Manchester Yard and Roundhouse Site Redevelopment Project

A New Beginning for the Lehigh Valley RR Manchester Roundhouse

October 21, 2021 Public Meeting 

A link to the meeting recording is available here (mp4 video). Click here Version OptionsManchester Yard and Roundhouse Site Redevelopment ProjectHeadline to download a pdf version of the slideshow. If you have questions about the project contact Julie Barry, Senior Planner, 585.396.4416

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In the late 19th century, the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR) built the Manchester Yard which was one of the largest such rail support facilities in the country. The Yard had a dispatcher/control tower, provided fuel service, primarily coal and ash disposal, and the Roundhouse maintenance center for freight cars and locomotive as well as track and signal repair. The thirty-bay Roundhouse is approximately 62,000 square feet and today is located along with two fuel oil buildings on a 5.5 acre site.

It was in use until the 1970's when Conrail closed operations. There were a number of temporary uses over the next twenty years.  The legacy of environmental contamination from the diesel fueling operation and other contaminants and poor condition of the buildings led to abandonment by the owners.  The two parcels have been off the tax rolls since the early 1990's. The environmental liability of cleaning up this 'brownfield' has been a significant obstacle for redevelopment.  

Taking Steps Toward the Future
Ontario County took the first necessary step toward redevelopment by securing Targeted Brownfield Assessment grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) who conducted Phase 1 and Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments  that characterized the type and extent of contamination.  Links to the reports are below.  

The Roundhouse is one of only a handful such facilities left standing in the U.S.  The Landmark Society of Western NY named it as one of "Five to Revive"  and the Preservation League of NYS designated it as one of "Seven to Save".  The NY State Office of Historic Preservation has determined that it is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (see link below). With funding from NYS Empire State Development and the Rochester Area Community Foundation Klos Historic Preservation fund, a building condition and options for reuse report is being prepared by John G. Waite Architects Associates.    

For more information see links below:  




Project Contact: Julie Barry, Senior Planner, 585.396.4416 


What is the Ontario County Freight Rail Corridor Plan for the Town of Manchester? 

Link to Corridor Plan Executive Summary 

Link to Corridor Plan Slide Show

The freight rail corridor plan will look at development or redevelopment options for lands along the seven miles of the Finger Lakes Railway corridor in the Town of Manchester and the Villages of Manchester, Shortsville and Clifton Springs. It is a collaborative effort undertake by Ontario County, the municipalities, and Finger Lakes Railway

The purpose of this project is to prepare a plan that meets the following objectives:

  1. Demonstrates careful planning to assure that future development benefits the community and minimizes impacts to the surrounding communities related to safety, noise, congestion, and environmental and community resources ;
  2. Identifies appropriate “Shovel Ready” development sites and areas for industries and businesses that are enhanced by, or related, to freight rail service and infrastructure;
  3. Specifically defines physical, regulatory, or institutional implementation actions including, but not limited to, public and/or private infrastructure projects, land use planning and zoning changes, environmental and quality of life improvements; and
  4. Creates a prototype that can encourage other localities to cooperatively plan their rail corridors.

Project Funding

The project was funded with a grant from the financial Federal Highway Administration funds provided through the Genesee Transportation Council. The Town of Manchester provided matching funds and Ontario County, the Villages of Manchester, Shortsville and Clifton Springs contributed in-kind services.

Links to Project Documents

  • Final Ontario County Freight Rail Corridor Development Plan & Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement
  • Appendix A - Public Participation Plan
  • Appendix B - Meeting Materials
  • Appendix C - Clifton Springs Concept Plans
  • Appendix D - SEQR Documentation

Finger Lakes Railway – Ontario County’s Freight Rail Asset

When other localities and counties were losing freight rail service in the 1970’s, Ontario County stepped in to secure the continued operation of critical rail lines linking Canandaigua/Geneva/Victor, and communities in between, with service provided by the Finger Lakes Railway (FLKR). This service provides the critical link to the main national long haul rail lines (CSX, Norfolk and Southern, etc.) and access to national and international markets. 

FLKR owns and operates the line between Canandaigua/Geneva to the Seneca County Line. Ontario County owns the Ontario Central Railroad that is operated by FLKR between Victor and the Shortsville junction. Go to Finger Lakes Railway Service Maps.

Finger Lakes Railway has been in operation for twenty years and is an important part of Ontario County’s economic development infrastructure. For more information go to Finger Lakes Railway.

Railroad’s Long Relationship with Manchester, NY

From the Beginning

Historically, the combination of free flowing streams that provided water power and the proximity to the Erie Canal made the Town and Villages in Manchester a focal point of industrial development in the 19th century. Rail service began to supplant the Erie Canal for moving freight.

In the early 20th century, the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR) built the Manchester Yard which was one of the largest such rail support facilities in the country. The Yard had a dispatcher/control tower, provided fuel service, primarily coal and ash disposal, and was a maintenance center for freight cars and locomotive as well as track and signal repair. The 1916 Roundhouse still stands today and has been listed by the Landmark Society of Western New York as one of the 2017'sFive to Revive. Link Roundhouse Video.

The Manchester Yard was also a division point where thru-trains changed crews and long distance freight trains would be reconfigured for their next destination just the way airline hubs function today. The Yard also had a hotel, restaurant and professional office space. Terminal facilities were also located there for loading and unloading freight that was either to be shipped or was being delivered to the area. Freight rail was dominant into the 1950’s and 1960’s.


In the 1970’s industrial and commercial developed was no longer concentrated in central locations but was disbursed regionally along the largely-completed federal interstate highway system. Trucking provided the mobility and flexibility to serve widely dispersed locations. Rail was largely relegated to heavy freight and bulk cargo leading to the break up of major railroads and abandonment of most of the nation’s and County’s rail infrastructure.

In the late 1970’s, the pending abandonment of the section of the Lehigh Valley line between Shortsville and Victor would mean the loss of freight service to important industries along the line. In 1979, Ontario County and OC Industrial Development Authority (IDA) intervened and took ownership of the line and leased its operation to the Ontario Central Railroad (OCR). The Finger Lakes Railway (FLR) continued to be the operator of the Conrail Line between Canandaigua - Geneva which provided the critical connection to main national freight rail lines.


In the 1990’s, Conrail sought approval to abandon the critical FLR line. Again, the County and IDA intervened -- this time by assisting the Finger Lakes Railway in acquiring the Ontario County portion of the Conrail Line. This acquisition was essential to maintain the OCR's interchange at Shortsville to access the main rail lines as well as retain freight service to business along the corridor. In 2007, the Finger Lakes Railway acquired Ontario Central Railroad and its lease to operate the railroad for the County. 


Since the 2000’s, the sustained high cost of fuel for trucking, rail’s significant weight-to-miles per gallon advantage over trucking, and a seamless global intermodal transportation and distribution system, has again made access to freight rail service a highly valuable, asset for businesses and economic development. The legacy for today’s villages and towns, however, is a land use development pattern that was created during 19th and mid-20th century. It was then randomly fragmented by abandonments, bankrupt owners that could walk away from serious environmental problems, and often single purpose retrofits of formerly prime locations for other uses.

Freight Rail Access in the 21st Century 

Trucking is often considered the only option for shipping/receiving products and materials. The cost of fuel necessary to move a ton of goods per mile has been steadily increasing. Congestion on highways and terminals has increased delivery times.

Access to freight rail service is increasingly important to businesses and industries looking for alternatives to trucking product or raw materials directly to or from their facilities or who want cost effective access to freight rail shipping facilities. Businesses of all sizes recognize the importance of competing in regional, national and international markets. A well integrated freight rail and highway system reduces shipping costs and provides access to those markets.