The Landmark Society named the Lehigh Valley Railroad Roundhouse in Manchester to its 2017 Five to Revive list

MANCHESTER — The long-abandoned railroad roundhouse in Manchester — one of the few remaining such structures in the Northeast — got a lift Wednesday when it was listed among the top five priorities for revival by The Landmark Society of Western New York.

The Landmark Society named the Lehigh Valley Railroad Roundhouse in Manchester to its 2017 Five to Revive. The designation is aimed at raising the profile of the roundhouse and others on this year’s list, so they can gain visibility and draw the attention of government officials, developers, and preservation advocates with the ultimate goal of preservation and economic development.

Once a division point and car classification yard for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, one of the largest such facilities in the world — local officials and citizens have been working hard on restoration efforts that include creation of an Ontario County freight rail corridor for Manchester.

“The roundhouse will be the gateway to our rail corridor,” said Manchester Town Supervisor Jeff Gallahan, who spoke at the announcement attended by numerous government and community leaders. “This will be our showcase, and we are so proud of that.

“I will take this project to my grave,” Gallahan added. “I will run this to the end.”

The vision for the roundhouse involves creating a portion of the structure for a rail museum, a portion for storage and a section for rail cars. Finger Lakes Railway expressed desire for storage at the roundhouse, and there are interested parties for the other uses as well.

The rail corridor plan will offer suitable business locations along the rail line to make the most use of rail in transporting goods and materials.

Mike Buttaccio, a Manchester village trustee who attended the announcement, once worked for Lehigh Valley Railroad and at the roundhouse. A “car knocker” on the railroad for nearly 40 years, inspecting and repairing rail cars, Buttaccio said he is thrilled to be involved in a roundhouse revival. Buttaccio had worked on the railroad with fellow retiree Doug Parmele, a third-generation locomotive engineer who cheered the news as well. Parmele recalled what the roundhouse used to mean for Manchester and looks forward to a renewed energy from its restoration and reuse.

Parmele said running the trains was all he could think about from the time he was a kid, riding in the cab with his dad.

“I loved the locomotives, they were so big,” recalled Parmele, who retired after 42 years on the railroad. He spent 10 years on the Lehigh Valley, from 1960 to 1970. From there, he worked on the Pennsylvania Central and then for Conrail and CSX. He recalled being on call seven days a week as a hostler, to move locomotives in and out of service facilities. Work also entailed fueling and sanding the locomotives, among other jobs.

Parmele recalled when the Manchester yard was the center of life in the community, with many involved in the railroad and the activity it generated.

The Landmark Society’s 2017 complete Five to Revive list includes: Elim Bible Institute in the village of Lima, Livingston County; the Hotel DeMay in Greece, Monroe County; Tent City in the city of Rochester, and “The Front Porch throughout western New York.”

“Whether located in a city, suburb, village or rural town, the front porch is a defining feature of most historic homes,” according to the Landmark Society. Often overlooked, front porches are an extension of a home’s living space, tell a story about a home’s history and help people connect with their neighbors.