Car Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. The Peter Witts were delivered on their own wheels and under their own power. This was done over a series of interurban railways' trackage that connected Cleveland with Buffalo.
Two specific cars were available to those needing funeral cars. The Elmlawn and Greenwood were their names. Both burned in 1916, and were replaced with new cars of the same names - these were used until 1922, when they were converted to regular passenger use.
Limousine service had not quite become readily available when dignitaries came to visit the area, and the International Railway Company had cars specifically for that purpose.
The Ondiara car of the International Railway Company, and the Rapids car of the Niagara Gorge Railway were two cars that were used when the Prince of Wales visited the area on September 10, 1927, during the dedication of the Peace Bridge (between Buffalo and Fort Erie).
In 1902, when the International Railway Company began absorbing many of the responsibilities of the Buffalo streetcar system, they dealt with a number of varied color schemes that existed with the past companies.
Previously, one could look at many of the cars and immediately know which company was operating that service.The Buffalo Street Railway cars utilized a bright yellow color.
The Broadway line at one time operated violet colored cars from Downtown Buffalo to Emslie.
The Jersey line boasted a green colored streetcar.
Toward the end, many of the streetcars left in service were painted an orange color as the primary color, with a darker green accenting the car. This color scheme existed until the end of streetcar service in 1950, although the buses operated by the IRC at the end were painted a bright red color with silver and black accents.